Written evidence submitted by The Association of Youth Offending Team Managers (AYM) (CYP0044)
About the AYM
The AYM is a professional association representing the majority of youth offending teams (YOT) and their managers in England.
Section 39 (1) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 requires the co-operation of the named statutory partners to form a YOT. Section 38 (1, 2) identifies the statutory partners and places upon them a duty to co-operate in order to secure youth justice services appropriate to their area. These statutory partners are the local authority, police, the probation service, and health. To support the YOT, additional partners may also be recruited to the joint strategic effort to prevent offending by children and young people.
The Association draws upon the wealth of knowledge and the breadth of members’ experience, to promote public understanding of youth crime issues and to play its part in shaping the youth crime agenda.
Our members run services providing community-based supervision for children and young people who offend. We also work with children in custody and work closely with staff in secure units and young offender institutions to ensure that young people receiving custody experience as smooth a transition as possible into custody and back into the community.
The AYM welcomes the opportunity to provide evidence to the Health and Social Care Committee’s new inquiry to examine progress made by Government on its ambitions to improve mental health services for children and young people.
Evidently the promotion of general public health access to, and use of community services for all young people and families, with a focus on those communities, typically from BAME backgrounds who are disadvantaged, will benefit all young people including those at risk of entering the criminal justice system.
Mental and emotional health issues are known to be a significant factor amongst those within the criminal justice system and are often associated with risk factors faced by young people and families known to YOTs.
However, the AYM is concerned that many children and families are reluctant to use current CAMHS provision; such as those children and families in the criminal justice system, who are also often of BAME origin, and we would wish to see the design and delivery of mental health services offered in a way that reaches out to them.
The establishment of mental health provision and support around schools is key to enhancing resilience for all young people. The AYM would highlight the importance of mental health provision for children and young people who are in contact with the law who are often disadvantaged in terms of their background, for example, in their disenfranchisement from much mainstream education service provision.
We would like to remind the committee that it is a statutory requirement under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 for clinical commissioning groups, as statutory partners to a YOT, to ensure YOTs are adequately resourced with funding and staff to provide mental health assessments and interventions to young people known to the YOT and to ensure appropriate access to a range of health provision. We would suggest all YOTs should be able to provide holistic health assessments to young people known to them inclusive of mental health and substance use as routine to the assessment and intervention planning processes. However, there is variability across YOTs as to access various Health specialists including in relation to mental health within the YOTs and to key partners e.g. to CAMHS services; and suggest a national audit be undertaken to assess the situation and identify gaps in order to inform future necessary actions.
The AYM welcomes the strengths-based approach of building on the good work that is already being delivered through the general resourcing and collaborative Youth Justice Health stream and would encourage these initiatives to be sustained and developed through appropriate and continuing revenue funding.
With regard to the drive toward reduced use of physical and medical restraint of children receiving inpatient care, the AYM supports this and believes that taking a more holistic approach to children’s health care will help. Encouraging those providing inpatient care to access the full range of assessments and information from other providers of care is essential if they are to identify the causes and triggers for behaviours that could result in the need for restraint, including understanding of adverse childhood experiences and trauma that might not have been identified. We would also welcome the routine publication of restraint incidents (physical and chemical) and the rationale for these by each secure institution; and that the information be analysed using appropriate independent oversight to inform plans for continuous development. The AYM would also wish to see a single agreed restraint process to be designed and implemented across the full range of secure settings, including the children's criminal justice secure estate.
The AYM welcomes the consideration of reforming mental health provision toward a more holistic approach that prioritises early intervention and prevention. However, balancing this as a priority with that of crisis care will we believe, need to be carefully managed to ensure that those already in need of mental health provision are properly supported, with appropriate resources. The AYM believes that only by balancing priority needs in this way, can trends in self-harm and suicide rates be properly addressed.
The development of mental health initiatives in the custodial estate is welcomed. However, the AYM would be keen to explore the support provided to children in the secure estate who, as a result of the pandemic, have suffered increased isolation, and the potential of increased risk of mental ill health. The AYM would be keen to understand the approach of health in terms of prevention of, and early intervention for, mental ill health under such circumstances.
For further information please contact our representative Mike Rees