When child behavioural expert Charlie Taylor published his review of the youth justice system last month, one of his key, and possibly most controversial, recommendations was the devolution of youth justice strategy to individual local authorities
In recognition of the excellent work being carried out in a number of local authorities, and the increasing financial pressures for councils, Mr Taylor recommended the removal of the statutory requirement to have a youth offending team, along with the ring fence for funding. In the Government response, there’s a recognition that more flexibility is needed, even if the plan is to continue to ring fence that money and continue to work with the YJB and YOTs to make use of the valuable expertise they have developed over the years.
The emphasis on early intervention
So why were Charlie Taylor and the government keen to give local authorities more freedom in this area? There’s a strong link between this thinking and that of the need for more effective inter-organisational co-operation: Mr Taylor emphasised the importance not just of cohesive multi-agency working in response to a child having offended, but of the integration of these services for early intervention work with the child and family before an offence has been committed.
Local authorities, because of their statutory responsibilities (and expertise) in other related areas, including troubled families, youth support services, and education, are ideally placed to be the facilitators in pulling together the complete picture of a young person and to subsequently determine, in partnership with the relevant services, what will best support that child. By analysing the wealth of data they hold, local authorities teams are also best placed to understand and recommend which early intervention strategies would result in the best possible outcome.
For example, if a young person is showing an erratic attendance record at school, and the youth support services have noticed he hasn’t been turning up to targeted youth support sessions lately, further investigation may show whether this is related to a changing family situation, and whether the child, and/or their family, need additional help from other services to get through a difficult period before any problems escalate.
The first ‘secure schools’
Charlie Taylor recommended the establishment of secure schools, run in the same way as alternative provision free schools and staffed by those who have undergone specialist training. The government has subsequently announced that it plans to develop two ‘secure schools’ – one in the north of England and one in the south of England– along the lines of the principles set out in the review.
With these schools needing robust links to health services for a holistic approach to each child’s rehabilitation, effective information-sharing with health, social services, youth services and education data will be key to their success.
Share information for better multi-agency collaboration
With local authorities collating education-related information from schools, including attendance, attainment, exclusions and SEN data, it makes sense to be able to share this with other delivery areas who have responsibility for children’s well-being, including children’s social care departments, integrated youth support services and youth offending teams (YOTs). Rather than having separate systems, with the IT infrastructure headache this represents, the latest technology can provide the whole picture to each professional working with that child so that they can make more informed decisions.
Not only would this enable youth justice teams to determine more easily what would best support that young person, but it would save looking for information, freeing them to spend more time directly with those who need them most. It would see an end to children and families having to answer the same questions over and over to different services, improving their experience as well.
Having the whole picture to hand also supports more informed decision-making at a strategic level, as those responsible for commissioning services can analyse trends across the full range of information to identify patterns and needs, for more efficient targeting of services and resources.
We’ll have to wait and see what the future holds following the publication of his review, but it does seem certain that Charlie Taylor’s findings look to have a significant impact on the way that youth justice is managed going forward.
For further reading why not read our other blogs on the topic of youth justice?
Find out about One Youth Justice and how Capita One can support the youth justice processes within your team, including using IT for improved information-sharing.