On behalf of members, AYM has submitted the following response to some of the questions in the MoJ consultation on Probation.
Youth Offending Teams have nearly 20 years’ experience of successfully managing offending by children up to the age of 18. In light of our understanding of brain development and maturation, we believe there is scope for using the same partnerships-based approach with young adult offenders up to the age of 25. The majority of these young adults are care leavers and/or have special education needs. Many are subject to formal Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) and thus entitled to support from local partnerships until well into their 20s.
In preparation for this response we polled our members and received 80 responses, representing nearly two-thirds of the YOT managers in England. 51% would support the idea of youth offending teams extending their remit, subject to resourcing, to work with young adults up to age 21, and a further 24% would go even further and suggest an extension to age 25. Such a change would be consistent not only with legislation in relation to care leavers and EHCPs, but also with the way in which the secure estate separates young adults from older offenders.
With or without such a fundamental change to our remit, YOT managers stand ready to help shape a service for young adult offending that draws on the lessons from the reform of the youth justice system.
Our comments apply to England only as we have no remit to represent YOT Managers in Wales.
What steps could we take to improve the continuity of supervision throughout an offender’s sentence?
We are concerned about the experience of 18 year olds making the transition from youth justice to adult probation services, especially in cases where they are care leavers and/or the subjects of Education, Health and Care Plans because of special educational needs. There is a need for specialist, multi-agency teams to work with 18 to 25 year olds. NPS’s seconded officers in YOTs work hard to ensure transitions are effective but have been undermined in recent years by substantial cuts. We recognise and welcome the fact that NPS is now giving this interface greater attention.
What frequency of contact between offenders and offender managers is most effective to promote purposeful engagement?
In some cases this should be twice weekly in the early stages of supervision, reducing in frequency in subsequent weeks subject to an ongoing assessment of risk
What steps could we take to improve engagement between courts and CRCs?
Work with HMCTS to ensure there are active and effective court user groups in all areas
How can we promote unpaid work schemes which both make reparation to communities and equip offenders with employment-related skills and experience?
Adopt a restorative approach in which victims are actively involved in the process of identifying appropriate reparation activities. Also look at the example of The Skill Mill, a social enterprise working in the YJS https://www.theskillmill.org/
How could future resettlement services better meet the needs of offenders serving short custodial sentences?
We recommend adopting the model of locally based Resettlement Consortia as developed by the YJB and YOTs in the youth justice sector.
Which skills, training or competencies do you think are essential for responsible officers authorised to deliver probation services, and how do you think these differ depending on the types of offenders staff are working with?
We see Probation as a social work service to the courts which has a particular responsibility for public protection and for safeguarding vulnerable victims and offenders. Risk assessment, report writing and risk management are core skills for case managers.
Do you agree that changes to the structure and leadership of probation areas are sufficient to achieve integration across all providers of probation services?
No. Clarity around structure and effective leadership will be a good start, but will not be sufficient on its own. There is a need for investment in training and a need to look outwards to build partnerships with other agencies in local areas.
How can probation providers effectively secure access to the range of rehabilitation services they require for offenders, and how can key local partners contribute to achieving this?
Partnership is of course a two-way street. Some Probation providers (CRCs and NPS) have not always been reliable partners to local authorities and can expect little in return. There is a need to rebuild trust.
What should our key measures of success be for probation providers, and how can we effectively encourage the right focus on those outcomes and on the quality of services?
We suggest: frequency and seriousness of reoffending; successful completion of orders and licences; use of restorative processes and victims’ confidence; full time education, employment or training at end of supervision; in suitable accommodation at end of supervision; accessing necessary health care at end of su