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Working Group on Special Educational Needs & Disabilities (SEND),
Neurodivergence and Youth Justice

Call for Evidence open until 19 April 2024

Towards the end of 2023 The Michael Sieff Foundation set-up a Working Group on Special Educational Needs & Disabilities (SEND), Neurodivergence and Youth Justice.

Government statistics show that 80% of children cautioned or sentenced within the Youth Justice System (YJS) are from the Special Education Needs and Disability (SEND) cohort. Children with neuro-disabilities have higher rates entering custody from an earlier age, receive longer custodial sentences and are associated with higher rates of reoffending and more violent crimes. The Sieff Foundation is launching a call for evidence on how cases in the justice system involving children with SEND and neurodivergence can be most effectively and efficiently handled. The Sieff Foundation Working Group on SEND, Neurodivergence and Youth Justice invites submissions from interested parties on the following questions:

  1. What is the current thinking on the treatment of SEND and neurodivergent children in the Youth Justice System?
  1. How best to achieve the current mandate of “Children First” from the UN Convention of the Rights of Children (UNCRC) for children under 18 with SEND and neurodivergence in the Youth Justice System?
  1. Whether there might be ways of dealing with cases currently in the Youth Justice System (YJS) involving the SEND and neurodivergent cohort more appropriately and cost effectively outside of the YJS?
  1. How viable would it be for this cohort of children to be dealt with through the SEND tribunal system?
  1. What might be the advantages and disadvantages in using the tribunal system for cases involving under 18s with SEND or neurodivergence?
  1. How can the work of relevant government departments, public bodies, multi-agency teams, courts and tribunals best be coordinated to deal with cases in the justice system involving children with SEND and neurodivergence?
  2. What are the most effective mechanisms to ensure that children with SEND and neurodivergence are constructively and fully engaged in the justice process?

The Working Group welcomes submissions from the following:

  • Government and other public bodies involved in dealing with children with SEND and neurodivergence including (but not limited to):
    • Ministries of Health, Welfare, Education and Justice
    • Youth Justice Board (YJB)
    • Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)
    • Youth Offending Teams (YOTS)
    • CPS (including Area Youth Justice Leads and Youth Justice Specialists)
  • Judges, retired judges, non-judicial office holders and administrators from the SEND tribunal system and from other parts of the courts and tribunals judiciary
  • Legal practitioners and organisations working in the youth justice and SEND fields
  • Parents and others with direct involvement with children with SEND and neurodivergence
  • SEND and neurodivergent children and young people
  • Specialists in SEND and neurodivergence
  • Academics specialising in SEND, neurodivergence, youth justice, courts and tribunals

Visit this page to find out more about the Working Group and how to submit evidence before the deadline of 19 April 2024.

Last updated: 16 March 2024

Improving policy and practice for the well-being of children and young people

The Michael Sieff Foundation is a registered charity which has been at work since 1987. The Foundation is dedicated to improving policy and practice for the well-being of children and young people.

The Foundation achieved these objectives by organising conferences bringing together people with wide ranging responsibilities for vulnerable children and young people, resulting in action being taken in practical ways. Since research shows the best outcomes for children depend on multi-disciplinary work, the Foundation encourages multi-agency collaboration. The website provides a resource for the holding of material presented at its conferences and seminars, with links to other like-minded organisations.

Since 1987 the Foundation has made a significant contribution to policy and practice in the sphere of child protection, the social re-integration of young offenders, combating cross border paedophile activity, improving the conditions for children giving evidence in court, work with early years’ children and the welfare of children in primary schools. Currently the Foundation is seeking to ensure implementation of the recommendations of the Parliamentarians’ Inquiry into the Youth Justice system.

On conclusion of a cycle of conferences from 2008 to 2011 the Foundation adopted a different approach for our continuing work. We decided to work in partnership with other like-minded organisations in order to build on our reputation for promoting conferences and our resources for networking. The Foundation offers internal expertise on specific subject matter, database pooling, assistance in Parliamentary promotion where appropriate and subsidy or underwriting. We focus on areas where we have historical knowledge and emotional capital and where there is a reasonable likelihood of a successful outcome.

Where there have been concrete findings and recommendations, they have been promoted by Parliamentary Briefings, Lobbying and the use of social media via our website, and mailing list and Facebook site.

Across the years the Foundation’s work has been made possible by the generosity of donors a number of whom have wished to remain anonymous. However, it is right that we should acknowledge a grant in respect of our work on Youth Justice from the Nuffield Foundation, a grant for our general work with vulnerable children from the Paul Hamlyn Trust, and testamentary gifts from the estates of Rupert Hughes CBE and David Jefferies CBE. Both Rupert and David gave invaluable service to the Foundation as trustees over many years.

