54% of All Children Who Commit a Serious Violence Offence Are Known to Social Care

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54% of All Children Who Commit a Serious Violence Offence Are Known to Social Care

What does this mean? 

More importantly, what can we do with this information to reduce or prevent serious youth violence to benefit victims, society, and the potential offenders themselves?

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Source – Education, children’s social care and offending: local authority level dashboard (Academic Year 2019/20)

I recently spoke on a panel at the annual Modernising Justice conference about this very topic and my five key messages were as follows:

  1. We know that the current justice system is ineffective. Will we ever build enough prisons? Surely investing more heavily in preventing crime is a better strategy than housing a growing number of offenders.
  2. We know that preventing first offences is the best solution. Once children and young people become known to the justice system it becomes much more difficult to change their trajectories.
  3. We know which children and young people are more likely to be involved in serious youth violence many years beforehand. However, this intelligence is not always shared with other public services who may be able to intervene. Even if this information is shared, there are often insufficient financial resources to provide diversionary programmes of support. 
  4. We know that children in social care are disproportionately represented in the justice system. If we focussed our efforts on this cohort before they end up there we could save millions of pounds of taxpayer cash.
  5. We know how to divert life trajectories with effective early intervention. These life changing interventions often happen by luck rather than judgement. 

During the discussion I referenced the Tom Cruise movie Minority Report where Tom and his “Pre Crime” team could see 15 mins into the future and stop crimes before they take place. I proposed that we should establish these Pre Crime teams within police forces that use the data that currently exists more intelligently, extending the concept of Precision Policing into youth justice. 

As a worked example from a local authority using the above dataset from 2019/20, 8.4% of their children in social care were responsible for 72.6% of all serious violence offences. This worked out to be 215 serious violence offences, which is more than one for every school day during the year.

From their 646 children in social care, approximately 54 of these would have been responsible for these serious violence offences. So how do we identify the cohort of 54 from the total of 646 so that we can intervene to prevent their first offence?

This is where police, education and public health data should be mapped to identify those most likely to need additional support. In an ideal world, all 646 children would have access to this due to the difficult start to life they have experienced. However, with financial limitations we could identify with a high degree of certainty 33% of this cohort who are most vulnerable to give a workable caseload of 215.

We may not be 100% accurate with our identification and interventions may not be 100% effective. However, if we could bring the number of serious violence offences down by just 50% we would have prevented over 100 incidents and the programme would have paid for itself a number of times over.

If we can start building our vulnerable children and young people with the same care, intelligence and expertise that we do when we build new prisons we may solve more than just an accommodation issue.

I made a number of connections with key public sector stakeholders and corporate partners who are keen to explore this way of working further. Please let me know if you are open to collaborating on this vitally important agenda.