The Youth Justice (YJ) system has enjoyed immense success since the creation of Youth Offending Teams. For example, the number of young people entering the YJ system has dropped dramatically, and the number of young people in custody has also dropped dramatically.
We heard that the publication of the MoJ’s review of the youth justice system has been brought forward and agreed to write to Charlie Taylor, who is leading the review.
See letter below
From the Chair of the Association 10 June 2016 To Charlie Taylor, Ministry of Justice Review of the Youth Justice System
We were sorry you were unable to join us at our AGM this week but fully understand the reasons for this. With nearly 50 of our members all in one place we used the opportunity to think about the key messages that we would want you to hear from YOT managers as you prepare to publish your review.
Firstly we wanted to say that we have appreciated the way you have set about your task; you have taken the time and trouble to meet many of our members and their partnership boards, and, most importantly, you have gone out of your way to listen to the voices of young people who are caught up in the justice system. Thank you.
We know that you have given a great deal of attention to the secure estate, and we do not propose to say a great deal about that part of the youth justice system, other than to repeat our long held view that rehabilitation is most effective if the small number of young people who must be detained are kept in small secure units, staffed by well-trained people who are committed to working for positive change in young people. Ideally, such units should be close enough to the young person’s home for family contact to be maintained.
We want to focus on the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act, and on what we see as the four pillars on which the delivery of youth justice services stand: the YOT, the YOT manager, the YOT steering group and the national coordination of the system via the Youth Justice Board. We have heard that someone has described the 1998 Act as a “straightjacket” from which the system needs to be liberated. We do not agree. Of course the legislation needs to be updated to take account of issues such as the large rise in out-of-court disposals and the current trend for devolution of responsibilities to local areas. But please do not be tempted to undermine the four pillars of the system, lest the whole edifice comes crashing down.
Youth Offending Teams
Dealing first with the concept of the YOT, we heard this described by an eminent professor at our AGM as: “The best example of multi-agency and multi-professional working – a remarkable success story in reducing crime and criminalisation, showing humanity, care and compassion within a context of control and containment”. We are proud of this assessment, and of the well-documented achievements of YOT partnerships in reducing first-time entrants to the system and reducing the use of custody. We take the view that the concept of the YOT has been one of the best pieces of public
sector reform of this century, and established a model which many others parts of health and social care have sought to copy.
A number of our members have been around long enough to remember the youth justice system of the 1980’s and 90’s. There were some good people doing some very good work, but this was fragmented and inconsistent. There was a strong sense of there being “injustice by geography”. One member described youth justice at the time as “a Cinderella issue managed by Cinderella services”. Our anxieties about greater devolution are that partner agencies may feel freer to withdraw their best staff from YOTs; case transfers between YOTs will be become more difficult as services’ offerings become more diverse, and it will become as difficult to compare the quality and effectiveness of services as to compare apples with pears.
Please think about how the YOT model can be further strengthened by tying partners in more tightly with their financial and staffing contributions. Think also about how the model could be extended to include young adults aged 18- 24, given the inadequacies in services currently offered to this age group as well as the important research into brain development in late adolescence. Extending the remit of YOTs to age 25 would be in line with the new code for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities; it would also be in line with the intended changes to “leaving care” support for Looked after Children which the current plans are also to extend to 25.
The YOT Manager
YOT managers are key in providing leadership to a team or service of professional staff drawn from many different backgrounds. Many of us take on additional responsibilities in areas such as safeguarding boards and local criminal justice boards. Some provide leadership to other multi agency services within their areas. We believe it is important that YOT managers are inspirational leaders who are competent to manage public protection, safeguarding and retain the confidence of their staff, of young people, of victims of crime, their local communities and the courts. They should not be seen as “belonging” to one agency, such as to a local authority’s children’s services or to the Police and Crime Commissioner, but rather as belonging to the multi-agency partnership.
