I thank the Minister for that answer. The young offender programme led by National Grid has done an extremely good job, with young offenders grouped together. One of the problems in my constituency, however, is that the offender substance abuse programme, for people with drug problems, does not segregate on an age basis, so young offenders who have mild drug abuse problems are put with older people who have problems with heroin. That can lead to ruin—and, in one case, it has led to death—so can the Minister look at the programme again and see whether we can segregate on an age basis?
I am certainly happy to look at that issue. With the introduction of youth offender rehabilitation, there will be an opportunity for courts to take into account a number of those issues and look at them as an opportunity not to put young people in custody, but to provide a range of measures that may assist them through drug rehabilitation.
Given that the Government are cutting the number of Youth Justice Board places, which could lead to the closure of four homes, including one that covers London and the south-east, are they backing off from their commitment to children who need secure children's home places?
On the contrary: what the Youth Justice Board has done is review the number of places and look at demand. As we have already indicated, custody is the Government's last resort for young people. The Youth Justice Board has looked across all places, and determined that the demand is not there for the number places that exist currently, in order to ensure that contracts are awarded to those establishments that provide the best quality and type of accommodation for young people, as well as taking into account the cost. However, it is certainly not the Youth Justice Board's intention to deny places that are appropriate for the needs of those young people.
Closing secure care homes will remove the smaller homes from the system that often have better trained staff and are the places where local services can be provided. What will happen is that young offenders will go into custody far away from their families and the communities from which they spring. Is that a great idea as far as rehabilitation is concerned?
I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree, as would many hon. Members, from across the House, that the most appropriate thing is to ensure that we have as few young people in custody as possible. The most appropriate thing is to try to treat those offenders in the community. That is why the number of places has been reduced—because the demand has been reduced, as we look at other alternatives and as we consider the issue that my hon. Friend has raised to ensure that younger people are moved to the most suitable places for their needs. That is what the Youth Justice Board will keep foremost in its mind when it assesses those young people.