The Labour years have seen an increasingly punitive stance towards young people: harsher sentences, ASBOs, truancy sweeps and fast-track to prosecution, even prison for the parents of truants. In the context of anti-social behaviour, youth justice and education, the chapter considers strategies to deal with young people unwilling or unable to conform to increasingly prescriptive standards of behaviour. It examines the effectiveness of current policies, the divergence between research and rhetoric, and the clash between traditional social work values, especially ‘empowerment’, and current policy implementation. It suggests alternative strategies to create a better balance between meeting the needs of ‘problematic’ young people and promoting a ‘civilised’ society. It reflects upon learning by practitioners in the 1980s using the systems approach to juvenile justice management that saw dramatic cuts in custodial sentences, and why we should now be reinventing the same wheel.
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