The Foundation will consider promoting and sponsoring with other funding bodies, collaboration on matters of policy development and implementation of issues relating to children and young people. It is not a grant making body.

Problem Solving Courts

Exploring procedural justice and problem-solving
practice in the Youth Court

Gillian Hunter and Jessica Jacobson
HM Inspectorate of Probation Academic Insights 2021/05

May 2021

In this recent report from HM Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP) links between procedural justice and problem-solving are explored. The report draws on findings from recent research, with a focus on the role of youth offending services in supporting and promoting these approaches in the youth court. As set out, youth offending services have a crucial role to play in:

(i) supporting children’s understanding and engagement; (ii) providing personalised, holistic and analytical information to the courts about children’s needs and circumstances; and (iii) supporting any post-sentence judicial monitoring and reviews.

The report concludes that moving forward, the local experiences of developing procedural justice and problem-solving practices need to be harnessed and shared, with an ongoing commitment to further research and evaluation so that the evidence base continues to grow.

The report refers specifically to the work of the Michael Sieff Foundation. It states:

‘Three high-level expert reviews on the youth justice system – the Carlile Inquiry in 2014, the Taylor Review in 2016, and the Lammy Review in 2017 – have backed elements of problem-solving, including by promoting the courts’ role in actively monitoring the progress of court-involved children after sentence. The Michael Sieff Foundation has sought to maintain momentum following these various recommendations, through setting up a working group and organising seminars and a conference about problem-solving in the youth court, and the Foundation continues to monitor progress in implementing changes in the youth justice system to support problem-solving practice.’

Download the full report: Exploring procedural justice and problem-solving practice in the Youth Court

See also a commentary on the Report from Russell Webster at: https://www.workwithoffenders.co.uk/news/news_article/107320

Read more on Problem Solving Courts page here.

Last updated: 14 June 2021

Report outlines systematic failures to protect children in England

Children’s rights in England have regressed in many areas since the UK was last examined by the UNCRC in 2016. Despite progress to embed children’s rights across Government, the response to Covid-19 has demonstrated how children’s rights and voices are regularly overlooked. England is also lagging behind other parts of the UK, with incorporation of the CRC a very long way off.

Evidence from 100 members of The Children’s Rights Alliance for England (made up of the leading children’s charities and academics, including the Michael Sieff Foundation) shows the government has made little progress on important issues such as child homelessness, rising school exclusions and how children are treated by the police; ignoring stark warnings from the UN.

Read the full report here: http://www.crae.org.uk/media/129724/CRAE_LOIPR_09-DEC-20.pdf

Last updated: 9 December 2020

Special Educational Needs & Disabilities (SEND)

Sport and Neurodiversity in the UK

Following our work on Special Educational Needs & Disabilities (SEND) and Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs), (see: the Special Educational Needs Action Plan page), our secretary Richard White has investigated the state of “Disability sport” in the UK.

His conclusions are set out in summary on the Sport and Neurodiversity in the UK page.

Should you have any thoughts on the questions raised and the answers to them, please contact Richard with your views on what needs to be done.

The Michael Sieff Foundation is anxious to understand whether there is a role, which it could play in helping to promote wider use of the available facilities for the benefit of young people with neurodiversity.

Read the full report here.

News: Fears for future generation as report shows disabled children miss out

A ground-breaking report published on 19 March 2020 by the Activity Alliance shows failings across sectors will continue to steer disabled children into an inactive adulthood if we do not act now. My Active Future, from the Activity Alliance, calls for more commitment from every sector of our society to ensure all children and young people benefit from an active lifestyle.

Visit our Sport and Neurodiversity in the UK page for further information.

News: Uniting the Movement

Sport England’s 10-year vision to transform lives and communities through sport and physical activity. Find out more here: https://www.sportengland.org/why-were-here/uniting-the-movement

Implementation of the recommendations of the Carlile Inquiry Report and subsequent related inquiries relevant to youth justice
Progress Report January 2020

In September 2013 the Michael Sieff Foundation, working with the National Children’s Bureau, launched a Parliamentary Inquiry into the Operation and Effectiveness of the Youth Court. Its stated aim was to determine whether the system of criminal courts for children was achieving its objectives of preventing offending and having regard to the welfare of the children that appear before them. The consequent Carlile Inquiry Report was published in June 2014. It set out recommendations relating to those aims and objectives.

From the start the Foundation sought to ensure that those recommendations did not ‘gather dust’ but were actively promoted. This has been done over the ensuing years through meetings with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), Youth Justice Board (YJB) and other key stakeholders, including the Judiciary, Crown Prosecution Service and criminal defence lawyers. Seminars were convened to discuss recommendations, including those in the Charlie Taylor Report 2016, the Laming Report 2016 and the Lammy Review 2017, all of which also explored issues related to youth justice.

