Inspectors praise YOT efforts to divert children from justice system

Neil Puffett
Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Youth offending teams (YOTs) and police are doing effective work to keep children who have committed low-level offences out of the formal criminal justice system, a report has found.

Inspectors from HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services looked at work in seven areas of England and Wales on how services deal with children without going to court, using out-of-court disposals.

There are three types of out-of-court disposals for children who commit low-level offences - community resolutions, youth cautions, and youth conditional cautions. Police may issue a community resolution alone but in many cases they involve YOTs, while YOTs are routinely informed and involved in decisions on youth cautions and youth conditional cautions.

Inspectors said they found clear leadership around out-of-court disposals in local partnerships, and a "universal recognition" of the importance of achieving positive outcomes for children and their futures, while at the same time recognising the impact on victims.

"Out-of-court work was a strategic priority in all the areas that we visited, and was clearly led by the YOT management board," the report states.

"There were good strategic and operational links between out-of-court disposal work and other local preventative and diversionary work. Staff were committed, knowledgeable and generally well trained."

However, some areas where out-of-court disposal work might be strengthened were identified. Inspectors found that victims were not always as engaged in the process as they should be, while more attention should also be given to the views of the child who had offended.
 
And although work to divert children from entering the criminal justice system was "commonly recognised to be a success story", it was difficult to prove the success empirically because there was "little systematic monitoring, beyond knowing that the number of children entering the justice system for the first time had fallen considerably and consistently over many years".

Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, said: "YOTs have the opportunity to work with many of these children. This is not a soft option for those children, as sometimes portrayed.

"We found YOTs often doing good and effective work to make it less likely that children would offend again, and to enable them to change their lives for the better.
 
"However, with some specific changes, the work could be better still and more children could benefit, as well as local communities and society as a whole."

"Preventing children from starting to offend, or their offending behaviour becoming entrenched, is good for potential victims, good for the children themselves, and saves the considerable costs incurred if further offences happen.

"We understand this work is a priority for the government, as it has been for previous administrations. Making sure that it is as effective as it can be, that it improves the life chances of the children involved, and that it is sustained should be good for all of us."

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