Leeds Youth Justice Service: strong in parts but requires improvement

A Leeds organisation that works with troubled children and young people has many strengths but also some notable gaps, according to inspectors.

HM Inspectorate of Probation conducted a routine inspection of Leeds Youth Justice Service, which works with 10 to 18-year-olds who have offended or are at risk of reoffending. Inspectors looked at 12 aspects of their work and gave the service a ‘Requires improvement’ rating.

Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell said: “Leeds Youth Justice Service has many elements in place to deliver an effective service. We found staff at all levels are committed to the children and young people they work with and are very good at engaging with them. Staff have a clear understanding of the factors that can help individuals to move away from further offending, and have come up with creative ways to deliver this work.

“However, in spite of these positive features, improvements are needed in several areas.”

At the time of the inspection, Leeds Youth Justice Service worked with nearly 380 children and young people across the city. Some had been sentenced by a court, while others had committed minor offences and are being dealt with outside the formal court system.

Inspectors analysed a sample of cases and concluded the quality of work to identify and manage risks needs to improve for both court and out-of-court disposals.

Mr Russell said: “Staff should assess every case to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children and young people, and to ensure they do not pose a danger to others.

“We found staff underestimated the level of risk in more than a third of inspected cases involving individuals who are serving court sentences. The service had developed a good tool to assess out-of-court cases, but staff did not always draw together and analyse all of the available data. We found assessments for out-of-court disposals were not completed to a good enough standard in two-thirds of inspected cases.”

Inspectors also found shortcomings in management oversight across both court and out-of-court work. While managers are supportive and approachable, inspectors found they could have paid closer attention to upholding the quality of work and recorded key decisions more consistently.

Inspectors found Leeds Youth Justice Service had developed high-quality partnerships across the city. Children and young people had timely access to support services for issues such as substance misuse, speech and language, and mental health.

Staff excelled at coming up with creative ways to help children and young people to move towards more positive and crime-free lives. The service has a well-established horticultural project, which is run by a committed volunteer. A partnership with a social enterprise has resulted in six-month work placements for small groups of young people – some of whom have gone on to gain qualifications and secure employment.

The organisation also received an ‘Outstanding’ rating for its work with the police to determine appropriate action for young people who had committed minor offences.

The service has a stable and committed management team, but inspectors felt improvements were needed at Board level.

Mr Russell said: “The Management Board should include representatives from organisations involved in delivering or supporting youth justice services such as the police, health, and social services. Board members should advocate for children known to the service and drive improvements in the organisation.

“At Leeds, we found Board members attended meetings sporadically and lacked an understanding of their role in overseeing and contributing to the quality of the service. We need the right people round the table who can make a difference to the lives of these children and young people.

“The issues in this inspection are capable of being addressed quickly, so that progress can be made. We have made a number of recommendations to assist Leeds YJS with this and ensure that children and young people who have offended get the best possible service.”


 Notes to editor

  1. The report is available at justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation on 01 November 2019 00.01.
  2. HM Inspectorate of Probation is the independent inspector of youth offending and probation services across England and Wales.
  3. Youth Offending Teams, 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. In Leeds, this team is known as Leeds Youth Justice Service.
  4. Fieldwork for this inspection took place in June 2019.

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