A report from HM Inspectorate of Probation argues that, although Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) are working well, more can be done in order to support young offenders and ensure public safety. Training is needed to provide greater understanding of the effects of childhood trauma and on the links between social media and youth crime.
The aim of the report was to analyse YOT practice in relation to public protection. This involved considering the effectiveness of the assessment tool AssetPlus, the impact of traumatic events and social media on youth crimes which affect the public and the efficacy of processes such as governance and interventions in managing the risk of serious harm. The findings showed that most YOTs were in the first year of using AssetPlus and only one of the six sites visited were fully utilising the platform [page 10, paragraph 4]. Of the cases examined, over 75% of children who had committed sexual, violent and/or other offences had experienced emotional trauma in their past. This was from a range of sources such as sexual abuse or separation from parents. The report also found 25% of cases displayed a direct correlation between the young person’s social media usage and the offence they committed [page 18, paragraph 3]. Social media was also found to be having an impact on other areas of the young person’s life, for example as a mechanism for bullying or the escalation of feuds, leading to violence.
- The Youth Justice Board should provide guidance enabling YOTs to better account for the impact of trauma on children’s lives. They also need to update AssetPlus training material to improve the quality of planning and ensure it reflects young people’s views;
- Youth Offending Team Management Boards should make sure that practice takes into account traumatic events, review their understanding of young people’s interaction with social media and increase their awareness of the work YOTs are doing with young people at greatest risk;
- Youth Offending Teams should design services that take into the account trauma experienced by young people and update resources and guidance for responding to social media offences. They also need to review the implementation of AssetPlus and make sure that internal intervention planning and review meetings are effective and properly recorded [page 11].
- Understanding of the impact of trauma on behaviour and capacity for change could be improved through more systematic and evidence based approaches [page 23, paragraph 6];
- Clear links were found between the use of social media and offending. Practitioners therefore need clarity on their powers to track activity and paths of action they can take [page 23, paragraph 7];
- YOTs gave high priority to protecting previous and potential victims of young people who have offended and produced high quality reports for court and referral order panels [page 32, paragraph 2/3];
- The standard of frontline management was high and YOTs received good levels cooperation when working on cases. Management Board members would benefit from engaging with YOTs and learning more about frontline practice [page 39, paragraph 2/3].
The findings of this report highlight the importance of taking into account a child’s background and prior experiences when providing care. More needs to be done in order to keep up with technology and the impact it is having on children’s lives. The report notes the progress made since the last inspection but also takes into account areas for improvement. Suggestions have been made to both the Board and frontline services as to how the situation may be remedied.