A new report released today by the Prison Reform Trust and YoungMinds reveals that high numbers of vulnerable children with mental health needs and learning disabilities are getting caught up in the criminal justice system. The charities found that children who offend have health, care and education needs which, if not met, could lead to a lifetime of ill health, unemployment and crime.

Despite improvements in mental health services for children, health and criminal justice, services are still not working together to make sure that these vulnerable children get the right support. Turning young lives around, a briefing paper for staff in the NHS and the criminal justice system, offers a blueprint for change.

  • Around 25% of children who offend have very low IQs of less than 70
  • 43% of children on community orders mental health and care needs, and the prevalence amongst children in custody is much higher
  • 60% of children who offend have communication difficulties and, of this group, around half have poor, or very poor, communication skills.
Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:
Too many youngsters are slipping through the net of care and support. Services need to work together to help young people to turn their lives around. This would have a major impact on improving health, reducing unemployment and tackling youth crime.
Sarah Brennan, Chief Executive of YoungMinds, said:
This briefing paper makes a range of practical recommendations to improve the system of justice, care and support to the one in three children with a mental health problem who offend. If we don’t get these children the support they need early on then not only are we destroying their lives but we are failing to protect communities and wasting money. We very much hope this briefing is acted on as a matter of urgency.
The briefing paper seeks to encourage effective joint working between Health and Wellbeing Boards and youth justice services, in particular, to ensure that local strategies reflect the needs of children and young people who offend, especially those with mental health problems and learning disabilities. It outlines a practical action agenda and provides examples of good practice on integrating services.

You can download the briefing paper by clicking this link