Budget cuts 'impacting on rehabilitation of young offenders' in Walsall
Savage cuts to youth services in Walsall are impacting on the rehabilitation of young offenders in Walsall, a damning inspection has found.
Walsall's Youth Justice Service has the lowest budget in the region and a watchdog said the impact of persistent cuts was "becoming clear to see".
The HM Inspectorate of Probation, which rated the service as 'requires improvement' also said a lacking of funding was "affecting the quality of work with troubled children" to help them turn their lives around.
Inspectors said services that aim to divert children away from crime and antisocial behaviour had been cut and that in 2016 there were 13 youth centres in the town, of which only one is open today.
The service, overseen by Walsall Council, supervises 10 to 18-year-olds who have either been sentenced by a court or committed minor offences and are being dealt with outside the court system.
Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell said: “Walsall Youth Justice Service is attempting to minimise the impact of these savings but the effects are becoming clear to see. Key posts and facilities have been lost and the workforce has been operating at, and on occasions beyond, capacity.”
Mr Russell expressed concern about the service’s work to manage risks and protect the public.
Risk of harm
He said: “Work to identify and manage risk of harm to others and the protection of victims needs to improve, as it has lost focus and receives very little attention at strategic or operational level.
“As the service no longer has a victim worker in post and there is no lead for this area, it is easy to understand how this has happened. It is difficult to see how the situation will improve without additional resources.”
Despite the criticism, the watchdog praised the service’s work to prevent children and young people reoffendings and said staff are committed to providing an effective service and to improving the lives of children and young people.
However, inspectors also found that "too many" children and young people supervised by the Youth Justice Service are not in school, training or employment.
Mr Russell said: “As we have noted in other regions, children and young people need to be able to access education, employment and training because it is the key to their futures. Progress in this area has been too slow and we urge Walsall Council to work with partners to address this gap. There has not been a suitably senior, dedicated representative from the education service on the Management Board in the past year.”
Councillor Tim Wilson, children’s services boss at Walsall Council, said: “The YJS is on a journey and we are committed to building upon the excellent work identified by the inspectorate to reduce re-offending that occurs within the service and the partnership with children’s social care which is achieving positive outcomes for Walsall children.”
“We recognise the challenges highlighted within the report and are committed to ensuring that we have a robust model in place to achieve better outcomes for victims of youth crime.”
Councillor Garry Perry, chair of the Safer Walsall Partnership said: “Partnerships are a strength of the service and I’m pleased the inspectors found that children and young people have access to a wide range of quality services and interventions.”
“The YJS is leading the way in terms of understanding the emerging issues of criminal exploitation and knife crime and the report identifies that the workforce is committed to engaging with vulnerable young people”
“We will work with the YJS to understand the effect of disproportionality in the youth justice system and improve educational outcomes for Walsall young people.”