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Crime: Support for Children and Young People - Question

– in the House of Lords at 3:15 pm on 5th February 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Benjamin Baroness Benjamin Liberal Democrat 3:15 pm, 5th February 2020

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to improve access to services and support for children and young people who have been traumatised by crime.

Photo of Baroness Benjamin Baroness Benjamin Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper and declare an interest as vice-president of Barnardo’s and an ambassador of Embrace Child Victims of Crime.

Photo of Lord Keen of Elie Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice)

My Lords, the Government’s Victims Strategy, published in September 2018, outlined their commitment to support children and young people traumatised by crime. We are focused on the most vulnerable young victims of crime, ring-fencing funding for supporting victims of child sexual abuse, and revising the victims’ code with updated guidance for children, young people and their families, to help them better understand their rights, including how to access the services and the support that they need to cope and to recover.

Photo of Baroness Benjamin Baroness Benjamin Liberal Democrat

I thank the Minister for that Answer. Embrace Child Victims of Crime supports more than 3,000 children each year, and that figure is rising. More and more children and young people are witnessing crime, especially knife crime and domestic abuse, or know of someone involved in some sort of violent abuse. This affects their mental health and will do for the rest of their life, leading to untold damage and a cost to the public purse. It is vital that they get early support, and trauma-focused behavioural therapy is proven to make a difference. So will the Government support charities such as Embrace and Barnardo’s to help these vulnerable children, and will they consider them in the upcoming domestic abuse Bill?

Photo of Lord Keen of Elie Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice)

My Lords, we fully understand the need to support young people and children who are not only the victims of crime but are traumatised by witnessing it. The noble Baroness made particular reference to cases of domestic abuse. Further to the Victims Strategy, we have increased funding to support children who are witnesses of domestic abuse, and we are taking further steps in the context of our Victims Strategy to address these issues. Over and above that, we have the Keeping Children Safe in Education statutory guidance, which applies to all schools and colleges.

Photo of Baroness Butler-Sloss Baroness Butler-Sloss Crossbench

My Lords, will the Minister recognise the importance of a priority for children who have been victims of human trafficking, including children who are victims of county lines?

Photo of Lord Keen of Elie Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice)

Clearly, we are conscious of the increasing prevalence of cases where children have been the subject of trafficking. They have particular and special needs, and we are conscious of the need to address those.

Photo of Baroness Uddin Baroness Uddin Non-affiliated

My Lords, we all recognise that there is an incredible number of good practices across our country where organisations support children who have been traumatised by crime. However, does the Minister accept that there is still a great number of shortcomings, especially in professions such as social work and policing, where it has been reported that children have often not been believed in time? Would the Minister therefore assure the House that resources are being provided for the training of professionals in these particular incidents?

Photo of Lord Keen of Elie Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice)

My Lords, children and young people under the age of 18 are automatically considered as vulnerable victims and therefore become eligible for enhanced entitlements under the victims’ code. That includes being offered referral to specialist support services in order that that can be addressed.

Photo of Lord Lexden Lord Lexden Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

Is it the case that schools are required to have a designated member of staff responsible for ensuring that children in these circumstances get the specialist advice and help that they require?

Photo of Lord Keen of Elie Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice)

My Lords, the Keeping Children Safe in Education statutory guidance provides that every school and college should have a designated safeguarding lead, who should be a senior member of staff.

Photo of Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Justice)

My Lords, the recent briefing on the Queen’s Speech reported that only 18% of victims were aware of the victims’ code at all. What steps are the Government taking to improve education among young people and children in particular about the existence of the victims’ code and their rights under it?

Photo of Lord Keen of Elie Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice)

My Lords, we will shortly be consulting on changes to the code, and we have committed to developing targeted, less complex and more accessible guidance aimed particularly at children, young people and their families.

Photo of Baroness Smith of Basildon Baroness Smith of Basildon Shadow Leader of the House of Lords, Shadow Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord will be aware that one of the biggest issues for young people is the fear of crime, whether that is online crime or knife crime, for example. This was recognised in the Children’s Commissioner’s report as well. Has he read the report from Barnardo’s on the kinds of issues that could make a difference to young people, because they are having a severe impact on their mental health, for which, as we all know, the services required are not available. When did Ministers last meet with Barnardo’s to discuss that issue, and does he have any plans to do so in future?

Photo of Lord Keen of Elie Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice)

My Lords, I have not read the Barnardo’s report—I have read the more recent report from the Department for Education—but I note what the noble Baroness said in that regard and I will address that matter.

Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, in reply to the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, the noble and learned Lord referred to the rights of victims to access certain kinds of support. If I may respectfully say so, he did not say how that access will be delivered. I think the noble Baroness was asking about capacity in the system and the training and adequacy of the people delivering the help. Can he assure us that there is capacity and that it is of a sufficiently high standard?

Photo of Lord Keen of Elie Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice)

Certainly, I have no reason to doubt that the specialist support services to which I referred are fully available for those who require them.