A straw poll of our members at our AGM suggested that over 80% now come from social work background. In 2000, a greater number would have been drawn from other professions, notably from probation and police. We find this change regrettable and would like to see greater encouragement to all of the YOT partners to identify potential leaders in the future. We believe that new leaders need to be trained and supported in their roles and for the last two years we, as an association, have provided a leadership development programme for “Aspiring Future Youth Justice Leaders”. These programmes have been fully subscribed and the feedback from participants has been exceptionally positive.
The Steering Group
The YOT steering group, now more commonly called a management board or a partnership board, holds the YOT manager to account and, just as importantly, hold each of the partners to account for the contribution each of them is making to preventing offending. The model is a very effective one, but needs some support and nurturing if it is to survive more years of austerity. In a sense these boards have become a victim of their own success; with youth crime now so much lower than in
2000, there is the temptation for partners to send less senior people (or no one at all) to represent them, so that boards become less strategic and less ambitious. Effective partnership boards understand that while they may be dealing with a smaller cohort of children and young people, their needs and the risks they present are more complex, and need ever more sophisticated responses from the agencies around the table.
Our steering groups are wary of some aspects of devolution. They are concerned about the risk of fragmentation and national inconsistency; most steering groups are keen to be able to compare their performance with others. They are keen to improve their YOTs, and we are proud of the role that AYM members are taking in developing the “Peer-led Improvement Process” for YOTs and we plan to continue to develop this.
Management boards have differing views, of course, but many are particularly wary of the devolution of budgets for secure accommodation, as they have limited control over the way the judiciary will require them to spend these budgets.
The Youth Justice Board
It will of course be for the YJB to make its own representations to you about its future. We would just say that without a strong body providing national leadership, the youth justice system will be weaker. We have seen ministerial responsibility for youth justice move from the Home Office to (the then) Department for Children and Families, and to the Ministry of Justice. We do not think it helpful that responsibility rests with one ministry; better for central government to model the kind of cooperative work that it expects to see at a local level. In order to achieve cross-departmental ownership of the youth justice system, we will, in our view, continue to need a body to carry out many of the functions of the YJB.
Two further points in conclusion: firstly, as an association, we stand ready to do even more to help to consolidate the youth justice reforms of the last 18 years. Our resources are limited: we rely on subscriptions from our members of just £150 per annum, plus the small profit we make from our training programme. Our enthusiasm for the youth justice system, however, is unlimited. Secondly, YOTs have been successful in meeting the objectives set for them in spite of their reducing resources. Of course this does not mean we have done the job; future performance will only be achieved if we continue to function. There is a continual flow of new young people to be worked with.
We look forward to continuing this dialogue with you
Lesley Tregear Lesleytregear@warwickshire.gov.uk
At its AGM in Rugby yesterday (9/6/16) Lesley Tregear (Warwickshire Yot) was elected unopposed as the new Chair of the Association succeeding Gareth Jones (Cheshire West, Halton and Warrington Yot) who has stepped down after leading the AYM for the last 4 years. Andy Peaden (Leeds Yot) replaces Lesley as Vice Chair. Both were congratulated by AYM members on their election and sincere thanks given to Gareth Jones for his outstanding leadership of the AYM.
Ian Langley (Hampshire), Joel Hanna (Sheffield) and Terry Gibson (Torbay) respectively remain as Secretary, Asst Secretary and Treasurer. Jessica Edwards (Brighton & Hove Yot) was elected to the AYM Executive for the first time as an Additional Executive Member replacing Davie Parks (Newcastle Yot) who has succeeded Pam Vedhara MBE (South Tyneside) as the AYM’s North East Regional rep. Charlie Spencer (formerly Sandwell Yot) and Amrik Panaser (Oxfordshire) continue as Additional Exec Members.
Former Chair Gareth Jones will remain on the AYM Executive as a non voting Observer.
A powerful partnership between Achievement for All (AfA), the Association of YOT (Youth Offending Team) Managers (AYM) and Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) has been awarded a Department of Education contract to support young people who offend and who have Special Education Needs (SEN).
