Agenda item

Youth Offending Service

To gain an overview of the service and how initiatives like Children First can support diverting young people away from crime.

Minutes:

21.1  The Director of Partnerships & Strategy presented the report in association with Operations Director; Youth Support Team.  Members were advised that there was a duty placed upon the Authority as the accountable body, to bring forward an annual youth justice plan.  The format was determined by the youth justice board and the youth support team worked closely with the partner agencies in order to give the plan some substance. 

 

21.2  It was reported that there had been a significant upshift in youth service funding nationally, and the focus was now on early intervention.  Officers explained the Youth Service Team was working closely with the supporting families programme and this was proving to be a successful alliance to build upon for the future.  

 

21.3  In addition, the Children First Scheme had the ability to divert young people away from the youth justice system, and the scheme had been in operation for four years and the figures locally were lower than regional and national figures.    The number of reoffenders and types of crime were monitored closely, it was explained there was some disparity between the local and national figures and this was depicted in the performance report.  Officers were working hard to resolve the disparity between the local and national data but remained confident with local data figures. 

 

21.4  Data was compiled by ethnicity and gender, there was some concern over youth violence and a bid had been submitted for further funding. Members noted that Gloucestershire was deemed to be a relatively safe county, but there had been a spike with youth violence recently and it was necessary to understand what was the primary cause, in order to intervene more effectively. 

 

21.5  Members were advised that custody was a last resort for young people, the rate in Gloucestershire had always been low, however officers expected figures to rise as a large number young people had been remanded on custody, due to the severity offences and this would undoubtedly affect the performance figures. 

 

21.6  The Committee noted that The Director of Partnerships & Strategy, was also the Chair of the Youth Justice Board (YJB) and he recognised the challenges ahead, overall he felt there was good engagement with the partnership agencies and there was an equal role to play for all.   It was recognised that children outside of school were at greater risk of offending, the aim was to provide a wrap-around service to address those various factors, while protecting the community from harm. 

 

21.7  The Operations Director explained the partnership board quarterly report and highlighted the main points.  She explained the draft Youth Justice Annual Plan (YJAP), which was yet to be approved and was very much a work in progress.  The YJAP showed the trends in Gloucestershire and how the service intended to work to address those concerns, it was noted that consultation had taken place with young people and the partner agencies.

 

21.8  In terms of the quarterly report, over 59% of children were diverted through the Children First Scheme, which had resulted in a much lower reoffending rate. The diversionary scheme was seen as a good way of getting young people to engage and bring about a positive impact.  In terms of benchmarking, Gloucestershire (38%) was slightly below the national average (40%), it was recognised that children out of education presented the greatest impact and the effect on the local community. 

 

21.9  The Director of Partnerships & Performance referred to a case of a young person who faced a terrorism charge, as such his offer of an educational placement had been withdrawn which in turn had made him vulnerable.   He felt it was necessary for partners to hold their nerve and offer support.  Members were advised that the young person was now subject to high level surveillance, it proved that early intervention and education a can make a real difference to a young person’s life. 

 

21.10  Officers felt it was necessary to engage with schools to prevent them from excluding young people and to offer support to schools to help them manage those young people rather than exclude pupils, which left them vulnerable to other influences.  It was noted that the Director of Education was also very supportive of the programme and was working closely with schools on this concept. 

 

21.11  Members wondered why there was an increase in the number of new initiatives.  Officers explained there were no major failings, however the team were striving for better outcomes for young people as they felt all young people deserved to be in some of education, and there was currently an element of disproportionality that needed addressing.  Members were informed that were some new initiatives but the majority were the continued improvement of good practice.    

 

21.12  In response to a question, the committee were advised that in terms of offending and reoffending there was strong relationship between youth violence and vulnerability which on occasion was exacerbated by social media.  The Youth Offending Service were working closely with the police and the wider partnership as serious youth violence and child exploitation impacted across the agencies. 

 

21.13  The Director of Partnerships and Strategy explained it was necessary to enhance operability between the agencies and share health/social data to help build processes.  He felt it was essential to offer diversion and intervention to build trust in order to put young people on right path.  It was noted the service had recently released a revised safeguarding policy. 

 

21.14  Officers advised the Committee that they actively working at strategic and local levels and it was necessary to have partnership working as the journey for young people needed to be seamless and the support needed to be holistic and timely in order to bring about a positive change.  As it was evident that a young person could become disengaged if passed from pillar to post.  The Youth Justice Management Board had devised the plan in order to deliver a joined up approach between health, education, police and the youth justice service. 

 

21.15  In response to a question, members were informed that it was important that the young person’s family or carers were involved in the process, as it was important to build key connections going forward.  It was explained there were links with the supporting families programme and social care in the absence of a parent.  Officers felt it was important not to criminalise a child within a care setting. 

 

21.16  The Committee were advised there were no secure remand centres in Gloucestershire, the nearest secure settings were located in Bristol and Cardiff.  Officers were aware of the importance of family links and they worked closely with the centres to prevent a family breakdown, as family members often faced logistical challenges when visiting the centre and young person.      

 

21.17  The Committee were notified there was a national increase in demand for remand placements, as the nature of placement was as a result of a serious offence.  It was recognised that quite often this type of placement would have a serious impact on a young person’s emotional growth and mental wellbeing.  The number of secure placements going forward would depend on how many were found guilty and their sentence.  Members noted there was a lack of local provision. 

 

21.18  In response to a question, it was explained the DFE had a capital programme available to build a young person’s secure setting, however they were deemed to be difficult to manage and no-one in the local community wanted it their back yard. 

 

21.19  Members questioned the alternative to remand and wished to know who decided on the placement.  It was explained that it was the court’s decision and strict guidance was adhered too, as usually remand was the last option.  It was noted that those young people on remand were usually as a result of serious violence. 

 

21.20 The DCS explained that the Youth Offending Service was subject to regulatory inspection, and the last inspection took place in 2019 which graded the service as ‘requires improvement to be good’, members appreciated this involved a complex scoring system.  As a result, an action plan had been developed but the committee accepted there was no room for complacency. 

 

21.21  Members referred to the number of vacancies within the service, it was explained that a number of staff had been recruited and would be in post in due course.  There were vacancies across the teams and the majority of roles were part time youth roles.  The management team hoped to fill the vacancies in due course, as the service had a good recruitment and retention rate. 

 

21.22  The Committee were advised that Academies nationally had more exclusions however, locally this was not the case.  The Operations Director would continue to work closely with DoE to ensure there were alternatives available to the exclusion process.  It was noted that many teachers felt isolated in dealing some children and the risks involved.  As such many head teachers were alone in the decision making process and school needed the opportunity to address their concerns and the appropriate support needed to be put in place. 

 

21.23  Officers felt it was necessary for schools to adapt to children who don’t necessarily respond well to desk based learning, and explained that alternative learning activities could be offered to build their self-esteem.  Members recognised there were many children who were not in the appropriate education setting for them to flourish. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Supporting documents: