THE YOUTH JUSTICE BOARD-DOES IT HAVE A FUTURE?

THE YOUTH JUSTICE BOARD

Comment

The chief executive of the Youth Justice Board (YJB), John Drew, has conceded that the body could be scrapped or face significant cuts under the coalition government’s drive to scale back quangos.

The Youth Justice Board (YJB) is  an executive agency created in 1998, which was  jointly sponsored by the Department for Children, Schools and Families ( now DFE) and the Ministry of Justice. The coalition government has brought the YJB, under the direct control of the Ministry of Justice. Crispin Blunt is the new Minister for Youth Justice. It is charged with monitoring the activity of the Youth Justice System, including Youth Offending Teams (YOTs), which are responsible to Local Authorities.

John Drew  stressed that scoping work undertaken by the YJB had revealed it could make considerable savings by sustaining lower levels of custody in the youth secure estate. But it has a poor record overall in controlling its  internal costs.

The YJB was badly damaged, last year, when it was revealed in the national press  that its Chief information officer  ie the man responsible for its IT arrangements and managing its ‘Wiring up Youth Justice’ (don’t ask) ‘was earning £330,000 a year and  ten or more staff in its IT department  over £100,000. On this basis the Information officer (who left the YJB shortly after the revelations)  must have been remunerated over £1milllion  over a  three year period.  Better remuneration  in fact  than that of most Quango heads, which is saying something.  With youth re-offending remaining stubbornly high it has always had problems demonstrating it delivers value for money. In the 12 months to the 31st January 2009, the Youth Justice Board paid one member of the Senior Civil Service (SCS) non-consolidated performance pay, while  thirty-five members of staff received “in year” non-consolidated performance pay and twenty-one members of staff received “end of year” non-consolidated performance pay. ie we are talking bonuses  here. Non-consolidated cash payments reward year-on-year performance in relation to agreed objectives, or the short term personal contribution to wider organisational objectives. The bonus culture has moved from the private to public sector despite no evidence that it actually improves performance, and the public sector carries none of the risks associated with the private sector.   And remember this is an organistaion renowned for missing more targets than it meets.

The Centre for Crime and Justice  published an independent report  ‘Ten years of Labour’s youth justice reforms: an independent audit’ (May 2008) which concluded “Overall, most of the targets have been missed and success in achieving the desired outcomes has been far more elusive than the government claims. In reality, the record on youth justice reform is at best mixed. Despite the huge investment, self-reported youth offending has not declined and the principal aim of the youth justice system as set out in the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act, ‘to prevent offending by children and young persons’ has yet to be achieved in any significant sense.”

One can see why Drew might have grounds for concern.

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