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Joint thematic inspection of resettlement services to children by Youth Offending Teams and partner agencies

A Joint Inspection by: HM Inspectorate of Probation Care Quality Commission Ofsted

Preventing reoffending by working with those who have already committed offences is one of the main ways to reduce the number of future victims. This may seem obvious, but is not easy. Many of the childre involved in offending have complex lives which they and their families need help with. It is the role of multi-agency Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) to work with those children to reduce their offending, while still having regard for the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. This inspection examined the work of YOTs and their partners in tackling offending by children who go into custody; a group we know are among those most likely to reoffend.

In England and Wales, over two-thirds of children reoffended within 12 months of release from secure institutions. Of the 29 children we tracked from custody into the community, only one-quarter fully complied with their supervision. These are shocking statistics. Shocking because we have known for at least a decade what helps children leaving custody to stop offending; and shocking because too few of these children are being provided with what they need to lead crime-free lives. So, even when we know the solution, and we know providing the solution is for the most part possible within current budgets, why on earth is it not being done?

Work to help children to resettle does not start early enough. It should begin immediately after the court appearance, with work in custody focused on supporting release and work in the community preparing for the child’s return. The YOT partnership is pivotal in ensuring that this happens across both these elements of the sentence. But YOT workers and custodial establishments are all too often suspicious of each other, planning meetings are poorly conducted and current Youth Justice Board guidance does not aid planning for resettlement.

Two of the most important resettlement issues are suitable accommodation and constructive activities, the latter being education, training or employment, depending on their age, and leisure activities. Children who are engaged in constructive activities have less time to offend, and can begin to see themselves differently - as a positive part of the community. Children and their parents/carers should be well prepared for release and all agencies ready to support a constructive release plan. Some children did not know where they would be living until a few days before their release, and because of this, the rest of the provision could not follow. This does not bode well for a successful reduction or cessation of offending.

Strategically, no one person or organisation has overall control to ensure that high quality resettlement happens. The responsibility falls between the Ministry of Justice, the Youth Justice Board, the National Offender Management Service, the Department for Education, individual secure institutions, local authorities, health services and YOTs. There is hope that the Government’s resettlement plans within Transforming Youth Custody may go some way to move these issues on, but we do not want it to be consigned to the long list of failed attempts to ‘fix’ resettlement.

By following our recommendations we consider it is possible for the lives of many children who have offended to be turned around. It will need all the component parts to work to ensure children get the right support they need to stop offending and that, importantly as a result, there are fewer victims of crime.