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The contribution of Youth Offending Teams to the work of the Troubled Families Programme in England

A Joint Inspection by HM Inspectorate of Probation, Care Quality Commission, HMI Constabulary, Ofsted

The National Troubled Families programme is an ambitious initiative. It provides a framework whereby a number of agencies, including Youth Offending Teams, can work together on the most pressing employment, educational, antisocial behaviour and offending challenges presented by families across England. The approach offers enhanced packages of support to families, to bring about substantial and sustainable change. The programme has clear objectives which are tackled through locally designed and delivered Troubled Families schemes.

In this inspection we specifically focused on the contribution of Youth Offending Teams to their local schemes. We found they had invested heavily in the work and had played an important part in the development and delivery of their local services. However, we also found a number of important practice issues that needed to be addressed, in order that the benefits of the programme could be fully realised.

The work of Youth Offending Teams centres on the offending and antisocial behaviour challenges presented by children and young people. Thus, for these two Troubled Families objectives at least, we expected to see Youth Offending Teams make an important contribution. We found many examples where the work had the potential to bear fruit and the reoffending patterns in the sample we reviewed were positive. However, the local services had been running for a relatively short period of time and there had been limited evaluation of the progress being made by Youth Offending Team service users. This meant we could not readily track the outcomes from the work.

Working in partnership is at the core of the Troubled Families approach. In the areas we inspected, considerable investment by some partner agencies was evident but this varied across the country. Consistently, Youth Offending Teams, children’s social care services and educational services were active participants. We also saw examples of innovative police and health involvement in some of the schemes, but this was not the case in all areas. Other local partners, including probation and third and private sector providers, also varied in their participation. Crucially, there were a number of core practice issues that needed urgent attention. Some concerned Youth Offending Team practices, but many related to the operation of the local schemes overall. The consequence of this was that, in most cases, Youth Offending Team records could not show how their plans of work fitted with the wider Troubled Families objectives. Uncertainties about the role of the lead professional often meant that the partnership work was not as focused as it could have been. We also found that the arrangements for responding to non-engagement by families, particularly in cases where there may be the need to take statutory action on child safeguarding, or school non-attendance, were not sufficiently robust. Many front line staff reported that they had not had adequate training to undertake their Troubled Families duties. To help make progress on these issues, we have identified good practice examples and we offer practical recommendations geared at bringing about improvement at a number of levels.