The Foundation is now publishing its summary report here which seeks to identify pressing and necessary changes to statute, guidance and practice in order to successfully implement the recommendations from the Carlile Inquiry Report. It is hoped that the well evidenced recommendations from this report will promote a more positive and “can-do” attitude towards the implementation of the recommendations. Since they would all result in improved functioning within the youth justice system, better safeguarding for victims and more effective risk prevention and public protection measures, the benefits to society could be considerable.

From the beginning of 2016 the project was funded by The Nuffield Foundation, an independent charitable trust with a mission to advance social well-being. It funds research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare, and Justice. It also funds student programmes that provide opportunities for young people to develop skills in quantitative and scientific methods. The Nuffield Foundation is the founder and co-funder of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and the Ada Lovelace Institute. The Foundation has funded this project, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily the Foundation. Visit www.nuffieldfoundation.org

Read the full report here.

Report on the Future of the Youth Court Round Table
Nuffield Foundation, London
16 May 2019

The round table gave leading policy makers, the judiciary, and other key practitioners an opportunity to discuss their current thinking. The intended outcome was to establish broad agreement on matters to be taken forward. These could in turn lead to identifying key areas for improvement within the youth justice arena for future development and research.

Read the full report and back ground paper here.

Plan agreed to revive central support for FDAC released on 14 February 2019

Following the July 2018 Meeting (see below) to discuss the closure of the Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) National Unit the Michael Sieff Foundation has been facilitating various discussions about how support can continue to be provided.

We are delighted to report that those discussions have now been brought to a successful conclusion. Plans have been agreed to revive support for the pioneering court system designed to help prevent the children of parents addicted to drugs or alcohol from being taken into care.

The full press release published today, 14 February 2019, can be viewed on our website here.

There is a brief report, “Family Drug and Alcohol Courts backed by private donors”, on the BBC News website here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-47235100

 Special Educational Needs

Special Educational Needs & Disabilities (SEND) in the UK
Action Plan 2019

The Michael Sieff Foundation has been considering some of the problems of the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) field for nearly two years in accordance with terms of reference agreed by its Trustees in February 2017. These were to investigate the impact of the reforms in the Children and Families Act 2014, with particular reference to the introduction of Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) to replace Statements of Special Educational Needs, and the detailed evidencing of educational, health and care needs required to get all three systems to provide effective educational, and where relevant health, social care and parenting support for children and young people with hidden disabilities.

We have been working with a range of professionals and interest groups, including the Inclusive Education Unit at University College, the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Special and Inclusive Education at the University of Roehampton, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, the Council for Disabled Children, I CAN and Action Attainment.

See the Special Educational Needs & Disabilities (SEND) in the UK page for the full Action Plan proposed.

Scoping Seminar on Education Health and Care Plans
18 January 2018
Nuffield Foundation

The Trustees sponsored this multi-disciplinary meeting to investigate the impact of the reforms in the Children and Families Act 2014, with particular reference to the introduction of Education, Health and Care Plans and the detailed evidencing of educational need to provide effective educational and parenting support for children and young people with hidden disabilities.

Visit the Scoping Seminar on Education Health and Care Plans page for details of the event including:
The three presentations given at the seminar:
Education, Health and Care Plans
Research on the new SEND policy and its implementation
Discussion of the Lenehan Report

Notes from the Seminar Plenary
A list of attendees
Related resources

Care & Crime Together?

Seminar on Closer Integration between the Family and Youth Courts
14 June 2018
Nuffield Foundation
Chaired by Lord Carlile of Berriew

The Michael Sieff Foundation organised a seminar at (and supported by) the Nuffield Foundation on 14 June 2018 to discuss the merits of and barriers to closer integration and collaboration between these two jurisdictions dealing with cases involving under 18s.

Visit the Care & Crime Together? Seminar page for details of the event including:
Notes from the Seminar Plenary
A list of attendees
Related resources

The Michael Sieff Foundation Thirty Years Plus 1986 – 2017
Our 30 Year Celebration

30 Years of The Michael Sieff Foundation

In recognition of the achievements of the Foundation and the individuals who have contributed to the Foundation’s aims over the past thirty years, a celebration was held at the Reform Club in London on Friday 1 September 2017. Thoughts from: The Founder, The Chairman of Trustees, Past President & The Secretary of the Foundation, links to download the Anniversary Brochure, and a photo gallery from the evening can be viewed on the 30 Year Anniversary page.

February 2018