The AYM recognises and understands the need for greater consistency in the relationships between local youth offending team (YOT) partnerships and the National Probation Service
(NPS). The relationships were bound to have to change from those that were enjoyed with local Probation Trusts in the past, and we recognise that such change inevitably produces winners as well as losers.
However, the NPS has surprised and disappointed us by issuing the above document outlining its proposals for future funding of youth justice services without full consultation. NPS reached its decisions after a process which did not include formal negotiation with members of local youth offending team (YOT) partnerships. We were invited only to “reference groups”. The negotiating process, such as it was, for these changes in contributions consisted of two arms of the Ministry of Justice, NPS and the Youth Justice Board, taking decisions together. Again this appears to be a case of a central government department handing down the consequences of its own budget pressures to local services. Local partnerships will now have to endeavour to find the resource to make good the shortfall in NPS funding or else make further cuts to budgets.
We welcome some aspects of the contributions, namely the commitment to provide qualified Probation Officer to YOTs and the length of their secondments, being set at three years rather
than two. These commitments were in some doubt a few months ago. We also welcome the recognition from NPS that it needs to make a contribution to the overheads involved in running a YOT: office accommodation, managers’ salaries, contract costs for outsourced services, legal and financial services etc. although 5k per worker hardly covers these costs.
The decision provides a perverse incentive for partnerships which operate across local authority boundaries to split up; it gives licence to other YOT partners to reduce their own contributions to these costs, leaving the YOT partnership to be perceived as solely a local authority responsibility.
Chairs of YOT Management Board will be working with their partners, the local authority, health and police services to understand the implications for their YOTs of the unilateral decision by NPS. Coming as it does in the same week as the publication of Charlie Taylor interim findings from his review of the youth justice system, this decision suggests that NPS’ commitment to stemming the flow of young offenders into the adult criminal justice system is on the wane.