Page last updated at 20:38 GMT, Tuesday, 15 July 2008 21:38 UK

Youth crime plan targets families

Campaigner Alex Rose explains how death of a friend inspired him

Ministers have confirmed plans for more targeting of 110,000 "problematic" families in a bid to cut youth crime.

The £100m Youth Crime Action Plan says more parenting orders should be handed out with Asbos.

It also proposes increased support for crime victims and for young offenders to settle into communities - and says more youth centres should be built.

The plan aims to cut the number of people aged 10 to 17 entering the criminal justice system by 20% by 2010.

'Tackled head-on'

It adds that "families with children at risk of future high-rate offending will be reached through additional support which will ensure that problems are tackled early before difficulties spiral out of control".

Police should carry out "visible patrols" after school hours, the plan says.

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The focus is on providing intensive support to 20,000 of the most vulnerable and problematic families.

Children, schools and families secretary Ed Balls said if parents did not co-operate, the ultimate penalty would be eviction.

"You can’t just say ‘well, I'm not going to do it, I’m not going to be responsible as a parent for what my children are doing’.

"In the end there has to be sanctions but these have got to be very much the last resort. No one wants to see people evicted from their homes,” he said.

Not a U-turn as such [by the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith] but a very belated attempt to clear up the important confusion…
Nick Robinson
BBC political editor

One proposal to be consulted on would be to make parents legally responsible for their child completing a community sentence. Parents could be issued with a summons when their son or daughter appears in court.

The document also suggests that judges in criminal trials be given greater discretion to name 16 and 17 year olds who are found guilty. In most cases, the media is currently prevented from identifying young offenders.

BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said the action plan, which builds on existing measures, is a "package of liberal reforms to tackle the underlying causes of youth offending".

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said: "Youth crime can have a devastating effect on victims and communities and must be tackled head-on.

"Today I want to send the message to perpetrators that their actions are unacceptable.

"They must understand the consequences their behaviour has not only on victims and communities but on their families and their futures."

The plan will involve the Home Office, Ministry of Justice and the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

It calls for more investment in non-custodial sentences, involving intensive fostering and community supervision of young offenders.

Greater support will be offered with housing, education and work for those leaving prison, it adds.

'Mish-mash'

The Children's Commissioner for England praised what he called "measured, thoughtful proposals".

However, the plan was dismissed by probation union Napo as a "mish-mash" of previously-piloted ideas.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Evicting the problem families just moves them from one place to another. I think it would be better to deal with the root causes, not just the surface cracks.
Nicola Clubb, Bournemouth

And shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve said: "Despite a decade of endless initiatives and a dedicated 'respect agenda', anti-social behaviour is not only rising, but is being committed by younger and younger children.

"We need action at every level to fix our broken society - the government's failed policies are betraying a generation of young people."

Mr Brown announced the plan at his monthly news conference on Monday, where he discussed the problem of knife crime.

"Too many people, young and old, do not feel safe in the streets, and sometimes even in their homes, as a result of the behaviour of a minority.

"We need to make it absolutely clear to everyone, but especially young people, that in our country there are boundaries of acceptable behaviour [and] that it is completely unacceptable to carry a knife," he said.

The strategy was launched as Ms Smith was forced to again deny making a U-turn over plans to make young people who carry knives meet the victims of knife crime.

Ms Smith denied the plan had ever been to take young people to A&E departments to meet victims as they were being treated.


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