In a report published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP), Cardiff Youth Offending Service (YOS) was handed the lowest possible performance rating and told it needs to make wide ranging improvements.
HMIP inspectors, who carried out a routine inspection together with colleagues from health, police, education and social care inspectorates in January, looked at 12 aspects of the service’s work rating each one "inadequate" for the first time.
Arrangements for governance and leadership, staffing, partnership and services, and information and facilities, all failed to meet the inspectorates’ required standards, the report states.
“We, therefore, have serious concerns about the effectiveness of organisational delivery in Cardiff YOS,” it concludes.
The inspection of the service, based within the local authority’s children’s services directorate and operating as a partnership with local agencies, found despite staff being committed to working with children and their parents or carers, they faced challenging conditions.
Inductions were poor, policies and procedures outdated, and gaps identified in training, inspectors said.
Cases were being allocated to staff in an unstructured way that did not take into account their skills, experience or current workload, they added.
Furthermore, middle managers were so stretched they could not supervise or prioritise work effectively, the inspectorates concluded.
The report highlights gaps in provision including a healthcare post that had been vacant for more than 18 months.
Similarly, the YOS’s education, training and employment worker had been on maternity leave for around six months before the inspection, but the service had failed to provide cover for this post, it states.
“This has resulted in a lack of communication between the YOS and education providers and has reduced the service’s ability to ensure that learners receive the assessment they need to best plan their future.
“Overall, inspectors found the YOS’s joint working with wider social care was poor,” the report adds.
In response to their findings, inspectors raised an organisational alert after uncovering problems with safeguarding and public protection practice in three specific cases.
Senior leaders were asked to draw up an urgent action plan to address the shortcomings identified during the inspection.
Meanwhile, in other cases inspected at the time, the level of risk facing some children was found to be underestimated.
A national mechanism to protect children being groomed by adults in county lines drug operations was not used sufficiently, leaving some children at risk of exploitation or potentially posing a risk to others, the report explains.
Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell said the findings were “disappointing” reflecting serious concerns from inspectors about the service’s senior leadership and structure and the quality of its work with children that have offended or at risk of offending.
“At a strategic level, the management board did not have a clear vision or drive improvements in the YOS.
“Board members were unsure of their roles and responsibilities, and had a limited understanding of the challenges faced by children supervise by the YOS,” said Russell.
He added that “widespread poor” practice had been found at an operational level, concluding more work should have been done to ensure the safety of children and protect the public.
“Many of the children known to Cardiff YOS have complex needs and come from difficult backgrounds.
“The YOS is not providing sufficient high quality services that address children’s needs and support them to pursue crime-free lives,” he said.
Since the inspection, the service’s senior managers have brought in a new chair to lead its management board and an additional service manager.
“The actions taken encourage us to believe they will act on our recommendations to improve the service, but there is a great deal of work to do.
“We, and our partner inspectorates, will closely monitor their progress to ensure they implement the recommendations in this report,” Russell added.