Newham youth offending services ‘struggling with high workloads and poor case planning’

Newham Town Hall

Newham Town Hall - Credit: Archant

Newham’s Youth Offending Team (YOT) is struggling with heavy workloads and plagued by delays and poor planning, the HM Inspectorate of Probation has revealed.

The council says a "robust action plan" to improve the quality of the team's work is being developed following an inspection report published on Friday, September 13, which gave the service an overall Requires Improvement rating.

The YOT works with troubled young people aged 10 to 18 who have been sentenced in court or have come to the attention of police.

Chief inspector of probation Justin Russell said the team had "many elements in place to deliver an effective service" but a number of issues needed to be addressed.

"We found a skilled and knowledgeable workforce, and staff at all levels are committed to supporting children and young people who have offended," he said.

"The YOT has access to a good range of partners and services to help children and young people with their needs.

"However, we found the handling of both court and out-of-court cases to be below the expected standard.

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"High workloads are also preventing staff from investing more time and attention in cases."

The report noted Newham is the 25th most deprived borough in the country and has some the highest levels of serious youth violence in London.

It is also one of the most diverse with three-quarters of its population from an ethnic minority, which is reflected in the YOT's caseload.

Many of the young people it works with come from difficult backgrounds and have complex needs.

Inspectors looked at 12 aspects of the team's work, rating six as requiring improvement and four as inadequate.

They were particularly concerned about the way the YOT works with those who have committed minor offences - rating it inadequate on three of the four performance standards in that area.

In these cases, children have not been charged and have been given conditional cautions or community resolutions instead.

Mr Russell said: "There is little resilience in the service and managers clearly struggle to make alternative arrangements when staff are absent.

"This is particularly evident in the delivery of out-of-court disposals, where we saw lengthy delays and cases reallocated multiple times."

The quality of planning for both court and out-of-court cases was also rated inadequate.

Mr Russell said: "More than half of the court cases we looked at and almost half of out-of-court cases did not include a plan with specific actions to help individuals desist from crime.

"Planning to support the safety and wellbeing of children and young people, and to manage the risk they might pose to others, was not good enough.

"As the plans were not up to the mark, it is unsurprising that the delivery and review of subsequent activity was also poor."

The report made six recommendations to raise standards and improve the quality of services.

Cabinet member for crime and community safety James Beckles said: "We fully accept the weaknesses found in our service and will take the inspectors' recommendations on board when considering how we ensure the right improvements are made.

"We apologise to our young people who have been let down by the failings highlighted by the report.

"The inspectors have said our shortcomings can be rectified and we are moving quickly to make that happen.

"We welcome the examples of good practice found by the inspectors and we were pleased to see their understanding of the challenges Newham faces.

"We have the busiest (YOT) in the country.

"Keeping our young people safe and away from criminality is a priority of this administration."

The council says the YOT will be transferred in October from its enforcement and safety directorate to children and young people's services, which will allow for better co-ordination across teams that support vulnerable children and families.

"We want Newham to be the best place in the world for children and young people to grow up," Cllr Beckles said.

"We have already invested £1.4m into youth services to keep our young people safe, including the biggest expansion of youth workers in a generation."