Over the next 10 months, the partnership will support all front line professionals working in the youth justice system to transform outcomes for young people who offend (or are at risk of doing so), and who have special education needs. A free to use on line resource will be developed by AFA, and the AYM will hold a series of workshops across the country aimed at staff from Youth Offending Teams and the multi-agency professionals who work in partnership with them. MMU will be responsible for developing the research model, informed by interviews and surveys with young people and their families, YOT staff, and wider professional networks, and also for data collection and analysis.
AfA has been at the forefront of workforce development and evidenced-based change management aligned to SEND reforms. AfA Chief Executive and founder Prof Sonia Blandford said “This is a great opportunity for Achievement for All to extend the application of our work to those who the young offenders in need of educational support that will transform their lives. The partnership assembled for this work will ensure that all areas of the country will be covered with detailed delivery, research and follow up communicated freely to the education and support agencies responsible for change. As a pilot project we will be planning to extend our engagement in this area.”
The AYM is the national association in England for the heads of YOTs and those in management positions in YOTs. AYM Chair Gareth Jones said ‘We are delighted to be working in partnership with AfA and MMU as we know that young people with SEN are over represented in the Youth Justice System and believe the work ahead will be of great benefit to YOTS staff and others professionals in the youth justice system and give them the tools to deal more effectively with young people who offend or are at risk of doing so.”
MMU has a long history of involvement both in SEND and the Youth Justice sectors and run one of the largest SEN Co-Ordinators programmes for English Local Authorities. Dr Hannah Smithson and Peter Hick from MMU said “MMU has a long history of involvement both in SEND and the Youth Justice sectors and run one of the largest SEN Co-ordinators programmes for English Local Authorities. This is a very important project. MMU are delighted to be working with AfA and the AYM in a partnership that will see real change for young people in the criminal justice system. It brings together two areas of expertise for MMU – SEND and youth justice, demonstrating MMU’s ability and commitment to knowledge exchange and partnership working within these areas.”
The Association of Youth Offending Team Managers (AYM) welcomes the final report of the Medway Improvement Board (MIB) and notes the responses of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Youth Justice Board (YJB). As the report points out, the events uncovered at Medway Secure Training Centre are part of a succession of stories of abuse of children in custody which go back over many years. It reinforces the Association’s view that secure accommodation should be reserved for only the small number of young people who pose a danger to others, and should consist of small units of accommodation, sited close to the young person’s home area. They should always have their focus on keeping young people safe while preparing them for resettlement and on improving educational attainment, behaviour and mental and physical health.
We particularly appreciate the Improvement Board’s efforts to listen to and to believe the young people with whom they spoke. We also appreciate that their report was concluded in a very timely manner. It is our view that the report could have been enhanced by the incorporation of the perspective of youth offending teams (YOTs) as they have significant engagement with young people in custody and their families; and with secure establishments. Thus had this Association been invited to join the “round table event”, we would have made the point that all of the young people serving sentences in Medway will have had an allocated YOT worker, and will have spent at least as long under supervision in the community as they spent in secure accommodation. This means that YOTs are uniquely well placed to obtain information from young people and their parents/ carers about the way in which they were treated within the secure estate. For obvious reasons we do not know how many, if any, of the 35 whistle-blowing letters produced by YJB came from YOT workers and we would suggest that information from young people about their experiences should be systematically collected in the future.
It is clear that the events in Medway could have occurred anywhere in the secure estate but especially where the values and priorities of the commissioners differ widely from those of the providers. Looking to the future, the MIB’s report leads us to the following views:
· independent chairs of Local Safeguarding Children Boards should be represented on any improvement governance boards set up for any parts of the secure estate for children
· there should also be a YOT Manager on such boards
· YOTs should be required to take responsibility for ensuring that the experiences of all young people leaving secure accommodation are listened to, recorded and passed on to governance boards as well as to both the relevant commissioners and providers.
