Inspection of youth offending work: Powys working to reduce reoffending

Powys was working well with young people who had offended, but further improvements could be made, said Liz Calderbank, Chief Inspector of Probation, publishing the report of a recent joint inspection of the work of Powys Youth Justice Service.

This joint inspection of youth offending work in Powys 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 was the first full joint inspection in Wales. Inspectors wanted to visit a youth offending team that was performing well against youth justice indicators.  Powys Youth Justice Service acts as a host for a number of children placed in the county by other local authorities, including a number of children from England, which can constitute between 17-20% of its work.

Inspectors were pleased to find that overall:

  • work to reduce reoffending was good, and while assessments completed at the start of a young person’s sentence were of variable quality, they were reviewed appropriately throughout the order. The effective delivery of interventions for children and young people, and their victims, was given equal attention. Caseworkers demonstrated dedication to ensure they accessed varied and appropriate resources and, as a result, achieved a range of positive outcomes; and
  • work to ensure the sentence was served was very good. Restorative justice was given a high profile and there was an inclusive approach to victims. Case managers built effective relationships with children and young people and their parents/carers, which aided progress throughout the sentence.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that, overall:

  • work to protect the public and actual or potential victims was unsatisfactory. There was not enough priority given to the risk of harm a child or young person posed to others and management oversight was not sufficiently effective in ensuring that work to protect the public and victims was of good enough quality;
  • work to protect children and young people and make them safer was unsatisfactory. Assessments lacked detail and analysis and the quality of planning was poor especially, for instance, in relation to emotional and mental health; and
  • governance was unsatisfactory. The management board did not provide a strong enough lead for youth offending and there was little strategic drive to challenge important local issues, such as those relating to cases transferred between areas and to probation.

Inspectors made recommendations to assist Powys in its continuing improvement, including: on ensuring the Board proactively drives the strategic agenda for youth justice, on improving the policy relating to looked after children and transfer cases, and on completing initial assessments and reviews to a sufficient quality, with particular reference to the risk of harm a child poses to others and their vulnerability.

Liz Calderbank said:

‘Powys Youth Justice Service was working well with partner agencies to help young people complete their sentences and sustain positive changes in their lives. The staff were a strong asset and workers were skilled in building relationships with the children and young people, and the victims of their offences. However, there was still a need to make considerable improvement to processes and systems relating to protecting the public and the child and young person themselves, and to management oversight. Transfer arrangements also needed extensive developments. We found that children and young people who were looked after by a local authority or transferred between areas or to probation and fell under the responsibility of more than one agency received a lower standard of service.

‘The service has a history of embracing and driving performance development and we are confident that it will act quickly in response to our recommendations.’
Notes to editors

  1. A copy of the report (PDF, 1013 kB).
  2. 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 sometimes undertaken in areas that report high performance, in order to maintain a benchmark for good practice. Powys’s performance was above average against youth justice indicators (proportion who reoffend, number of re-offences and first time entrants into the criminal justice system). Inspections are primarily targeted 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. For further information or to request an interview, please contact Jane Parsons in HMI Probation press office on 020 7035 2123 or 07880 787452.