State to take on remand project

The Children's Society is closing its national remand review initiative and is handing the work over to the Youth Justice Board which will now implement the scheme in juvenile offender institutions across the UK.

The Government decided to draw the initiative into the framework of its youth justice programme following the success of the scheme under the Children's Society. The money will now go directly to prisons and remand institutions, and it will be the responsibility of prison governors to set up a team to run similar services.

The Children's Society launched the project to provide advocacy services to children on remand, and worked to ensure that professional adults such as lawyers were doing all they could to provide an alternative to the courts. In one year the initiative found alternative placements to prison for more than 1,000 children.

However, the charity has expressed concerns over "gaps in provision

and regional inconsistencies. Statutory funding for the project finished at the end of June and many institutions are appearing slow to pick up where the Children's Society left off.

"There is no denying that taking the remand project into the mainstream of the youth justice system is a positive step which will ensure that children on remand are not forgotten," said Sharon Moore, youth justice programme manager at the Children's Society.

"We have a lot of questions about how this system will be implemented, and whether there will be an impartial element to ensure that young people are getting the support they need,

continued Moore.

There is still no fixed time for institutions to implement a scheme that offers similar services to young offenders. Apart from the Youth Justice Board itself, there is no national co-ordination between establishments.

"At present some institutions are ready to go but others are lagging behind," continued Moore. "This means that there are children that could be unnecessarily locked up, with no one with the time or resources to help them."

Moore also expressed fears about the timing of the programme. In September, Section 130 of the Police and Criminal Justice Act is due to be rolled out across the country. This will mean that children as young as 12 could be held on remand on grounds of nuisance behaviour.

"New teams without the experience may find themselves flooded with hundreds of new cases," she said. "There may be a real need for an impartial presence to ensure that work is still carried out."

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