Half of youth offending services inspected ‘require improvement’

HM Inspectorate of Probation today (24 November) published its annual report, showing improvements are required in more than half of the 16 youth offending services inspected this year.

Inspectors found inconsistences in performance remain, with assessment of risk of harm again emerging as a key area of concern.

The quality of work with out of court disposals was again found to be worse than for cases sentenced by the court, and worst of all for ‘community resolution’ cases diverted from the formal youth justice system altogether.

At each of the 16 services – amounting to 768 individual cases – inspectors rated 12 aspects of work and awarded an overall performance rating.

The Inspectorate rated:

  • One service ‘Outstanding’
  • Six services ‘Good’
  • Eight services ‘Requires improvement’
  • One service ‘Inadequate’.

Chief Inspector Justin Russell said: “It is disappointing that the overall quality of the youth offending services we have inspected this year is worse than last year, with more than half requiring some improvement.

“Overall, the weakest area of performance across all the cases we inspected is the effective assessment and management of risk of harm – an area on which we place significant emphasis. Given that half of the court cases we inspected involved violent offences, and 85% of young people going through the courts are assessed as presenting some risk of harm, this is not good enough.

“We were also concerned to see a decline in the scores for governance, leadership and management and that work with cases diverted from court remains of poorer quality than those going through the court system.”

Today’s report also outlines how youth offending services are managing the challenges brought by Covid-19.

Mr Russell said: “There is no doubt the impact of Covid-19, on all aspects of youth service provision, has already been profound. The response of youth offending teams – and the children themselves – has been impressive and is to be commended.

“The services are, overall, rising to the challenge, though we had concerns about poor access to education and increased adolescent on parent violence during lockdown. Many teams show initiative in how they maintain contact with children and manage their own staff working at home, despite a lack of vital IT equipment and sufficient broadband in some areas.”

An assessment of the initial impact of Covid-19 on youth offending services – looking at 70 individual cases – is included in this year’s annual report.

This year’s report also details how black, Asian and minority ethnic children are disproportionately represented in youth offending team (YOT) caseloads, and how services are addressing representation.

Mr Russell added: “It remains a concern that there is a disproportionate number of black, Asian and minority ethnic children within the system, who in turn generally receive more restrictive sentences than white children.

“Many services have recognised this, and our inspectors found a number of examples of good practice. This is evidence of youth offending teams taking these issues seriously and striving for change; whether it be joint working with courts, training for staff or actively seeking a more diverse workforce. This is encouraging, and I look forward to seeing how this work develops.”

Mr Russell concluded: “Youth offending teams continue to play a vital role in the youth justice system, and some have done an outstanding job of this despite the conditions they have faced in the past year.

“It’s a big ask, but they must do all they can to deliver high quality services to each child, particularly the most vulnerable, for their benefit and for the protection of the public.”


Note to Editors.

The Inspectorate ratings, by area, are as follows:

  • ‘Outstanding’ – Camden.
  • ‘Good’ – Brent, Bury and Rochdale, Leicester, North Yorkshire, Oxfordshire, and Southampton.
  • ‘Requires improvement’ – Birmingham, Bradford, Croydon, Gloucestershire, Leeds, Luton, Medway, and Nottingham
  • ‘Inadequate’ – Cardiff.