Developments in the Field of Child Care and Probation

Publication Date01 Jun 1965
THE DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE of the National Association of Probation
Officers, in an attempt to forsee the position of the probation service in the
juvenile courts and proposed family courts prepared the following statement as
cr basis for discussion within the Association: this is not a statement of policy on
behalf of the Association but it is hoped that it will stimulate thought and dis-
cussion about matters on which the Association must in the near future declare
its policy. Discussion in branches, and comment from readers, will be welcomed.
* * *
Social progress in this country has usually been made by sudden leaps and
bounds, following periods of stagnation or consolidation of previous progress.
The 30s was a quiet period during which committees examined the treatment
of juvenile offenders and persistent offenders, corporal and capital punishment,
and the social services of the courts. Many of the findings of these enquiries were
embodied in the Criminal Justice Bill of 1938 which was held up by the out-
break of war, but became with little change the Criminal Justice Act of 1948.
This was intended to bring new ideas into the treatment of offenders,; it abolished
penal servitude and ticket-of-leave, and introduced corrective training, detention
centres, attendance centres and remand centres, while providing that there should
be a complete network of probation officers serving the courts and undertaking
statutory after-care. This Act, unfortunately, came into effect against a rising
crime situation the consequences of which have been overcrowded institutions
and an over-stressed probation service, the increasing demands on which have
never been met by adequate recruitment.
1n the same year as the Criminal Justice Act, the Children Act, 1948, was also
passed, following the Curtis Report, which revealed that despite the provisions
for treatment, little had been done in the way of protection of children or the
prevention of disturbed situations from which delinquency might arise. This Act
established the children’s service as a local authority service supported by local
authority committees and other local authority services. While the established
services were grappling with their problems in the courts and the treatment of
offenders, the new children’s service established itself and demonstrated the
importance of the gap it had been created to fill. The original limitation of its
scope to the welfare of children deprived of a normal home life was sometimes
conveniently and wisely forgotten and the experience gained by this service in
offering help and support to parents and children where there was obvious need
could not fail to have effect. It probably led to the Ingelby Committee and
eventually to the Children and Young Persons Act of 1963, which has opened
the way for preventive work and the establishment of a family advice service
with the possibility of provision of material help.
This Act also raised the age of criminal responsibility to 10 years, and a
consequence of it appears to have been a Home Office circular suggesting con-
sultation between police and local authority services before prosecution of any
child under the age of 12.
The Act has coincided with a new period of activity and thought about the
welfare of children and young persons, represented by the Kilbranden Commit-
tee proposals in Scotland and those of the study group appointed by the Labour

Party with regard to the establishment of a comprehensive family service, now
regarded as the probable basis for the Government White Paper on the treatment
of young offenders.
The impetus of the two Acts of 1948 may be spent, but with the new Children
and Young Persons Act already having a noticeable effect and with more
dramatic changes in the offing, the situation is fluid and should provide oppor-
tunity for more thought before further changes are actually made. The treatment
not only of deviant children but of crime in general is under examination now
by a Royal Commission on the Penal System. The probation service cannot fail
to be affected by the changes already made and those likely to be made, but in
considering these it must not be concerned only with its own reactions to them
and the manner in which it will be affected by them. It must attempt to make
a positive re-assessment of its functions, in the effort to discover how its know-
ledge and experience can best be used for the benefit of the community.
The Juvenile Court
The immediate problems to be examined arc those concerning the juvenile
court and the treatment of children and young persons. The raising of the age
of criminal responsibility, and the preventive intervention in many cases by the
children’s service may be expected to reduce substantially the number of children
who will appear in the juvenile courts. The Kilbrandon proposals would remove
the children from the courts completely and set up panels of experts who would
have power to decide what should be done with allegedly delinquent or other-
wise difficult children, or children in need of control or protection, and maintain
control over the lives of those children up to the age of sixteen through a welfare
service attached to the education...

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