Chief Inspector praises ‘strong’ services in his final youth justice services annual report

More youth justice services (seven-out-of-ten) were rated ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ in 2022 and, for the second year running, no services were rated ‘Inadequate’, says HM Inspectorate of Probation on the publication of its Youth Annual Report 2022.

Read the report here.

Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell, who is publishing his final youth annual report before leaving the post this autumn, praised the performance of local youth justice services: “I am pleased to complete my tenure as chief inspector on a positive note, having watched how hard those in the youth justice world have strived to build a bright future for their services and the children they support.”

This annual report finds strong youth justice services, across England and Wales, that are delivering high quality services to children, young people, and the communities in which they live. Overall, services know how to work with their partners to get the best outcomes for children, management boards understand their services and partnerships, and essential requirements such as substance misuse treatment and mental health support are being met.

No services rated ‘Inadequate’

Last year we rated 70 per cent of the 33 services inspected as ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ compared to 58 per cent in 2018/2019. Staffing, partnerships, IT, and facilities were found to be particularly impressive in these high-performing services. For a second year, no services were rated as ‘Inadequate’ and reinspected services have shown considerable improvement. Across the 108 services we have reported on over the past four years in our annual reports, 55 have been rated as ‘Good’ and 12 as ‘Outstanding’.

Mr Russell continued: “I’ve been particularly pleased to see an improvement in the quality of essential work that services are doing to assess and manage the potential risk of serious harm that children may pose to others, including those close to them and to their local communities.

“Children leaving custody are receiving better support compared to four years ago, and I’m impressed with the range of specialist services available to support children with speech, language, and communication needs. Also, it has been good to see that many children are now getting the assessments they need for autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – though it’s worrying how many only receive a diagnosis when they enter the youth justice system, and often in their mid-teens.”

More children dealt with out of court

This annual report notes that a vanishingly small proportion of children are now processed through formal criminal justice processes – whether through the courts system or a police caution/conditional caution. Instead, an increasing number of children are dealt with via out-of-court disposals. These are increasingly taking the form of a community resolution or an ‘Outcome 22’ – where children are offered support and intervention without receiving a criminal sanction.

Mr Russell added: “There is no doubt we are seeing an increasing trend for managing children who commit crime via informal out-of-court disposals.

“But how these are managed varies widely, leading to inconsistencies across the country in which children receive them and for what offences. Given the overwhelming importance of these informal processes, it is very disappointing that five years after we recommended that the Ministry of Justice publish national data on the number and effectiveness of this sort of out-of-court disposal in 2018, this information is still not available. It remains the case that what is now the predominant way of dealing with children who have committed an offence remains uncounted and unevaluated.”

Concerns around education, training and employment (ETE)

Despite the positive overall inspection findings, the annual report notes that concerns remain around education, training and employment (ETE). The number of recommendations made to services on this issue has doubled since last year, the Inspectorate is still finding services with a high number of older children who are not in any form of training or education, along with high levels of permanent exclusion from mainstream education.

Mr Russell concluded: “This annual report has given me the opportunity to reflect on my four years as Chief Inspector, and the significant amount of time I’ve spent with youth justice services out on inspection. The resilience, compassion, commitment, and imagination they have shown in keeping their services going through the most challenging of times, to meet the needs of the children on their caseloads and keep the wider public safe, have been truly inspiring to me and to our inspectors.”


Notes to editor

  1. HM Inspectorate of Probation is the independent inspector of youth offending and probation services across England and Wales.
  2. The report is available at on 28 June 2023 00.01
  3. The Inspectorate uses a four-point scale: ‘Outstanding’, ‘Good’, ‘Requires improvement’ and ‘Inadequate’. The Inspectorate rates specific aspects of each service and also gives an overall rating.
  4. For media enquiries, please contact (E-mail address)