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The Year in Youth Justice (2020/21)
Youth Justice Board Annual Report for 2020/21 shows main trends.

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Child First

Last week (16 September 2021), the Youth Justice Board published its annual report and accounts or 2021. The report starts by reiterating the YJB’s commitment to the Child First approach and: “A youth justice system that sees children as children, treats them fairly and helps them to build on their strengths so they can make a constructive contribution to society. This will prevent offending and create safer communities with fewer victims”. This blog post picks out some of the key facts and figures from the report which I hope will be of interest to readers.

The YJB is responsible for most of the funding for the Youth Justice and its net expenditure for 2020/21 was £88 million.

Key trends

The report is a useful source for the latest facts and figures and trends in youth justice. Here are the main ones for 2020/21:

  • Overall, the number of children cautioned or sentenced, as FTEs or for a reoffence, has continued to fall. This reflects, in part, efforts across a range of agencies to divert and prevent children from entering or staying in the criminal justice system.
  • The number of knife and offensive weapon offences committed by children decreased by 1% in 2019/20. Whilst this was the second successive decrease, the challenge remains to continue to reduce the number of children carrying and using knives.
  • Of all children cautioned or sentenced, the proportion that were for violence against the person offences increased by 1.5 percentage points and for robbery by 0.6 percentage points compared with 2018/19.
  • Of all proven offences in 2019/20, 8% were for serious violence offences.
  • Despite falls in the number of children in the youth justice system across all ethnicity groups, some ethnicities are still over-represented; in 2019/20, Black children were still over four times more likely to be arrested and over three times more likely to receive a caution or sentence than White children.
  • Around 19,000 children received a caution or sentence in 2019/20. This was a 12% decrease from the previous year. This highlights the continued reduction in children receiving these outcomes.
  • Over the past ten years the proportion of girls in the youth justice system has been decreasing. In 2019/20, this proportion was 15%, a decrease of 0.5 percentage points on the previous year.
  • In 2019/20, 71% of children in the criminal justice system were from a White background. This proportion was a 1.8 percentage point decrease from 2018/19, continuing the downward trend seen in recent years.

First Time Entrants

There continued to be a long-term fall in the number of FTEs to the youth justice system. In 2019, there were around 11,100 FTEs; a fall of 12% when compared to the previous year (2018).
This reduction may be attributed to the work of the police, YOTs and other partners. This included targeted youth crime prevention schemes and the diversion of children away from the criminal justice system through measures such as restorative justice and triage.

While the number of FTEs to the youth justice system continued to fall for all ethnicity groups, the proportions varied by ethnicity. The proportion of FTEs from a White background continued to decrease, making up 75% of FTEs in 2019. In the latest year the proportion of FTEs from a Black background remained at 16%, in contrast to increases in previous years.

Use of custody

In 2019/20, there was an average of just under 780 children in custody at any one time. This was a decrease of 9% in the custody population when compared with the previous year (2018/19). The average number of children held on remand remained about the same but, owing to the fall in the overall custodial population, the proportion on remand increased to 31% of all children in custody. This highlighted that more needs to be done to find alternatives to custodial remand for children.

For the first time, children from a White background accounted for less than half (49% in 2019/20) of the custodial population. This was a decrease of 2.2 percentage points from the previous year and they continued to make up less than half (43%) of all children on custodial remand.


The annual report also includes an overview of a large number of pathfinder projects around the country; many focused on diversion but others piloting trauma-informed practice, constructive resettlement and County Lines initiatives – an invaluable resource for practitioners interested in these topics.


Thanks to Ross Sneddon for kind permission to use the header image in this post which was previously published on Unsplash.

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