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Written Statement - Green Paper Consultation on proposals to improve services to meet the needs of children and young people who are at risk of entering, or are already in, the youth justice system.

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Carl Sargeant, Minister for Local Government and Communities

The First Minister’s legislative statement in July 2011 confirmed the intention to explore whether legislation is necessary to achieve the improvements in outcomes that Ministers wish to see for those in the youth justice system in Wales. This commitment was further strengthened in the Programme for Government and endorsed by Cabinet at their meeting on the 17 July 2012.

I have today launched a Green Paper Consultation on proposals to improve services in Wales to better meet the needs of children and young people who are at risk of entering, or are already in, the youth justice system.   

In Wales, the youth justice system encompasses matters which are devolved, such as education, housing, substance misuse, health, and social services, as well as elements which are not devolved, including the courts and judicial system.   The consultation seeks to consider what more can be done to strengthen those services for which the Welsh Ministers have policy responsibility to ensure greater accountability of all partners for those children and young people who are at risk of entering or who are in the youth justice system. 

Children and young people who become involved in the youth justice system are some of the most disadvantaged young people in Wales.  We all know that there are real benefits to keeping them out of trouble - not only will we protect them from the stigmatisation and loss of opportunity, but at the same time we will protect our communities from crime.

The acquisition of a criminal record early in life can stifle the potential of a young person, denying them access to areas of employment and other opportunities. Our approach to youth justice in Wales has been underpinned by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) since it was formally adopted by Welsh Ministers in 2004. The focus of this approach is particularly relevant to children and young people who offend because it concentrates on the needs of the young person rather than their behaviour. 

The Consultation sets out the current landscape of youth justice provision in Wales and seeks views on its effectiveness including whether there is a need for primary legislation in order to improve services. 

The Consultation will end on 11 December 2012 and I will be considering the responses to determine the next steps.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep Members informed. Should Members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Assembly returns I would be happy to do so.