Careers: Youth offending team worker


The role of youth offending team workers is becoming increasingly varied, finds Charlotte Goddard

What is a youth offending team (YOT) worker?

YOT workers, also known as youth offending team officers or youth offending team social workers, work with 10- to 18-year-olds who have been sentenced in court or who are at risk of offending, as well as their families and victims. As part of a multi-agency youth offending team or youth offending service, the YOT worker agrees with the young offender an action plan aimed at reducing reoffending and supervises a series of interventions from different agencies.

Do YOT workers work with other professionals?

They work alongside and liaise with other professionals such as social workers, police, probation staff, health workers and careers advisers, as well as specialists in education and substance misuse.

What do they do on a day-to-day basis?

YOT workers could find themselves in an office, court, detention and training centre, police station, youth club or young offenders’ home.

They could be preparing pre-sentence reports for courts, which includes researching a young person’s background and talking with them and their family. They may supervise young people on court orders and community sentences and help them avoid reoffending, or support young offenders into constructive activity, education or work.

Other tasks include agreeing restorative justice interventions so offenders can make reparation to victims and the community; supervising activities to divert young people from the risk of offending; and visiting young people in prison to make arrangements for their release.

How could the role progress?

There is opportunity for promotion to senior youth offending team worker and youth offending team manager. A senior worker may manage other workers and may specialise in a certain area such as serious offences, substance misuse or prevention. Staff may have to move to a different area for promotion or development, as YOT teams can be quite small. Progression is usually based on experience, but according to sector skills council Skills for Justice, increasingly YOTs are linking promotion to qualifications.

What qualifications are needed?

There are no minimum entry requirements, but the Youth Justice Board and the Open University have developed a series of qualifications for those working in youth justice. These include a Professional Certificate in Effective Practice (Youth Justice) and a foundation degree, and employers increasingly either strongly encourage or require staff to take these qualifications.  

Many YOT workers already have a degree or equivalent qualification in youth justice, youth work, social work, criminology or other relevant subjects. Most employers would expect experience of work with young people at risk – either paid or voluntary.

Are YOT teams being affected by cuts?

A CYP Now survey carried out in October found that, on average, teams have lost 4.4 staff in the past 12 months. Across the 33 YOTs that responded, a total of 147 full-time-equivalent posts have disappeared.
Some of this will be to do with cuts and some to do with policy changes.

What are the policy changes?

YOT teams used to be pretty much the same all over the country in terms of structure and role, but the CYP Now survey found that many are changing their structure – for example, becoming integrated with the youth service.

Some are also changing what they deliver, such as no longer delivering prevention work. This trend will continue, as the government plans to cut back on the list of things youth offending teams are obliged to do under the national standards, leaving it to local authorities to decide what they should focus on.

The Youth Justice Board will be launching revised national standards in April and will update them the following April. This may reduce the variety of the role for YOT workers, but may also reduce some of the pressure on YOT teams.

It is an uncertain time for youth offending teams at the moment and the whole youth justice system. The government had planned to scrap the Youth Justice Board, which oversees the system, but backtracked in November. However, it still plans to reform the system.

 

FIND OUT MORE

  • Skills for Justice is the sector skills council with responsibility for youth offending teams. Information on qualifications and what they can lead to can be found at www.skillsforjustice.com/websitefiles/youth_justice_quals_framework 
  • The Ministry of Justice website includes guidance on issues such as workforce development,
    custody, education and working with victims. Practitioners can sign up for bulletins at
    www.justice.gov.uk/guidance/youth-justice
  • The Youth Justice Board’s site has now been incorporated into the Ministry of Justice site www.justice.gov.uk/about/yjb
  • The Association of Youth Offending Team Managers is the professional association for heads of Youth Offending Services and managers in Youth Offending Teams in England and Wales www.aym.org.uk

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