Youth Crime Prevention: the work of the Youth Offending Service
- Meeting of Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Tuesday 15 December 2009 7.30 pm (Item 4.)
This report outlines the work of the Youth Offending Service (YOS), including the changes recently introduced to the youth justice system as a result of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 and new approaches to working with young offenders. It also details the restructuring of the YOS since the last Scrutiny Report in early 2008 and updates the profiles of young offenders and trends in offending. It includes illustrative information about the work being undertaken with those young people on court-ordered sentences and the role of the YOS in prevention programmes for those at risk of offending as well as recent developments in the service.
Anita Dickinson (Acting Head of Brent Youth Offending Service) introduced the report which outlined the work of the Youth Offending Service (YOS). She began by providing the Committee with a brief overview of services provided by the YOS and the recent changes to the youth justice system as a result of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, including the introduction, from 30th November 2009, of the Youth Rehabilitation Order which was a new community sentence for young offenders.
Anita Dickinson then provided the Committee with an update on the preventative programmes which were being run by the YOS, including the introduction of the Triage Scheme. She explained that the Triage model was first proposed in the Youth Crime Action Plan (YCAP) and had been piloted by other boroughs very successfully. Brent, she stated, was currently running a pilot based on the reduced version of this full scheme. The aim of the scheme, she added, was to prevent young people from being given a Reprimand or Final Warning unless necessary. She noted that Brent was not in receipt of YCAP funds, nor had any additional monies been identified to deliver the programme. The pilot, she explained, was being run from existing resources. Anita Dickinson also highlighted some of the work which had been taking place across services, including a review of the YOS and Social Care Protocol and the introduction of the Family Intervention Project which was one of the delivery mechanisms for the Think Family approach. The Think Family approach, she explained, was aimed at transforming the way we work with families, seeking to move towards inter-agency and inter-departmental approaches to service delivery.
In the discussion which followed, the benefits of the Triage scheme were noted by the Committee. Following a question regarding whether any possible sources of funding had been identified for the running of the scheme in the future, Anita Dickinson explained that no sources had been identified. She added that £50,000 a year would be required to have a YOS staff based at the Wembley custody suite. She stated that if the funding could not be found, she would consider using funding from other interventions to fund the Triage scheme as she believed it to be such an important scheme which was proving to be very successful.
The importance of the Think Family approach was noted by the Committee. It was also noted that a task group would be looking at this approach in more detail. In response to a query regarding how many families would benefit from the Family Intervention Project, Anita Dickinson explained that funding allowed for 3 key workers who would work with 4-6 families at any one time. She explained that whilst there were more families than this who were in need, that this was a good start and that the model may be able to be adapted to accommodate more families in the future. A concern was raised that there was a danger that if the work load was to become too great, the project may not achieve its aim. It is for this reason, Anita Dickinson explained, that a key worker was not allowed to support any more than 6 families at one time.
It was noted by the Committee that overcrowding often played a significant role in young people’s lives and could be a significant factor in causing young people to offend. Anita Dickinson informed the committee that it was through the Think Family approach that issues such as overcrowding could emerge. She explained that if it became apparent that overcrowding was a major problem for a family, intervention could then focus on how to tackle this issue. Following a question regarding whether the support through the Family Intervention Project would get extended to wider family and peer groups, Anita Dickinson explained that whilst it would not be a primary aim, it would be likely that in some circumstances a key worker would work with wider groups to meet the needs of the family. Following a concern raised regarding the disproportionate amount of young people in care who commit offences and the need therefore to help these families, Anita Dickinson explained that the YOS offered parenting intervention and support to any type of carers. With regards to the Family Intervention Project, she explained that the families in the Family Intervention Project were probably more likely to be birth families as it was hoped that children in care would not be going to families who needed intensive support.
In response to a question regarding whether the Youth Offending Team should carry out preventative work on children below the age of 8 years, Anita Dickinson explained that whilst early intervention from a variety of agencies was needed below the age of 8 years, this would be too young to focus on crime. Also, she added that the team did not have the necessary expertise to work with those younger than 8 years old.
It was asked by the Brent Youth Parliament Representative how young people were being informed of the variety of orders and agreements which were used when a young person commits an offence. In response, Anita Dickinson stated that a young person would need to know about the types of orders and agreements used if they were ever brought to a police station after committing an offence and that there were leaflets available in police stations which would explain this to them. She added that the Youth Parliament could play an important role by informing young people of the impact that a reprimand and final warning could have on their life chances. In response to another enquiry, she explained that young people who were engaged with the YOS were continuously asked to provide feedback as to their experience of the service.
i) that the report be noted;
ii) that the Youth Offending Task Group could also explore in more depth the specific issues detailed in the report. It was suggested that the following issues be included:
a) the outcome of the research currently underway by London Metropolitan University into the question of gangs and how the Children and Families Department could work with partner agencies to respond to the issues identified;
b) the likely impact of the ‘Think Family’ approach on how Brent Council delivers services to reduce youth offending and reoffending alongside other unwanted outcomes for children and young people.