The Crime and Disorder Act 1998, requires Local Authorities to have a Youth Justice Plan, which is updated annually to set out how youth justice will be delivered locally within available resources.
This plan (attached at Appendix 1) has been refreshed from last year 2020 and co-produced with the Youth Justice Partnership (YJP) and influenced by national research and evidence of effective practice and has taken examples across National Partnerships.
The Youth Offending Team (YOT) Manager introduced the report which refreshed the Youth Justice Partnership Strategic Plan 2020-2023. He explained that the priorities remained the same but that he had worked with the YOT staff to ensure the plan communicated better to staff what they should be doing in practice.
Members then raised a number of questions and comments which included:
· Increase in violent crime – in response to a concern raised about the increase in violent crime the YOT Manager confirmed this was not local to Medway but a national area of concern. He explained that the Violence Reduction Unit was a Central Government initiative and ran locally across Kent and Medway as a Police led initiative. In addition, there was a Serious Youth Violence Project, which again operated across Kent and Medway and provided the YOT with greater capacity to work more intensely with young people.
· Impact of COVID – when asked about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on youth offending, it was confirmed that it had caused delays in the youth court system which had resulted in an increase in out of court disposals.
· Number of young people in custody – it was explained that this had dropped in 2020/21, with one young person entering custody, who had since been released and was currently being supported by the YOT.
· Representation of children in care – it was explained that there was always an over-representation of children in care within the youth justice system, which was attributable to the disruptive and difficult lives children in care had often had. The YOT worked closely with the police so that when a child in care became known to the police, the YOT could work with that young person at the earliest opportunity possible, to prevent further progression into the justice system.
· Support for girls – following a concern raised about the support the YOT provided to girls, the YOT Manager confirmed that the Data and Analysis officer, who was now in post, had found that reoffending of girls was not significant compared to boys, demonstrating that their interactions with the YOT were generally successful.
· YOT Budget – in response to a query about the budget for the YOT, it was explained that the budget was made up of contributions from statutory partners who were accountable. It was added that an external review of the YOT, by Medway’s Partner in Practice, Essex County Council, would be undertaken and would include a review of the YOT’s resourcing.
· Quality of data – concern was raised about the lack of current data within the report. It was explained that national comparative data from the Youth Justice Board was provided two years out of date. In addition, the service now had a Data and Analysis officer for the first time since 2016 which would enable more current and rich local data going forward and it was requested that this be provided when available.
· Police and Crime Evidence (PACE) Beds – in response to a question regarding the commissioning of PACE beds, it was explained that these were needed around 12-16 times a year and that officers were currently liaising with a provider to deliver a dedicated resource in Medway.
· Out of court disposals – it was explained that the use of these had increased and these were now attributable to around 80% of the YOT workload. They provided flexibility to the system and enabled young people to be treated as such and they were welcomed by the YOT. In relation to disposals that resulted in no further action, concern was raised about the lack of information the YOT received regarding these thereby not enabling them to work with the relevant young person. It was confirmed that this was a concern raised by the YOT with Police to stop multiple ‘no further actions’ being made on a young person before they may then be referred to the YOT.
· Community engagement – in response to a question about community engagement by the YOT, it was acknowledge that this was an area in which the YOT could do more. It had some links with community organisations working in partnership to provide volunteering placements in the community for young people which had been very successful and the YOT currently had a bid in to expand this further. It was added that once COVID restrictions were lifted, engagement with Councillors should also be reintroduced.
The Committee recommended the Cabinet to recommend Full Council to approve the refresh Youth Justice Partnership Strategy Plan 2020-23, as set out at Appendix 1 to the report.