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Friday 20 September 2013

Watchdog praises ‘high standard’ of Council’s youth offending service – as new figures show sharp fall in youth crime


A top watchdog has hailed the ‘high standard’ of Cheshire East Council’s youth offending service – and new figures show it is also helping slash teenage crime.

The independent HM Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP) report comprehensively praised the Council team’s core work of reducing offending, protecting the public and safeguarding young offenders. It also praised the ‘enthusiasm’ of managers and staff.

It comes as new figures reveal Cheshire East saw its offending rate for youngsters fall markedly in the past year.

In 2012/13 the percentage of youngsters aged 10-17 who offend was 0.7 per cent. This compares with 1.1 per cent last year and a current national average rate of 1.3 per cent.

The number of first offenders also fell sharply by 34 per cent in the same period, from 644 offences to 438.

A key role of the Council’s youth offending service (YOS) is to work with youth justice partners to identify youngsters at risk of entering the criminal justice system and successfully divert them away from anti-social behaviour and crime.

Penny Kay, the Council’s head of youth engagement, said: “This is great news. Lower levels of youth crime and anti-social behaviour incidents are the result of excellent partnership work.”

The HMIP report identified Cheshire East’s YOS key strengths as:

● An ‘investigative approach’ to assessments that ensures information is checked thoroughly and acted upon;

● Managers ensure staff have the right tools to enable young people to complete their sentence;

● Excellent innovative work involving partnership agencies;

● Staff ‘work hard’ to help young people complete their court orders;

● Case managers are ‘particularly good’ at building relationships with young people and undertaking home visits to help ‘understand issues thoroughly’.

Only one area for improvement was identified – to reduce sometimes excessive background information used in initial assessments.

Councillor Rachel Bailey, Cheshire East Council Cabinet member in charge of children and family services, said: “This fantastic result is very welcome news for residents of Cheshire East and is a credit to the real commitment of our youth offending service staff.

“Ensuring that all our teenagers get opportunities to make a positive contribution is vital. Effective responses to young offenders are essential for keeping our communities safe.

“The youth offending service has delivered high-quality and innovative services for many years and this report is an excellent endorsement of their work. The benefit this brings to all aspects of need within our children’s and families service is immeasurable, in particular our vulnerable and potentially-vulnerable children. I am grateful to all the team for being such a proactive partner.”

The HMIP report highlighted for praise two innovative schemes introduced by the YOS to reduce the risk of reoffending by young people.

The ‘My Change Plan’ – a child-friendly planned intervention strategy completed with the young person – was described in the report as ‘an excellent initiative to get young people to recognise and take ownership of the work they need to do to stop offending’.

While Project 17, a joint scheme with Cheshire Probation Trust to support the successful transition of young people from youth justice to adult probation supervision, was praised by inspectors as showing ‘excellent examples of joint working with young people’. Project 17 also won recognition as a finalist in a national justice awards scheme.

Tony Crane, the Council’s director of children’s services, said: “I am delighted at this excellent outcome for the youth offending service. It is well deserved by a team that have worked hard to make continuous improvements to their practise. They are never complacent and always look to develop their approaches to challenging young people.

“This is welcome evidence that our decision to develop a plan to join up our services to concentrate on prevention, whilst allowing us to develop a high-quality and responsive service to youth crime, was the right approach for Cheshire East.”

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