To receive a report from the Director of Children and Families that provides an overview and update on the Youth Justice Plan 2021-24 and the ongoing work that sits underneath the strategy.
The report of the Director of Children and Families provided an overview of the Youth Justice Plan 2021-24 and the work that sits underneath the strategy. It provided an update on each of the workstreams in terms of recent activities, outcomes and next steps. It also considered the impact that the national cost of living crisis was having on children and their families, and how that impacts on offending behaviours.
In attendance for this item were:
· Julie Longworth – Director of Children and Families
· Cllr Fiona Venner – Executive Member for Children’s Social Care and Health Partnerships
· Cllr Jonathan Pryor – Executive Member for Economy, Culture and Education.
· Farrah Khan – Chief Officer Family Help
· Helen Burton Youth Justice Service Delivery Manager
· Patsy Burrows – Head of Service Corporate Parenting
Members were provided with the following information:
· This Plan has been presented at full Council last year and comes to the Scrutiny Board on a regular basis. The report refers to the Child First Philosophy which means that the service sees the children in the Youth Justice Service as children first. It was noted that this did not negate the fact that sometimes they have committed serious crimes, but that they were children.
· The Executive Member encouraged the Board to visit the team, who she said showed compassion and commitment and that the work that they do was inspiring.
· The report refers to issues of poverty and the impact this has on increased offenses being committed. Part of the work the Youth Justice Service do is to support the families and it was noted that the Executive Member had been out visiting to deliver food parcels to the families.
· The service have positive partnerships with CAMHS, the Police the Youth Service and the third sector.
· The service had been part of a HMIP Thematic Inspection which looked at a particular theme of the service and had found disproportionality in Leeds black and dual heritage boys and young men were in the Youth Justice system. It was found in Leeds that a number of the boys and young men were not in contact with the services and had SEND and SEHM needs which had not been identified and therefore they had missed out on opportunities which could help them address this. Members were informed that access to education was important to the service. The Skill Mill which is at Kirkstall Forge is a good example of the work that is ongoing to support to young people, it was noted there is a positive partnership with Skill Mill.
· The report showed that at the last inspection in 2019 the service had received a judgement of ‘requires improvement’. The action plan to address the judgement was included within the submitted report with most of the actions completed. Another Thematic Inspection had taken place recently with positive comments received, although the final results had not been received yet, although the Service was confident, they are on track to improve from out of the ’requires improvement’ assessment.
· The complexity of the work by the Youth Justice Service was highlighted as well as the seriousness of this work. It was noted that not only was there a duty of care to the young people, the families and the community but also to the workforce, and to provide the required training and skills to deal with the complex issues.
In response to questions and comments from the Board the following information was provided:
· It was recognised that there was disproportionality within the Youth Justice system of black and dual heritage boys and young men, however it was noted that they were also many white boys and young men also within the system from disadvantaged backgrounds. Members were of the view they would like to have more data on black and minority groups in the system and what support is available.
· It was noted that the cohort for white/ British was a bigger cohort, and that the disproportionality in the Youth Justice System related to certain diverse communities and children looked after, and it was based on numbers in population rather than just volume. The Chair highlighted pages 22 – 23 of the report which provided information on background, and this was helpful.
· Members were advised that there was good work ongoing with education and support in relation to violent offending, with secondary schools keen to engage with the service on this area of work. The Youth Violence Area meetings which currently take place in the East of the city were going to be opened up across the city, these are Chaired by the police with third sector and local community services invited. These assist with early identification of young people when they are disengaging and showing signs of vulnerability to being exploited or gang affiliation. A task and finish group was to be set up with head teachers to see what challenges they are facing and how best to support them working together. Members were reminded of the work by Listen up Leeds and Black Boy Joy which told how boys and young men were treated by the services and why they had a distrust in justice services. This was being used to inform work going forward. Members noted that in some areas of the city they were seeing the impact of working class disadvantaged white boys in their wards who were not coping with boundaries around them and were causing harm and disruption.
· It was the Boards view that the report was right to have a child first approach, understanding the voice of the child and the motivations for their behaviours was correct. It was suggested that positive case histories could be provided to the Board at a future meeting to assure the Board this approach was successful.
· It was noted that whilst the partnership working has been successful, offending in the city had increased. It was the view that the cost of living crisis and poverty were one of the factors and there had also been a rise in the population of adolescents in the inner city areas. The service believed that the plan going forward would assist in reducing offending. The Board were informed that the Early Help Hubs located in areas of highest deprivation were crucial in assisting to reduce violent crimes. The Hubs provided an area co-ordination of various services from Police, mental health co-ordinators and third sector organisations. There was evidence to support the work of the Hubs in reducing anti-social behaviour through data, intelligence, and targeted work. There is a proposal to expand the Hubs from 3 to 7 across the city.
· In Leeds we use Muti-Agency Child Exploitation (MACE) arrangements and there are different levels within MACE. Bronze operational arrangements have colleagues from Police, social care, education, third sector and Children Services meet routinely to share information from their systems. It was recognised that there were issues with databases and the McAlistair Review had highlighted these issues, so it was to be looked at nationally. The Silver tier, this is a risk and vulnerability sub- group which sits under the local child safeguarding partnership, which again is a meeting attended by multi-agencies and focuses on strategies to provide a clear vision. The Gold level is at executive level. The Board were informed that there is also a MACE contextual meeting with partners from across the city looking at themes, trends, peer groups of concern and locations of concern. An example was provided of where the voice of the child had influenced action taken.
· It was acknowledged that this plan focuses on the Youth Justice Service and the children engaged with that service. A key priority is early intervention and prevention, the data is accurate from our own internal databases and from systems owned by partners. The Family Help Service will be multi-disciplinary delivered on a local dedicated geographical area. This will provide an opportunity to have conversations to shape the Family Help Service.
· Members were advised that the Youth Justice Service has three nurses seconded into the service, one is a physical nurse and the other two deal with mental health, so there is immediate access to nurses for those who are referred to the service.
· The Board were informed that work was taking place to address exploitation of young people with partnership working looking at how to disrupt patterns of the perpetrators across the city.
a) That the Scrutiny Board acknowledges the ongoing strategic framework in place in order to prevent children from entering the youth justice system, and to support and divert those who have entered into the youth justice system in order to have a positive impact on the lives of children, their families and communities, and the work being undertaken by the council and other partners in key areas of activity.
b) That the Scrutiny Board acknowledges the need to promote the work of the Youth Justice Service Plan across the city, across council directorates and wider city partnerships in order to reduce offending behaviours in children and young people across the city.
c) To note the impact of disproportionality on young people from Black and Ethnic minorities with the youth justice cohort to highlight systematic inequalities.
Cllr Heselwood left the meeting at 12:35 towards the end of this item.