Pandemic’s ‘devastating effect’ on youth justice system revealed in research

22nd July, 2021 3:17 pm

The COVID-19 pandemic has “devastatingly affected” issues faced by children in the youth justice system, according to the Alliance for Youth Justice (AYJ).

new report published by the alliance, as part of a partnership project with the Manchester Centre for Youth Studies at MMU, finds that young people from marginalised and disadvantaged backgrounds have “suffered most” from challenges including court delays, increased time on remand and a greater risk of exploitation and abuse by criminal gangs.

The report “identifies a consistent theme about the lack of information, understanding and focus on children during the pandemic”.

“The government has often failed to distinguish between its approach to adults and children in their policy responses,” it states, adding that disadvantaged children in the youth justice system have struggled to communicate with support services due to lack of access to technology.

“Across systems and services for children, including the youth justice system, there is a need for proper evaluation of the temporary measures implemented during Covid-19 before they become widespread and permanently embedded,” it states.

The AYJ is calling for “urgent and coordinated” action to prevent more children being drawn into the criminal justice system in the future, “due to increased vulnerabilities and social problems as a result of the crisis”.

Pippa Goodfellow, director of the AYJ, said: “The momentous impact of the pandemic continues to unfold, with vast implications for all systems and services supporting children, families and communities, and throughout the various stages of the youth justice system, which has been under severe strain.

“Concerted, coordinated action, with significant investment will be required to mitigate the negative consequences for children in the youth justice system, and to prevent criminalising vulnerable children who have experienced the most devastating harms of the pandemic.”

separate report by HMI Prisons has criticised young offender institutions and secure training units over subjecting children to the same Covid-19 restrictions as adult inmates.

“When restrictions were introduced last March, children in custody were subjected to the same regime as adults, with a big reduction in time out of cell and, with the notable exception of Parc YOI, in South Wales, no face-to-face education,” said Charlie Taylor, chief inspector of prisons.

He noted that classroom-based education stopped in March 2020 and “did not restart in the summer, in most prisons when restrictions were being lifted”, adding that generic cell packs were developed, but some of these did not arrive until months after the lockdown began.

“The idea that these packs are in any way a substitute for high-quality face-to-face teaching is fanciful,” Taylor said.

 

Source: CYP Now

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