Probation chief proposes emotional trauma training for YOT staff

Joe Lepper
Thursday, October 26, 2017

Work with young offenders is being hampered by a lack of understanding of the devastating effect of trauma on young offenders' lives, according to the chief inspector of probation.

A report into the work of youth offending teams (YOTs) by HM chief inspector of probation Dame Glenys Stacey found that three out of every four young offenders had experienced "emotional trauma or other deeply distressing or disturbing things in their lives".

Such experiences increase the likelihood of reoffending and reduce their ability to engage with support services, states the report. But the report found that only a few YOTs have a good understanding of strategies to identify and effectively respond to emotional trauma in young offenders' lives.

This includes a lack of use of trauma-informed practice, a strengths-based approach based around a strong relationship with a case manager, which focuses on underlying issues of trauma before addressing the young person's offending.

"Most young people who commit serious crimes have had disturbing and traumatic experiences themselves, during childhood, and a good number are now in the care of their local authority," said Stacey.

"These young people are more likely to get into difficulties, and offend, and once in trouble they are less likely than others to trust adults or to respond to any help on offer, unless it takes account of their experiences."

She added: "We found YOT staff working sensitively and intuitively with them, but with insufficient formal planning, or good, up-to-date and well-ordered guidance and support materials.

"Given the prevalence of trauma for these young people, there is a strong case for all YOTs to adopt what is known as trauma-informed practice."

Stacey has called on the Youth Justice Board to provide guidance to YOTs on how to take into account the impact of trauma on young people's lives. 

The report also found that YOTs are failing to keep up to date with how young offenders use social media.

It found that young offenders are avoiding mainstream social media such as Facebook and instead use lesser-known, more private social media platforms to both incite and plan crime. This included online blackmail, gang recruitment and online arguments escalating to physical assaults.

One youth worker told inspectors: "Our young people used to hang around on street corners and parks before committing offences. Now they sit alone in their bedrooms and get into arguments or plan offences on their phones, tablets or computers."

The report found that YOTs in London were among the most "in tune" regarding social media due to the prevalence of gang crime in the capital.

"YOTs need help to catch up with social media-related crime. There is not enough relevant and up-to-the minute advice and information available nationally to help them work with those whose offending is directly linked and fuelled by social media," Stacey said. 

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