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"Little extra help for children in custody", The Times

13th August 2007

NINE children out of ten in custody are victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse or physical neglect, according to an unpublished report by the Youth Justice Board (YJB). The government agency, which oversees the youth justice system in England and Wales, stands accused of burying the research completed by children's experts in November last year.

The report also found that specialist therapeutic support for children in custody is rare and that improving the service would be expensive, according to Community Care (Aug 9). Under a YJB-funded pilot scheme to put 25 social workers into young offender institutions, only 14.5 posts are filled despite the apparent need. The YJB report cites the lack of trained staff and guaranteed resources to fund the scheme beyond March 2008 as "serious obstacles" to improving therapeutic services for children in custody. Among other recommendations, the report says that measures to address child abuse should become a contractual requirement for child prisons.

"If the YJB is to be something other than a mere extension of the Prison Service, then it has to start grappling with the strategic issues and not suppress valuable contributions by leading authorities on children," says Frances Crook, the director of the Howard League for Penal Reform.

A YJB spokesperson says that the whole report had been intended only for "internal management" although it had been discussed with "relevant stakeholders". It does intend to publish a literature review.

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