What’s Their Story? Young Offenders and Policy Makers Meet on Youth Crime

What’s Their Story? Young Offenders and Policy Makers Meet on Youth Crime

Foreward notice:

Thursday 2nd December:

The Atlee Suite, Portcullis House, 1 Bridge Street, London SW1A 2LW

Some of England’s most excluded young people – all of whom are current or ex-offenders – are to meet with senior representatives from the criminal justice system in Parliament this week (Thursday 2 December). The discussion, which comes days in advance of a government Green Paper expected to call for new approaches to crime, is organised by User Voice, a charity run by ex-offenders.

The 30 young people have been nominated by their peers to represent the views of 600 who have been involved in User Voice’s major national project led by ex-offenders. Over the last six months ex-offenders working with User Voice have talked to 325 of the most marginalised young people through 22 discussion groups throughout England.

The project’s interim findings will be shared with policy makers and young people. They include results of a survey filled in by 582 young people between the ages of 12 and 27 who have committed crime. They make stark reading, bringing home the level of violence, exclusion and anger many experience.

• A fifth of them had received 10 or more different types of sentence.
• 43 per cent had spent time in a young offenders’ institute or prison.
• 45 per cent said they had drink/drug problems.

Many had first got into trouble when at school. While they pinpoint a range of reasons, they are overwhelmingly from poorer families living in deprived areas. Many experienced disrupted young lives:

• 16 per cent said they had experienced mental health problems.
• 17 per cent of participants had been in care at some stage.
• Nearly one in 10 had never lived with either parent. Many were from lone parent families.
• A staggering 71 per cent had been excluded from school.
• Just under a third had been tested at some stage for learning difficulties.

The young people’s responses reveal very poor experiences of criminal justice and related agencies. This will be the focus of discussion with 30 decision makers responsible for policy and practice change. This includes representatives from the Home Office, Ministry of Justice (MoJ), National Offender Management Service (NOMS), Youth Justice Board and the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and private contractors currently managing prisons.

Mark Johnson, founder of User Voice said:

Policy-makers will have a rare chance to communicate directly with the people who most need them to get it right. Everyone in the room will have an investment in finding solutions and will be invited to embrace new ideas and new ways of thinking.

This event provides an opportunity for ministers and senior officials to meet directly with young people they are unlikely to encounter in any other circumstances. These are the kind of young people that everyone usually crosses the road to avoid. What we aim to show is that given the right support and encouragement, they can be part of the solution to reducing crime and improving services. The aim is to develop solutions together, giving policy makers and young people a rare chance to communicate directly. As our findings show, they have their work cut out.


Notes to editors:

  1. To attend the User Voice event, for a copy of What’s Your Story? or for more information please contact Daniel Hutt (07904 008 084/email daniel@uservoice.org). A final report will be published in the new year.

  2. User Voice exists to reduce offending. Our work is led and delivered by ex-offenders who foster dialogue between users and providers of the criminal justice and related services. We enable unheard voices to make a difference and enable policy makers and practitioners to listen directly to service users.

  3. The Excluded Youth Project has been supported by: the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, v, Saatchi and Saatchi, T-Mobile, the Martin and Judith Ainscough Charitable Trust, KPMG and Partizan.

  4. User Voice has quotes, case study material and facts and stats available.

Dated: 1 December 2010