Tackling youth crime: supporting families in crisis

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In April 2002 the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, announced a proposal to punish the parents of persistent young offenders by taking away their child benefits. The aim of the plan is to target parents who do nothing to discourage their children from engaging in truancy and criminality. If the child benefit penalty is implemented, it could cost a family with one child £15.75 per week, rising to £17.55 for a lone parent with one child, plus £10.55 for each additional child. This new proposal is likely to be counter-productive in that it could conceivably lead to the complete disintegration of already fragile family units. This plan is premised on the assumption that parents of children who offend have not accepted their responsibility and that they can be made to do so by the imposition of financial penalties. The root cause of youth crime is viewed in terms of a breakdown of morality associated with dysfunctional families and a feckless underclass. In this article I will examine the association between parenting and youth crime. I will use this analysis as a basis for arguing that, rather than penalising families, policies that strengthen the family should be pursued as effective strategies for preventing young people from becoming involved in offending behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-426
JournalChild and Family Law Quarterly
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2002


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