Agenda item

Brent Youth Offending Service Post Inspection Action Plan Implementation

To provide detail of the progress made in implementing the actions arising from the four recommendations from the Youth Offending Service Inspection that took place in August 2019, with additional focus given to the impact of COVID-19 on local youth justice provision and how Brent YOS has responded operationally to the challenges posed by the pandemic.


Councillor Mili Patel (Lead Member for Children's Safeguarding, Early Help and Social Care) introduced the report which provided details of actions taken from the 4 recommendations that arose from the Youth Offending Service inspection in 2019. She explained that the report gave further information on the performance of Brent YOS in general and the impact of COVID-19 on the service. She felt that the Children and Young People’s department had made some major strides in implementing the recommendations through staffing restructure, proactively identifying external funding in order to support recommendations such as the Mayors Fund, and had secured substantial funding recently for a 3 year grant from the Youth Justice Board to deal with the impact of COVID-19 in BAME Communities. Councillor Patel also highlighted the introduction of Family Wellbeing Centres, and the Roundwood School, which would provide further spaces to work with young people within a community setting.


In relation to courts and criminalisation the Committee wanted reassurance that unnecessary criminalisation was not an issue for Brent. Nigel Chapman (Operational Director Integration and Improved Outcomes, Brent Council) advised that Brent’s relationship with the Magistrates’ Court, which was where most YOS work went through, was very effective and had continued to operate at a good level throughout the pandemic, and the Court had been very supportive of the work. In relation to the random sampling of cases involving out of court disposals, he advised that Brent YOS had made good strides with the police where previously they felt police were offering too many conditional cautions instead of cautions, which was felt unsuitable for some young people and led to the Court finding young people breaching those cautions leading to a criminal offence being committed. He advised that the cohort size was relatively small therefore the sampling approach was effective and provided a more tailored approach.


Committee members noted that there was a lot of input required from CAMHS from the service and queried what the current waiting times were. Sue Gates (Head of Early Help, Brent Council) advised that she recognised that waiting lists with CAMHS were an issue elsewhere but highlighted that Brent YOS had their own dedicated CAMHS worker who kept up to date with all work and never had a young person waiting, with an assessment conducted as soon as a referral was made. There was also input from a staff member working on a project around mental health, seeking to identify those who may need additional help around mental health, anxiety and wellbeing early. The staff member saw the young people in the police station, in their home, via video link, in court cells or wherever the first place they were identified was.


The Committee were encouraged by the reduction in court order sentences, but queried whether that could be as a result of court closures and whether the pandemic had an impact on the number of youth offending. Nigel Chapman advised that there was less activity in the court system and less crime committed, which was noted in London and nationally and the court systems did reduce their capacity. He added that the overall picture on youth offending generally was that there had been a significant reduction in young people entering the youth justice system over the last 8 years. In response to whether any mentoring system was in place which may have contributed to the reduction, Nigel Chapman advised of a number of factors at play including building trusted relationships between the young person and their YOS case worker, or the young person’s mentors, or a combination of the 2, and working closely with the young person’s parents. He advised that primarily the service was based around understanding a young person and helping them with employment, education and thinking through their offending behaviour.


Regarding how the YOS could work with voluntary sector substance misuse services to support the work of YOS further, Sue Gates highlighted that they had worked with Each Brent and the Westminster Drugs Project for a considerable length of time and had a very good relationship with them. She expressed that they did more than was required of them, were co-located with YOS workers, and were seen as part of the team. They saw most young people that came through the system and worked with families and siblings.


The Chair drew the item to a close by noting the positive feedback highlighted in paragraph 7 of the report received from the YOS survey of young people and their families which had 76 participants.


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