The recent Youth Justice Convention provided a good deal of food for thought for anyone working in, or with, local authority children and families services.
There was a clear emphasis on the need to nurture and support families, with the message that, to break the inter-generational cycle of crime, youth offending teams and other key workers working with children and young people should be working with families, not just individuals.
Also evident over the two days was how technology could be used to ensure that workers have access to the key information they need.
For instance, to help understand and target those who may need additional support, youth offending teams need information management systems which can help them pick up on vulnerability and risk so that they can put in place early intervention and prevention work. They need to be confident that they’re using the most accurate data, and receive alerts if there is a sudden change in behaviour, for example, exclusion from school.
The Bradley report five years on
At the Convention, Lord Bradley presented an update of his report five years on and spoke in depth about prevention and early intervention.
There’s clear evidence of the benefits of effective early interventions to prevent or mitigate severe behavioural problems among children at risk of later offending, and growing evidence of the benefits of intervening early when people come into contact with police neighbourhood teams. It’s also key that police have the relevant information about a young person, particularly when this relates to mental health issues.
Lord Bradley called for the ability to recognise earlier the needs of those with mental health and SEN, citing a need for shared knowledge and a common assessment tool which health and social care teams, along with youth offending teams can all access.
Innovative ways of delivering services
It was interesting to hear about the alternative ways of delivering services to empower young people, with one authority speaking about peer courts, where young people decide on the outcomes. One element remains key whichever strategy is followed - that authorities record this information so they have a clear picture of what interventions are having the greatest impact.
Increasingly complex needs
Although youth offending rates are falling, what was widely recognised at the conference was the growth in complex needs from this group.
I’d be interested to hear your views on the best way information management can support the work of services to help prevent youth offending. We’ll be exploring the issue further on the 12 February when we’re partnering with the Early Intervention Foundation to deliver their first National Conference.