Inspection of youth offending work: Blackpool needs to improve further

Progress had been made in youth offending work in Blackpool but it needed to improve further and be better managed, said Liz Calderbank, Chief Inspector of Probation, publishing the report of a recent joint inspection of the work of Blackpool Youth Offending Team (YOT).

This joint inspection of youth offending work in Blackpool is one of a small number of full joint inspections undertaken by HM Inspectorate of Probation with colleagues from the criminal justice, social care, education and health inspectorates. Inspectors focus on five key areas: reducing the likelihood of reoffending, protecting the public, protecting children and young people, ensuring that the sentence is served and the effectiveness of governance.

This inspection followed a critical core case inspection of the YOT, undertaken by HMI Probation in 2009.

More recently, inspectors were concerned to find that overall:

  • work to reduce reoffending was unsatisfactory, largely due to deficiencies in the assessment which looked at why a young person had committed the offence. Although the delivery of interventions was strong, this was undermined where the assessment had not used information from partner agencies, or identified the correct work to be done or where work was not undertaken in the right order;
  • work to protect the public and actual or potential victims was unsatisfactory. This was mainly due to deficiencies in assessment again, and planning to manage the risk of harm, which then drove through into delivery;
  • work to protect children and young people and make them safer was unsatisfactory. Case managers knew a lot about the children and their lives and were very committed to supporting them, but did not always recognise the things that made them vulnerable to harm, either by others or by their own behaviour; and
  • governance was unsatisfactory. A previously supportive but ineffectual Board was gradually changing to one populated by suitably senior representatives from partner agencies, but at the time of the inspection did not provide sufficient strategic leadership or ensure the delivery of effective outcomes.

However, inspectors were pleased to find that, overall:

  • work to ensure the sentence was served was good. Engagement with children and young people was good and valued by them and their parents/carers. Good efforts were made to ensure that the young person co-operated with the order of the court, and, where necessary, enforcement was carried out promptly.

Inspectors made recommendations to assist Blackpool in its continuing improvement, including: on strengthening the Board, providing a performance management system, improving practice to ensure management of risk of harm to others and vulnerability are central to work undertaken with children and young people, and ensuring initial assessments and their reviews are completed to a sufficient quality.

Liz Calderbank said:

‘Progress had undoubtedly been made by Blackpool since our last inspection. However, for a YOT to be fully effective, it must be supported by a Management Board that provides strategic leadership and direction for its managers. Board members must challenge practice, examine performance and drive the high quality provision of services to those children and young people who offend or who are likely to offend. We found that the YOT Manager and Chair of the Management Board were working hard to re-establish the Board to both support and scrutinise the work of the YOT. However, in the absence of a basic performance management system, they were unable to monitor performance effectively, review outcomes or hold partner agencies to account for their delivery.’

‘Although children and young people engaged well with staff and generally complied with their order, the effectiveness of interventions was too often undermined by the quality of assessments. Further attention needed to be given to managing the risk of harm children and young people might pose to others, and to their vulnerability.’

Notes to editors

  1. The new inspection programme of youth offending work, based on a risk-proportionate approach, was agreed by Ministers in December 2011. Under this programme, full joint inspections are targeted primarily on areas where there are significant concerns about the effectiveness of youth offending work, based primarily on the three national youth justice indicators, supplemented by other measures, such as recent inspections. Occasional inspections are undertaken in areas that report high performance, in order to maintain a benchmark for good practice. In Blackpool, performance had been declining on the national youth justice outcome measures for both custody and reoffending. Inspectors also wished to establish if action taken after Blackpool’s last inspection in 2009 had resulted in sustained improvements in performance.
  2. These inspections focus on issues not subject to other forms of external scrutiny: work to reduce the likelihood of offending and re-offending by young people; the management and minimisation of the risk of harm that a young person may pose to other people; safeguarding young people from harm (from their own actions and others); and work to ensure they serve their sentence.
  3. The inspections are led by HMI Probation, with participation by Ofsted, CQC and HMI Constabulary (and in Wales by the corresponding Welsh inspectorates, Healthcare Inspectorate Wales, Estyn and Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales).
  4. For further information or to request an interview, please contact Assistant Chief Inspector Julie Fox on 07973 264412.