Blackpool YOT - Organisational disruption and much poor practice but management starting to address problems

Blackpool youth offending team (YOT) was found by HM Inspectorate of Probation to be ‘Inadequate’, the lowest assessment, with many weaknesses and staff struggling with low morale.

Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, said: “The inspection found a difficult set of circumstances and widespread poor practice.”

Blackpool has three of the most deprived wards in the country and its average household income is one-third of the national income. It has 13 privately run children’s homes, a disproportionately large number for such a small authority.

Blackpool also has a large amount of affordable private rented accommodation and consequently a transient population of children and young people living with their families. These factors make it difficult to gather information from other areas and ensure that children have access to mainstream services.

Inspectors found a recent history of organisational changes in the YOT that had not been managed well. Dame Glenys said: “This period of change had a detrimental effect on the delivery of services. Staff morale was also affected and there was a lack of pride in the YOT’s work.

“The management board was not sufficiently challenging during this time, and accepted an overly optimistic assurance of the impact of the changes. There was also no challenge to the YOT’s poor performance.”

Examining work on court disposals, inspectors found some positive aspects, including that caseloads were manageable and assessments of children and young people’s diversity-related needs were good.

However, the individual assessments were not completed in a timely manner and managers did not oversee the work well enough. External controls, such as use of curfew, exclusion requirements, or links with neighbourhood police teams, were not used well. There were not enough resources available for work with children and young people

The process for children and young people dealt with by out-of-court disposals was found to be “particularly complex” and there was no mechanism for identifying those children and young people who would benefit from earlier intervention

Blackpool YOT had a high staff turn-over and sickness rate. It had an improvement plan, Dame Glenys said, but it was not robust and did not address all the underlying issues in the YOT.

Overall, Dame Glenys said:

“Blackpool’s youth and indeed all living and working in Blackpool need and deserve much better youth offending services than this. It cannot be right that services have been neglected in the way that they have. I welcome recent signs of change but it not enough. I trust that our inspection report and recommendations will provide a fresh impetus.”

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Notes to editors:

  1. The report is available at at 00.01 on 13 December 2018
  2. Youth Offending Teams (YOTs), which deliver youth offending services, supervise 10-18-year olds who have been sentenced by a court, or who have come to the attention of the police because of their offending behaviour but have not been charged and instead are dealt with out of court.
  3. Before the October 2018 inspection, Blackpool YOT had merged with a number of other children’s services in Blackpool, including leaving care, substance misuse and Connexions. Case managers had become generic workers for a period of time. The YOT had recognised that this model was not working, and had recently moved back into its specialist YOT teams, known as a ‘pod’ to deliver youth justice services. The cases that were inspected were from the period of generic working. Blackpool was identified by the Youth Justice Board as an authority in need of additional support because of its poor performance in the three national indicators.
  4. This inspection is part of HMI Probation’s new programme of YOS inspections. Blackpool was inspected and rated across three broad areas: the arrangements for organisational delivery first, and then the quality of court disposals work, and out of court disposals work.
  5. We inspected against new standards and all services are given one of four ratings: outstanding, good, requires improvement and inadequate.
  6. Fieldwork for the Blackpool inspection took place in October 2018.
  7. For further information please contact John Steele, HMI Probation Chief Communications Officer, on 020 3334 0357 or 07880 787452, or at