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What next after Munro?

The number of children entering the child protection system has risen dramatically in the last three years with implications for children’s services and partner agencies. This timely volume takes a critical look at the impact of the Munro Review (2011) on child protection and the Government’s response. It looks at questions including how effective Local Safeguarding Children Boards are in providing the necessary scrutiny to ensure children are safe, how the early offer of help at local level might reduce the numbers of children at the critical end of the spectrum and whether reducing regulation from the centre will result in better outcomes for the most vulnerable? Moreover, it also considers those young people who traditionally bypass child protection services but remain at risk of harm. These are critical questions for both policy and practice in understanding the reforms Munro states are required. Contributions from leading experts working in the child protection system review current safeguarding policy and explore the future after Munro.

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Is early intervention working?

The 2008 UK government Youth Crime Action Plan emphasises prevention and early intervention in different aspects of work with young people who offend or are considered to be ‘at risk’ of offending. Much of this approach includes targeted work with families and work to reduce the numbers of young people entering the youth justice system.

This report takes a critical look at early intervention policies. Through contributions from leading experts on youth work and criminal justice it considers the development of integrated and targeted youth support services and the implications for practice of early intervention policies; analyses the causes of serious violent crime through consideration of issues that address gangs and guns; provides an evaluation of the government’s early intervention strategy through the examination of its Sure Start programme and other family initiatives; identifies the psychobiological effects of violence on children and links them to problem behaviour; considers the impacts of family intervention projects and parenting work and compares approaches to early intervention across different jurisdictions and examines the lessons for practice in England and Wales.

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This introductory chapter summarises the nature of discussions and themes prevalent in the book. It discusses first the terms ‘young people’ and ‘risk’ which are the dominant themes in the book. In this introduction and the book, young people refer to the children under 18 years old and young adults in their 20s. While the focus is on the children and young people in the youth justice system, the gradual transition from childhood to adulthood is considered as well. The notion of risk in relation to young people is also clarified in this chapter. It specifically looks at the three different perspectives of the concept of risk. First, it examines the risk that young people who have been victims and perpetrators of crimes pose to themselves and how this manifest itself in violent behaviour and different types of mental health disorders. Second, it examines the risk that young people who commit serious crimes pose to the public and how agencies who work with them produced and developed assessment tools, practices and procedures to support them. Finally, it examines the early identification of children who exhibit risk factors that are believed to be linked to the possibility of future serious offending and the need for preventive interventions.

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This book is composed of the proceedings of the symposium held in May 2008 that examined the government policy on prisons and imprisonment. This event was organised by the three research centres in the School of Law at King’s College London: the Institute of Criminal Policy Research, the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, and the International Centre for Prison Studies. The symposium examined the latest proposals for prisons and sentencing that were emphasised by Lord Carter in his government’s review of prisons. This report, which was published in December 2007, put forward radical recommendations such as the creation of a sentencing commission and the construction of large-scale ‘Titan’ prisons. Cognizant of the significance of these proposals, the three centres in King’ College hence organised a symposium that aimed to contribute to the government deliberations on the proposals in the Carter Report. This book sums up the revised presentations of the symposium. It includes a chapter that looks at the future strategies based on Professor Rod Morgan’s concluding comments at the seminar. The book also includes an endnote that discusses the current issues on sentencing, prison overcrowding, and imprisonment.

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Prevention rather than cure is the obvious, common-sense approach to dealing with any problem, and it is unsurprising that criminal justice policy has been driven by such an ideal. Shortly after entering government in 1997, New Labour embarked on what was seen by many commentators as a more holistic model of crime prevention than its predecessor Conservative government had utilised, with the establishment of Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships. This book examines government policy in the United Kingdom in relation to early intervention programmes that aim to support families and to prevent youth crime. It raises some important questions about prevention strategies, such as whether early intervention is symptomatic of a creeping criminalisation of social policy whereby a coercive approach is used to force so-called problem families and their children to engage with services; how local people themselves are engaged in crucial decisions about how to tackle crime and social problems; and how those most detached from the mainstream can be motivated to take advantage of support provided.

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This book raises important policy questions in relation to early intervention strategies and crime prevention work with children, young people and their families in the United Kingdom. In terms of current government policy, early intervention has become firmly embedded under New Labour’s administration as the overarching strategy to address both social exclusion and offending behaviour among children, young people and their families. There are a number of assumptions underpinning the approach set out in the book: that the earlier the intervention, the better it will be; that targeted as opposed to universal provision is appropriate; and that coercive engagement based on a carrot-and-stick approach is most effective. In conclusion, this chapter charts a path through the contentious intervention field in the context of the reformed youth justice system and its rebalancing during 2008. It considers how the greater integration of youth justice with youth services, children’s services and family work allows for a new structure at a local level in which to respond properly to the needs of those young people and families considered most at risk of offending.

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Alongside the current media public preoccupation with high-risk offenders, there has been a shift towards a greater focus on risk and public protection in UK criminal justice policy. Much of the academic debate has centered on the impact of the risk paradigm on adult offender management services; less attention has been given to the arena of youth justice and young adults. Yet, there are critical questions for both theory - are the principles of risk management the same when working with young people? - and practice - how can practitioners respond to those young people who cause serious harm to others? - that need to be considered.

The distinguished contributors to “Young people and ‘risk’" consider risk not only in terms of public protection but also in terms of young people’s own vulnerability to being harmed (either by others or through self-inflicted behaviour). One of the report’s key objectives is to explore the links between these two distinct, but related, aspects of risk.

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Build more prisons? Sentence fewer offenders?

“Tackling prison overcrowding” is a response to controversial proposals for prisons and sentencing set out in by Lord Patrick Carter’s “Review of Prisons”, published in 2007.

The Carter review proposed the construction of vast ‘Titan’ prisons to deal with the immediate problem of prison overcrowding, the establishment of a Sentencing Commission as a mechanism for keeping judicial demand for prison places in line with supply, along with further use of the private sector, including private sector management methods.

“Tackling prison overcrowding” comprises nine chapters by leading academic experts, who expose these proposals to critical scrutiny. They take the Carter Report to task for construing the problems too narrowly, in terms of efficiency and economy, and for failing to understand the wider issues of justice that need addressing. They argue that the crisis of prison overcrowding is first and foremost a political problem - arising from penal populism - for which political solutions need to be found.

This accessible report will be of interest to policy makers, probation practitioners, academics and other commentators on criminal policy.

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