Left outside – when Dad or Mum goes to prison…

A parent going to prison isn’t the fault of the child. Obviously. Yet thousands of children suffer as a result…

Father & child holding hands through bars...

Photo courtesy ©iStockphoto/patanasak

Imagine coming home from school to find that Dad or Mum have gone to jail. This is the reality for around 230,000 children in the UK.

So what needs do these children have?…

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Speech, language & communication problems in youth justice…

Many young people in the youth justice system have speech, language and communication problems. To help them, we need to discover which ones have and which ones haven’t. That’s where “The Box” comes in…

The Box

Image ©RCSLT

This is a guest post by Dr. Aprilmay Kitchener of Siarad Da – supporting professionals to improve their understanding and skills to better manage people with challenging behaviour and social communication difficulties and disabilities.

“The Box” – help or hinderance?…

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Custody for kids: good & bad. Part 2…

Prison gates

Photo ©Jonny Matthew

In our last post on this subject, we looked at some of the system problems currently at play in the world of youth justice.

Specifically in the kind of secure provision for children who end up in custody.

We showed that closing beds in secure children’s homes is counter-productive. And that building a massive secure college makes no sense and has now, thankfully, been abandoned.

So what next?

A closer look at what the children’s custodial system must do if it is to succeed in its mission…

How to reduce re-offending by children leaving custody…

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Custody for kids: good and bad. Part 1…

Photo courtesy of ©123rf/Nigel Spooner

Photo courtesy of ©123rf/Nigel Spooner

The latest youth justice statistics present both good and bad news.

Numbers in custody are down. But instances of restraint and self-harm have increased.

In these austere times, and in any other times, fewer kids in prison is a good thing. But each young person is a lot more than a unit cost to the state. They’re not “prisoners”, they’re not “inmates”; they’re not even “young offenders.”

They are children first, offenders second.

There are some lessons the government and the secure estate need to learn in order to better serve young people.

Lessons for the secure estate…

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Child first, offender second…

Why it matters...

Boy in handcuffs upset...

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/AlexRaths

Having worked with “young offenders” for well over 20 years, I have one unshakeable conviction:

They are “young” first, and “offenders” second.

Why does this matter?

Because who we‘re dealing with, will impact on how we deal with them.

As those who work to aid recovery in troubled young people, how we view them is key to everything else we do…

Why does “child first, offender second”, matter?

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Celebrity sex abuse: “No smoke without a fire…?”

Fire & Smoke image

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/Malbert

I’ve worked for many years with young people and sexual abuse.

Like lots of my colleagues, I’ve run the gauntlet of possible false accusation. Just by working to help damaged and vulnerable children in such a sensitive area, this risk is present. It happens.

But the greatest dread is not the accusation. My conscience is clear and my practice has been upright. Always.

The dread is this: if I ever were accused, the words, “There’s no smoke without a fire,” could be applied, regardless of my innocence.

Ken Roache’s acquittal has brought this starkly to the fore once again…

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Reflection: a lost art?…

Last year I had a holiday in France. What a cracking week it was, too! Lots of good grub, sleep, walks and relaxing in the sun.

One evening my partner and I – both social workers – got to talking about work. For once, it was a VERY positive conversation…

Thinker - joecicak - iStock_000005908297XSmall

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/joecicak

After only a very few minutes, I began to realise the vital importance of reflection. Of taking time to think back and remind ourselves of what we did, what we achieved and where we could improve.

Where we go wrong…

Unfortunately, we tend to:

  • Concentrate on being self-critical or, worse still…
  • Looking for where the blame lies (as news events frequently highlight)

How I was gobsmacked…

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Who’d be a magistrate?


In my younger days, I got into trouble with the Court.

Not because I’d committed a crime. But because, as a youth justice social worker, I was accompanying a young person to Court, but I wasn’t wearing a jacket!

It seems my trendy (I thought!) silk black bomber jacket wasn’t the Court’s idea of “smart enough.” I sneaked out feeling duly told off!

Now having worked in and around the Court system for many years, I’ve come to greatly respect our system of magistrates’ Courts. But for most, I guess they remain a mystery. So I thought I’d share some facts with you…

Did you know?… 

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Better justice for young people who offend…

Photo courtesy of ©123rf/Nigel Spooner

Like everyone else, I hear lots of negative stuff about young offenders. And to be honest, it annoys the heck out of me!

Until last week, I worked in a secure children’s home. We looked after 17 children serving custodial sentences for offences. This means that as well as the challenging behaviour, we also saw the positives.

In the end, they’re just kids. And the vast majority are very likeable human beings.

As well as seeing positives in the children, it’s been great to see a few positive changes in the youth justice system recently. Hopefully this reflects a positive shift-however slight-in the way young people who offend are viewed.

So what’s changed?

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Crime & Punishment 3

"Give a Damn!"

Rigid Bar Handcuffs

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/GTMedia

Here it is: 3 out of 3…

1.  This series of 3 started with exploring why people get so mad about youth crime. Why they call for more punishment.

2.  In my last post, we looked at some of the background drivers to offending. Essentially the ingredients of a really bad start in life.

3. This post starts to identify what workers and systems need to do if they are to help young people stop offending.

So what needs to happen?

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Crime & Punishment 2

Cause & Effect...

Offender by wall - Linda Yolanda - iStock_000007765018XSmall

The theme of my last post on youth crime was Punishment isn’t enough…. We explored why it is that people often cry out for more punishment.

It was a call for us all to remember what it was like being young. Most of all, it was a reminder that judgment kills trust. If kids don’t trust us, we can’t help them.

If not more punishment, then what?

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