The Child, the Family and the Young Offender

Publication Date01 September 1965
Group Work in Probation
The main theme of this issue is Group Work and we are indebted to Dr.
Howard Jones for his introductory article which precedes those by officers
who have been involved in or responsible for experiments in this field.
Observations by the
National Association of Probation Officers
[The original document has been slightly edited for use here]
IN THE FIRST PLACE the Association would comment on the introductory premises
which are advanced to justify the proposals in the later sections of the White
Reference is made to the many reports of recent years in which &dquo;a recurrent
theme has been the urgent need to concentrate resources on the prevention and
treatment of juvenile delinquency&dquo;. Successive Governments since the war have
indeed paid lip-service to this urgent need but none has ever made available
the resources to meet it. If these had been available, and if sufficient social workers
had been recruited, the situation the White Paper seeks to remedy may have
been prevented or considerably minimised.
We feel that account should be taken of the fact that the most recent attempt
&dquo;to concentrate resources on the prevention and treatment of juvenile delin-
quency&dquo;, provided by Section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act of 1963,
has not yet had time to take effect, nor have the necessary social workers been
found to make this possible. Nevertheless, the White Paper states that local
authorities are making vigorous use of these new preventive powers, and it
would seem reasonable, therefore, to allow time for these powers to take effect
before further changes are made and additional burdens placed on the
children’s service.
In para. 5 the White Paper states, as though this were a new discovery,
that &dquo;the right place to begin therefore, is in the family&dquo; and refers later to the
need for a family service. This seems to ignore the fact that wherever this is
possible the children’s service and probation service already deal with any child
or young person, for whom they have responsibility, in the total family
situation. The existing social casework services are in fact family services.
The probation service also deals with many adult offenders and therefore
has contact with their families, and it undertakes matrimonial enquiries and
conciliation work which is certainly of a preventive nature. Many probation
officers have also undertaken group work, organisation of camps and other
projects with young children, all of which have played their part in the prevention
as well as the treatment of juvenile delinquency while the probation service has
at present under supervision approximately 40,000 children and young persons
who have been placed on probation and 7,000 who have been placed under
supervision for other reasons by the juvenile courts. The White Paper would not
indicate to any uninformed reader that any of these services have been available.

In para. 4 the White Paper states that &dquo;a high proportion of adult criminals
have been juvenile delinquents&dquo;. This may well be correct although studies of
preventive detention prisoners show that the average age of first conviction
was over 17?, and less than half had any convictions as juveniles. The statement
does not in any case conflict with the fact that most juvenile delinquents develop
into reasonably responsible citizens, and only a comparatively small proportion
become persistent adult offenders. The Association therefore questions the value
of disturbing existing services when the latter, despite serious handicaps, have
made very substantial contributions to the control of juvenile delinquency and,
given adequate resources, could do far more.
The White Paper now refers to the proposed reforms as urgent and so unable
to be delayed to await any recommendations by the Royal Commission on the
Penal System. We regret this, as the Royal Commission will see juvenile delin-
quency in perspective as part of a greater problem. The urgency about the new
proposals indicated in para. 4 of the White Paper is contradicted by the
admitted need in para. 26 to recruit and train something like a thousand
additional social workers, and by the recommendation in para. 27 that in any
case the proposals will have to be brought in by stages. The need for recruitment
and training of social workers is obvious and urgent irrespective of the White
Paper proposals and in our opinion this could be put in hand while the Royal
Commission continues its more comprehensive examination of the total situation.
The Association regrets that its comments on the White Paper must be mainly
critical and directed particularly towards the proposals for new machinery for
dealing with children and young persons under the age of 16. It generally
welcomes the remaining proposals on which comment is made later in this
statement, but nevertheless is of opinion that the proposals in the White Paper
will not produce any results which could not be achieved by the full implementa-
tion of existing legislation and the provision of the services to carry this out.
The Association has frequently expressed its opinion that (except for emer-
gency purposes) no action should be taken to interfere with the liberty of an
individual on grounds of his conduct, or with the rights of parents on allegations
of their failings, except as the result of a judicial assessment of the fact or
allegations which have been regarded as justifying such action. The Ingleby
Committee was of opinion that &dquo;... specific and definable matters must be
alleged and that there should be no power to intervene until those allegations
have been adequately proved&dquo;. The Association, which supports this princiole.
therefore regrets that the proposals in the White Paper would involve the abolition
of the Juvenile Court as a court of first instance. This is not to suggest that there
is no room for improvement in the conduct of some Juvenile Courts and the
facilities available to them.
The Judicial Principle
We feel that the safeguard of the judicial principle, which, it is suggested,
will be provided by reference to the family court where proposals for treatment
are disputed or where co-operation has not been maintained, is not an adequate
one, as proceedings taken under these circumstances will be conducted under
somewhat prejudiced circumstances. The court will be called upon to act in
the knowledge that the family council has failed to reach agreement with parents.

The social workers of the children’s service who will have...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT