Youth Offending Team

In this assignment I will identify key legislation, policies and procedures that directly influence the work of my organisation. I will identify sources of funding and discuss how these shape the services that are delivered to the service users. My placement is within a Youth Offending Team (YOT), a multi-agency team that is representative of five main partner agencies, Social Services, Probation, Police, Health and Education; in addition to the partner agencies it also contains representatives from Early Break (the child and adolescent drug service), Housing, Blackburn Child Care and Connexions.

Due to the nature of the organisation it is not possible, in an assignment of this size, to go into detailed explanations into the specific policy and legislation relevant to each of the agencies involved, therefore I will give an overview into some of the main features. The main aim of the YOT is to help young people address their offending behaviour by offering holistic, individualised programmes of intervention that attempt to reduce offending, create safer communities, and offer more life chances for young people; alongside this the YOT facilitates restorative justice processes as defined by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.

In order to understand how YOT became the current organisation for working with young people who behave in an anti social way it is important to explore some of the legislation that lead to their formation. The 1950s saw the proposal of a separate Juvenile Court by the Inglebury Committee and raising the age of criminal culpability from 8 years to twelve years; this was lowered to ten by the Children and Young Person’s Act 1963 which focussed more on welfare than punishment, this age limit remains today.

The Children and Young Persons Act 1969 introduced, amongst other things, the concept of Court Reports prior to sentencing, still a legal requirement in many Youth Court matters and a way of ensuring each young person’s case is treated individually. During the 1970’s, Social Services were responsible for all youth crime issues and as such welfare issues were at the forefront of all service provision. The Criminal Justice Act 1982 introduced tougher new measures to deliver ‘short, sharp, shock’ sentences, as the previous system appeared to be ineffective.

The Criminal Justice Act 1991 incorporated, under an anti-collectivist government, a dual approach between welfare and punishment; this is reflected by statute making it a legal responsibility for parents to attend court with any child under the age of sixteen. In addition, this coincided with the ‘Working Together’ document that reflected the principal of parental responsibility as defined by the Children Act 1989.

Improving parenting skills and making parents more accountable for their children’s actions has been at the forefront of New Labour’s Policy, this was incorporated under section 8 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 with the Parenting Order. From my own experience of working with parents in this position their common anxieties were generally around being subject of the Parenting Order itself, it could take several weeks to overcome their hostility. The YOT offers statutory, and voluntary, intervention to parents, and anecdotally it can be seen that there is greater effectiveness in achieving voluntary partnership.

In 1993 a major reorganisation of all Local Authorities was implemented and this lead to the formation of Youth Justice Teams. In 1995 Labour came into power and proposed to ‘get tough’ on youth crime. The white paper ‘No More Excuses’ was published in 1997 and this outlined many of the radical changes that were to be implemented by the Crime ; Disorder Act 1998; this shaped the future in regards to the way youth crime was tackled and defined the formation of multi-agency Youth Offending Teams.

The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 is the main piece of current legislation in the statutory framework surrounding young people who commit crime. The Act’s main principal is ‘preventing offending;’ a radical change from the previous ‘punishment of offenders’ undertaken by the Conservative Government. The Act not only outlined the majority of the sentences that young people are subjected to today, but also defines the way in which the intervention must be delivered, and by whom.

In addition, all service provision must adhere to the principals of ‘Best Value’ as introduced by New Labour. The Government introduced the Youth Justice Board (YJB) for England and Wales, a national governing body for all youth justice, with few formal powers but high levels of funding. Harris, K. (2002) states that “whose responsibility is to ensure that the policy, philosophies and practices of the new youth justice are implemented speedily and fully” The YJB manages ‘the secure estate’ including all Young Offenders Institution’s (YOI), Secure Units, and Detention Centres.

This ‘central control’ should ensure that the care and intervention offered at each establishment is consistent, and effective, in all areas of service delivery. In discussing this with a YOT officer, based in a YOI, she felt that a lack of initial planning by the YJB, into the type of interventions that were to be delivered, had meant that many establishments had been unable to deliver the required programmes within the timescales. From my own experience, I have noted disadvantages with the way secure units have been managed in Britain.

The YJB purchases the majority of the secure placements in England and Wales specifically for young people on remand or Detention and Training Orders, (Crime ; Disorder Act 1998 S. 73) and as a result there are very few beds reserved for young people who are securely accommodated on welfare grounds (Children Act 1989 S25). For example Barton Moss Secure Care Unit is home to 20 young people, of these only 4 beds are available for young people on welfare grounds.

