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Successful results from 2 schemes to cut custody use

The custody pathfinder pilots demonstrated that youth custody levels were cut by around 40%r cent in areas piloting a government scheme offering councils cash to find alternatives to prison. They helped ensure young people did not miss appointments and so risk going back to jail.

The consortium covering West Yorkshire involving Leeds, Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield councils reported a reduction in custody bed nights of 28% in the first year and 42 per cent in the second exceeding the 10% set target.

The West London area pilot, covering the boroughs of Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster, and Ealing, reported in 2013 that custody bed nights had reduced 40% during the second year of the pilot.

Key factors in this reduction were better joint commissioning of support and ensuring young offenders did not miss appointments.

But the scheme was not wholly successful. Although both the West Yorkshire and west London council areas completed both years, two other areas in Birmingham and NE London dropped out after a year because they had recorded increases in the use of custody.

By leaving early they avoided a financial penalty that is built into the pilot for those that fail to hit targets over two years. The total funding to the West Yorkshire councils was £1.5m, while the west London councils received £300,000.

It adds that reduction of custody bed nights was a “clear and easy” target for councils to work towards.