From punishment to problem solving: a new approach to children in trouble looks at one of the key priorities for the New Labour administration in 1997, dealing with young offenders. Reforming youth justice was not only an end in itself. The new government observed that most adult offenders in the prisons started their offending careers as children and young people. By creating responses to youth crime which were more effective in turning young people away from delinquency, it was hoped to provide substantial benefits for society as a whole.
The period since 1997 has seen much law-making, new organisational structures for tackling youth crime at the centre of government and locally, and a welter of initiatives focusing on street crime, anti-social behaviour, prolific offenders and violence. While not all of these have specifically focused on under 18-year-olds, youth crime has remained high on the political agenda. Despite the radical overhaul of the system, which the Audit Commission concluded had resulted in ‘a considerable improvement on the old one’, few would claim that the problem of youth crime has been solved.