Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation (HMI Probation) have investigated on the general quality of Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) across England and Wales for the year 2018/2019.
26 inspections including 791 examinations of individual cases were conducted to assess the performance of YOTs in three main areas: organisational delivery, court disposal cases and out of court disposal(OOCD) cases . Performance was assessed against the risk of harm to others presented by young people. 3 YOTs were rated ‘outstanding’, 12 ‘good’, 8 were found to ‘require improvement’ and 3 teams were rated ‘inadequate’.
The research reveals that risk management is variable across the investigated YOTs, although most YOTs performed significantly better at managing cases which go to court compared with those which result in OOCDs.
- Assessment: 70% of the examined services performed adequately for court disposals cases, against 42% of good performance in OOCD cases. 10 services were rated inadequate in relation to the latter.
- Planning: Nearly 54% of services provided adequate schemes for crime prevention or diversion in court disposal cases, while only 34% performed well in OOCD cases.
- Delivery: 61% of services performed well in delivering the above schemes in court disposal cases against only 46% in OOCD cases.
Inspectors found that the lower quality of delivery for OOCD cases is associated with low quality initial risk assessment. This is not due to the level of commitment of individual caseworkers, which appears to be generally high; the study suggests that the issue is rather connected to a lack of national guidance regarding the assessment and management of OOCD cases.
The inspection only takes into account a small portion of Youth Offending Teams across England and Wales, but it nonetheless leads to important considerations about the general functioning of the youth justice system. OOCD cases represent a considerable part of YOTs caseloads and are a crucial tool for preventing, discouraging and diverting young people from offending. Yet, the variable and generally low quality of services especially observed in OOCD cases, associated with lack of a general guidance on how to tackle them at national level, supports the concern that “there is clearly a postcode lottery in the way YOTs handle out of court cases and the resultant outcomes for the children involved.” [Page 40].