In addition to this issue there is a severe lack of secure unit beds in the country resulting in many vulnerable young people being housed in YOI rather than secure units where they can be offered a more protective and nurturing environment in line with their welfare needs. The YJB produce National Standards that all the YOT’s must adhere to and these outline the number of visits, type of intervention and the reductions in levels of particular offending that the YOT must achieve. The Home Secretary, in consultation with the YJB, sets national Standards. They provide, benchmarks against which the effectiveness of youth justice work can be measured and inspected. ” (National Standards for Youth Justice System 2002) The targets achieved by the YOT determine the funding that it receives the following financial year so if the team do not meet the required targets it could lead to a reduced budget and this will severely impact the services provided. In discussing National Standards with a YOT Officer he considered that although they provided a clearly defined structure for intervention, they were not always in the best interest of the young person as they could be more intrusive than necessary.

In addition to the possibility of over intrusion, he also stated that due to high workload levels the minimum levels of contact required by National Standards are the most realistically achievable level, again indicating a service led, rather than needs led intervention. As a requirement of National Standards an Asset Assessment must be undertaken in regards to every disposal with the exception of Police Reprimands. The Asset is an assessment framework devised by the YJB that takes a holistic approach, incorporating many of the aspects that can lead young people into offending behaviour.

The asset, and all other contacts with young people, must be recorded on the electronic database, named Young Offender Information System (YOIS) and this must be updated at regular intervals as specified by National Standards. Undertaking an asset can be a lengthy process. When I asked a number of the young people who had completed an assessment they commented that they felt uncomfortable discussing sensitive issues with a person they had just met; and I would suggest that heavy workloads prevent multiple visits in order to build up a significant relationship prior to completing an Asset.

The YOT is funded by a pooled budget that comes from a variety of different sources with varying time scales. In discussion this issue with the YOT Manager I was informed that the majority of the funding comes from The Local Authority and Urban Regeneration in the form of monetary contributions; this pays for many of the key posts in the YOT. The Police, Health, Education and Probation contribute members of staff, through fixed term secondments, and small financial contributions.

In addition to the above funding the YJB encourage YOT’s to bid for specific funding through pathway projects, such as my post within the Intensive Surveillance and Supervision Programme Team and Positive Activities for Young People. In discussing the current bidding process with the YOT Manager, he stated that one of the positive aspects of the system was that it allowed YOT’s to try innovative ideas without committing large amounts of valuable resources to permanent projects.

Highlighting disadvantages to this system, he stated that there were no guarantees of success with any bids, and as the funding was time limited, usually for a three-year period, many staff could leave before the end of the project for a more secure position. The YOT is accountable to the Youth Offending Team Steering Group, a team representative of senior managers and representatives from the five main partner agencies, elected council members and the Youth Court.

The role of the group, amongst other things, is to arrange, and attend, regular meetings where information is exchanged, inter-agency difficulties discussed, strategies proposed and targets set. Here everyone from the Partnership ensures the service has the resources to meet its objectives. The Court Users Group has a similar agenda to the Steering Group but focuses on professionals who use the Court; this is however process led and I feel that young people who use the facility are oppressed as they are not invited to, or represented at, any of the meetings, and have no other forum in which to express their views.

The Youth Offending Team also facilitates provision of an appropriate adult service for young people in police custody as defined by The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. In discussing the importance of an appropriate adult with a Police Officer, he felt that the legislation often slowed down the process of processing and bailing young people, but he did feel that it ensured that young people were informed of their rights and appropriately supported. The Children Act 1989 is particularly relevant in regards to any work undertaken with young people.

The Act defines the principals of ‘working in partnership’ with both the family, and with other agencies, this ensures that the services offered by the YOT do not double up leading to conflicting intervention, or that the intervention provided is oppressive. The principal that ‘the welfare of the child is paramount,’ ensures that all professionals consider child protection over all other issues and as such interventions directed by the court, or delivered by the YOT, should not put the child’s welfare to any harm.

Until recently young people sentenced to a custodial sentence were not safeguarded from any harm under the legislation of the Children Act 1989, this was challenged by the Howard League of Penal Reform and as a result, “Welfare safeguards under the Children Act 1989 have been extended to children in young offenders institutes for the first time after a historic ruling in the High Court… the case rested on the harmful effects of segregation and physical restraint which are practiced in young offenders institutes, contributing to high levels of suicide and harm. states Zero2nineteen, (January 2003) Article 5 of The Human Rights Act 1998, in relation to the “Right to Liberty and Security”, outlines the requirements in relation to a person’s liberty and the reasons that it can be restricted. Some young people I have worked with have commented that their detention breaches their human rights so it is important that we are aware of the exact legislation, “Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person.

