Vulnerable young people need better support before they reach the justice system
Findings from Telethon Kids Institute that nine in ten young people within the Banksia Hill Detention Centre who took part in their study had some form of severe neuro-disability is further evidence that we are not adequately identifying and supporting vulnerable young people who then come into contact with the justice system.
I am particularly alarmed at the number of young people diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) through this study who had previously been undiagnosed.
These young people have had this impairment from birth and clearly have not received the support they need before they entered the justice system.
Government departments who provide services to vulnerable young people need to work together if we are to reduce the number of young people in the justice system.
These young people with neuro-developmental impairments need early assessment and diagnosis, appropriate interventions and access to support.
My 2016 consultation with young people in the youth justice system made it very clear that support to address the personal and social issues that lead young people into criminal behaviour is vital to stop them offending.
This includes support with family problems such as drug and alcohol abuse and violence, as well as support to engage in their education and to address mental health and disability issues like FASD.
In my school and learning consultation released just last month, many young people indicated that they were struggling and needed support to stay engaged at school.
The Auditor General’s Diverting Young People Away From Court report released last year identified a concerning lack of coordination and use of youth justice diversion programs for young people. A separate report by the Inspector of Custodial Services concluded that changed were required at Banksia Hill to provide a greater focus on rehabilitation.
All of this evidence is telling us that we need urgent action to change our approach to supporting young people and their families more before they offend.