Funding for whole system approach.
Young people at risk of becoming drawn into serious offending will receive more co-ordinated support and early intervention, the Justice Secretary has said.
Humza Yousaf said an extra £1.6 million will be given to local authorities over the next two years to strengthen youth justice services, including extending some of these up to the age of 21, and up to 26 for care-experienced young people.
The whole system approach, which involves partners from across education, social work, policing and the third sector, works to intervene early in order to prevent offending and help reduce the number of victims. This approach to youth justice has contributed to an 82% reduction in children being referred to the Reporter on offence grounds since 2006-7, and a 78% fall in the number of under 18-year-olds being prosecuted in courts during the same period. The number of young people in custody has reduced by 66% over the past decade.
Humza Yousaf made the announcement after meeting social workers, police and Crown Office staff in West Lothian.
"Preventing offending is integral to creating safer communities, and in order to do that a range of public services need to work together, targeting tailored support where it is needed most to safeguard the vulnerable and keep all of Scotland's communities safe. I've heard directly from youth justice practitioners how successful early intervention can be, and how organisations coming together can have a huge impact on the lives of young people who are at risk.
"This extra funding will enable local authorities to extend support to young people up to the age of 26 in some cases. I'm very clear that the success of the past decade is no cause for complacency but rather it motivates us all to build on that progress and ensure no individual or community is left behind. By enhancing the capacity of local authorities to work with partners, we can safeguard and strengthen the integrated approach to help keep crime down and communities safe."
Cllr Stephen McCabe, COSLA Spokesperson for Children and Young People, said:
"Local authorities working closely with the Scottish Government and local partners have made a very significant impact in reducing youth offending over the last decade.
"This has been shown by the reduction of young people in custody and in the court system, as well as referrals to the Children's Reporter. That said, it is imperative these efforts are maintained and sustained to ensure the best possible outcomes for our young people, and ultimately save resources in the longer term.
"Therefore, I welcome this additional resource from the Scottish Government over the next couple of years to build on the progress led by councils locally.â€
Leader of West Lothian Council, Lawrence Fitzpatrick added:
"West Lothian Council and its partners are wholly committed to the continued implementation of the Whole System Approach and we welcome the announcement of additional funding to support local authorities to take this forward for the next two years."
To support local partnerships working with young people, an additional Â£800,000 per annum will be allocated in 2018/19 and 2019/20 to re-energise and extend the Whole System Approach. The priorities for this new resource will be improving support for children up to the age of 18, and extend this support, where appropriate to 21 and up to 26 for care experienced young people.