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Wasted Lives? Is this what we meant? Dr Elaine Arnull Head of Social Work London Metropolitan University.

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Presentation on theme: "Wasted Lives? Is this what we meant? Dr Elaine Arnull Head of Social Work London Metropolitan University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Wasted Lives? Is this what we meant? Dr Elaine Arnull Head of Social Work London Metropolitan University

2 What I am going to talk about: Wasted Lives A current research example Can we foresee what the outcomes of our research might be? If we could, what might we say?

3 Wasted Lives 10 years ago Nacro and the Princes Trust said that: Processing young people through the YJS was costly and wasteful; Early intervention would mean fewer crimes, fewer victims and less work for the courts and prisons; A great deal of youth crime has its roots in severe family and educational problems.

4 Wasted Lives This approach suggested that there were certain factors which could be identified or which recurred amongst the young people found in the YJS (Farrington and Painter, 2004; Smith and McVie, 2003; Smith and McAra, 2004). That if we could identify those young people early we might be able to stop them engaging in offending. That this would benefit those young people and stop them wasting their lives.

5 Youth Crime Action Plan 2008 The Youth Crime Action Plan says it has a triple track approach: Setting clear boundaries and punishment; Addressing the root causes of crime; Offering non-negotiable intervention to families at risk of offending.

6 Youth Crime Action Plan It takes the notion of risk and identifiable risk factors as a given; It takes them a stage further; It proffers non-negotiable intervention as a way forward; It does this from an apparent perspective which suggests that this is in the interest of the individual, the family and the community.

7 The question I want to pose is: Is this what we expected to be the outcome of Wasted Lives? Is that what was meant?

8 Girls and offending I want to explore those questions with reference to some research I undertook. To do that I need to give you some brief information about the research.

9 Girls and offending: Findings A young female offender in England and Wales is most commonly white, most likely to receive their first Reprimand aged between years and their first conviction aged years. In general, convicted girls have no previous convictions. They show a range of risk factors

10 Girls and offending: Findings The offence committed by most girls in the youth justice system in England and Wales is an offence of violence against the person. There does not appear to be a rise in the number of girls committing offences, but more girls are entering the youth justice system.

11 Girls and offending: Findings Girls are also being convicted at a younger age. Most offences committed by girls continue to be low-level. Asset analysis showed girls could be placed into three overall groups. Each had a different range of needs and criminogenic factors.

12 Girls and offending: Findings The three groups are: those who commit offences of theft and handling stolen goods; those who commit offences of violence; those who commit other offences.

13 Girls and offending: Findings Are girls committing more offences – our research and self report findings (Mori 2009) suggest not. But, we are processing more girls. Why? Is this the result of more effective policing / more effective targeting / systemic changes (i.e. fast tracking) / identifying people at an earlier stage.

14 Girls and offending: Findings Is it the result of less tolerance of certain behaviours – for example alcohol use and the use of low level violence? Do schools / public / neighbours call the police more readily. Do the CPS and police prosecute where they might not have done (Darker et al 2008; Steffensmeier et al, 2005) ?

15 Girls and offending: Findings We know that recent research has suggested we have very negative views of young people in general and are afraid of them. We see them as feral (Barnados 2008). Are the findings of our study consistent with this?

16 Girls and offending: Findings We know it is not helpful to bring young people into the system at an early stage and for low level offences. But we are doing this with girls. Is this what was meant by early intervention?

17 Girls and offending: Findings Our findings on the majority of girls in the YJS showed that most had committed an offence of violence against the person We found a statistically significant link with the Asset assessment of recent use of alcohol This suggested that girls who committed low level offences of violence were more likely to drink regularly than other offending girls.

18 Girls and offending: Findings We found however few other problems in their lives compared to other groups of girl offenders. Qualitative data showed offences to be against people they knew, male or female and of a similar age and to be linked to a past incident or provocation. They were not therefore roaming the streets looking for trouble.

19 Girls and offending: Findings Girls had attended alcohol education and anger management programmes in the community and in secure settings and were dismissive and critical of them. They did not consider they were useful nor that they addressed their behaviours. This finding has been replicated in other studies with girls and boys.

20 Girls and delinquent behaviour Research suggests that young peoples drinking may be less problematic when it is in a controlled environment (i.e. pub or club) or more risky when it is not (Galloway 2007;Coleman & Carter, 2005) Girls drinking behaviour traditionally seen to reduce because they could get access to controlled environments earlier.

21 Girls and delinquent behaviour It is a potential solution to problematic drinking acceptable to young people. But increasingly we make it harder to access controlled drinking environments by policing access more effectively? Is this pragmatic?

22 Is this what we meant? Are we problematising and criminalising normal girls with few problems? Are we failing to offer solutions they consider effective? Is this the group we meant to intervene with early? Is this how we meant to intervene? Are there better, non Youth Justice orientated ways?

23 Is this what we meant? How much is the YJS driven by moral panics? (The Sun, Telegraph, Daily Star 02/03/09) ? Are we engaging young people at a low level of offending and early stage because we said we would intervene early? Is there a danger that by appealing to the greater, community good we justify early interventions and force young people into non- negotiable treatment?

24 Is this what we meant? There is a current fashion in the social work world to talk about social pedagogy. Grossly simplified the aim is to teach, people within their communities how to address the learning needs which they may have. This approach may be interpreted as helping people to adjust, or more radically some argue for it equips people with skills for independence

25 Is this what we meant? A popular and significant theory which has influenced recent UK policies is communitarianism (Etzioni). Policy which has aimed at the community and addressed the individuals rights and responsibilities within that framework. Social pedagogy as a possible social work technique or practice fits with that sense of community.

26 Is this what we meant? Within that framework might one place a policy offering non-negotiable intervention? Are we placing the needs of young people at the fore or those of a wider community?

27 Is this what we meant? Before we go down that route should we ask: is what we have now, what what we meant ten years ago by early intervention? Is this what young people need and want to help them make the best of their lives? Have we got the right tools and policies to do that?

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