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Turning young lives around: How health and justice services can respond to children with mental health problems and learning disabilities who offend

Who is this briefing for?
This briefing paper has been prepared for youth justice professionals and practitioners, local government directors of children’s services and lead members,
directors of public health, clinical commissioning groups and healthcare.

Why is it useful?
This briefing paper will help to inform the development of Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategies. It will be of particular use to those involved in commissioning services, and for those concerned to ensure that the particular needs of children who offend, especially those with mental health problems and learning disabilities, are recognised and met.

High numbers of children who offend have health, education and social care needs, which, if not met at an early age, can lead to a lifetime of declining health and worsening offending behaviour, with significant long term costs to the taxpayer, and to the victims of these crimes.

Despite considerable improvement in provision for children’s mental health evidence shows that health and youth justice services are not working effectively together to respond to these children.

Reforms to health and social care in England, and the emphasis on localism, provide a chance to improve joint working between youth justice and healthcare services to make a real difference for children who offend.

Health and Wellbeing Boards, together with Clinical Commissioning Groups, will be responsible for shaping the future of health and social care provision for their local areas, a top priority of which is to tackle the health inequalities that children and young people who offend frequently experience.

This 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 to help turn these young lives around.