No one shall be deprived of his liberty save for… the lawful arrest or detention of a person for non-compliance with the lawful order of a court or in order to secure the fulfilment of any obligation prescribed by law. ” (Internet 1) Article 6 relates to the “Right to a Fair Trial” and attempts to ensure that the young people with whom we come into contact do not suffer any oppression from the legal system; this is particularly relevant for young people in regards to publicity.

In some instances young people have their right to remain anonymous overruled by the Court and this leads to a public ‘naming and shaming’; this is particularly relevant in the case of Anti Social behaviour Orders, (ASBO’s) (Crime and Disorder Act 1998 section 1) where young people’s photographs and personal details have been publicised in the local paper, this creates a multitude of difficulties for them.

The prosecution of young people in relation to ASBO’s is undertaken by the Housing Department in Rochdale; this creates a tension between services where one service adheres to the ‘Welfare of the Child’ principals of the Children Act 1989 and incorporates Rochdale’s Social Inclusion Strategy, whilst the other perpetuates the public exclusion of young people. The Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 introduced the Referral Order followed by The Power of Criminal Court (Sentencing) Act 2000 which defined the legal requirements in regards to how the order should be applied.

Home Office Guidance, (2002) states “It is a further step in the government’s strategy to prevent offending by young people, providing a restorative justice approach within a community context. ” The YOT has trained a large number of Community Panel Members who sit, as volunteers, on the Referral Panels and decide the appropriate intervention in each case. The professionalism in which they undertake the meetings, adopting an anti-oppressive manner and enabling active participation from the young people, ensures that the YOT, and the community itself, benefits from the service they provide.

As a legal requirement of the majority of Court Orders, that young people are made the subject of, there must be some element of reparation incorporated into their intervention. Reparation involves the young person undertaking unpaid work to benefit either the victim directly or the community in general. In order to accommodate this work the YOT must undertake a full risk assessment; this ensures that neither party is being exposed to any dangerous/challenging situations.

Within Rochdale YOT the ‘Face to Face’ assessment devised by the YJB is used in all cases of reparation. A full risk assessment must be made regarding appropriateness of the proposed reparative activity. The positive aspect of reparation is that it allows the young person to effectively ‘pay’ for their crime by accepting responsibility, undertaking restitution and then being reintegrated back into the community.

A negative aspect is that some young people lack the insight into the purpose of the work, and as such do not reap the benefits of undertaking a meaningful task that will effectively challenge their offending behaviour and allow them to contribute positively to society. The YOT also has a Victim Liaison Officer, a post set up in response to the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and the policy perspective that, “…. mphasis on public protection and the needs of victims which developed from the late 1990’s, meant that social workers had to acquire a different sense of purpose, one that explicitly included the assessment of risk to others posed by offenders, attention to victims’ views and interests, and a commitment to ‘effectiveness-based’ forms of practice. The offender can no longer be the sole beneficiary of the values of respect, care and humanity which social work has historically brought to the criminal justice process. ” Suggests Davies, (2000)

On speaking to the Victim Liaison Officer she felt the majority of victims had been given a real opportunity to have their views, thoughts and wishes heard in both the legal arena, and also directly to the offender, this helped them to achieve a level of closure from the incident. Another victim found the ordeal of discussing the details of the offence with another person traumatic and as such felt re-victimised. The YOT must adhere to the Data Protection Act 1998 in regards to the storing of personal information; in particular, victims and offenders details must be stored separately.

As a result of the Stephen Lawrence Enquiry leading to the publication of The McPherson Report, The Race Relations (Amended) Act 2000 was implemented; this directs all local councils to produce a Race Equality Scheme that directly affects the services that are offered to service users. Rochdale’s Anti-Racist Policy statement states that ‘The Council recognises that there is racism in the Borough which, if not confronted, will perpetuate its damaging effects on all residents. The Council’s determined to challenge racism and create an environment where all its activities are free from racism.

It would hope and expect its employees to support the Council in this endeavour to achieve equality. In helping the Council to achieve its objectives, employees have the right to expect the backing of management at every level’. In regards to the Victoria Climbie enquiry 2002/3 there has been 108 recommendations that need to be implemented within three month, six month and two year timescales respectively, many of these will directly affect the culture of Social Services, and the YOT, and as such their service provision.

In conclusion, the YOT is funded, guided and legislated from a variety of different sources. The need to meet ever-changing targets ensures that the service is constantly evolving, in response to new legislation, innovative projects and rigorous evaluation, in order to achieve a service that meets the needs of the young people, and victims of crime, therefore creating safer and closer communities.