In conclusion, we would be pleased to be able to assist in future commissioning arrangements to ensure that outcomes for children and communities are the central feature of commissioning, rather than the process and micro management approach that the report refers to and which has clearly failed. It is vital that the experience of the child in custody is intrinsically linked to the plans for resettlement, and therefore we believe that YOT input to the commissioning and design process is essential.
Former Children’s Minister, Tim Loughton MP, hosted a parliamentary conference for local authority heads of services and YOT managers, on behalf of Ambition and The Association of Youth Offending Team Managers (AYM). Over 80 delegates listened to key note speeches on the Government’s Youth Justice Review and partnerships across local authorities, police and crime commissioners and the justice system. Charlie Taylor, Ministry of Justice, set the scene with a national perspective from two select committee chairs, Keith Vaz MP (Home Affairs) and Bob Neill MP (Justice) and Lord Tom McNally, Chair of the Youth Justice Board.
The joint conference explored models and experience of partnership working and overarching preventative strategies, set in the context of the Youth Justice Review and in advance of the elections for Police and Crime Commissioners and local authorities in England. This included how effectively the youth justice system and its partners operate in responding to offending by children and young people. Delegates also discussed the actions and responsibilities of local authorities, youth offending teams, Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), the police and other partners in preventing children and young people from offending.
We would like to thank all those who contributed to the event including the national lead for policing and children DCC Olivia Pinkney; the national youth-lead for the Association of Directors of Children’s Services Stuart Smith, DCS Calderdale; Local Government Association Safer and Stronger Communities Board Cllr Sophie Linden, Deputy Mayor of Hackney; children’s rights lead for the Children’s Commissioner, Anna Henry; and Andy Champness, Chair of the Association of Policing & Crime Chief Executives.
There was a wide consensus over the need for a co-ordinated response from a number of partners, putting young people at the centre and creating a link between YOTs, children’s, health and education services to address the root causes of offending. Where there is a multi-agency approach or greater integration of services, it is vital we break down silos and professional hierarchies to align resources and commissioning.
Barry Williams, Director of Strategy and Membership at Ambition, said: “It was brilliant to hear so many important issues raised at today’s conference, and we plan to build on these discussions in our work with local authorities, AYM, lead partners and commissioners. Ambition remains committed to helping shape and deliver effective practice and partnership models, ensuring all children and young people in trouble with the law receive the best possible support they need to lead productive and rewarding lives.”
Gareth Jones, AYM Chair, said: “Today’s conference provided an opportunity to explore how close working between wider youth support services and youth offending teams, at a time when there is significant change in how services are being configured, can support effective prevention for young people at risk of getting in trouble with the law. Whilst accountability for outcomes is a key element, it is essential we build in flexibility to secure local partnership models that serve distinct community needs.”
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.
AYM has submitted written evidence to the Parliamentary Select Committee on restorative justice illustrating the effective, restorative practice already being undertaken in the youth justice system.
Link to document – Submission to the Justice Committee v1.0
At the Youth Justice Convention in Leicester on 25/11/15 AYM Vice Chair Lesley Tregear announced the results of this years John Hawkins Award following judging by young people from last years winners the Skill Mill at Newcastle Yot.
The worthy winners were Liverpool Yot’s Street Doctors scheme and Hannah Doughty Head of Liverpool Yot plus representatives from the Street Doctors Project were present to receive the John Hawkins Award from Lesley Tregear along with a cheque for £500. The judges citation for the Street Doctors reads as follows
“The Street Doctors project is highly innovative in that it is provides young people with practical skills and knowledge to help keep themselves safe and potentially save lives. It also engages with interesting non-justice sector partners. The panel were acutely aware of the high profile knife crime events recently and felt that this project can be central to a strategy to reduce the harm being done. This project already runs in other YOTs following the Liverpool origin and we have Liverpool YOT to thank for this”
The runners up were Kingston & Richmond Yots Music project and Yot Manager Kathy Walker and several young people from the project stepped up on stage to receive their runners up certificate.