Sefton Youth Offending Team severely criticised

THE team responsible for targeting youth crime in the borough has been severely criticised in a damning inspection of its work. Sefton Youth Offending Team (YOT) is in need of ‘drastic improvement’, say probation chiefs.

New powers may even be introduced by the government to allow the takeover of the failing unit.

The multi-agency partnership of police, council, health and probation services was formed to prevent offending by working with young people and victims of crime within the community.

They also have a responsibility to work with convicted youngsters to lower the rate of reoffending.

But a report released this week revealed Sefton YOT failed seven out of eight criteria – and did not even have a manager or deputy manager in place when the inspection took place.

The Inspection of Youth Offending slammed Sefton YOT in a number of key areas.

In terms of ‘Safeguarding’ – the protection of children and young people from harm from adults, self or peers – Sefton scored just 28%.

In protecting the public by minimising the risk of harm to others, it scored just 29%.

Both aspects require ‘drastic improvement’ before an urgent reinspection next year.

The YOT was told it also had to substantially improve its work to stop young people reoffending.

Andrew Bridges, HM Chief Inspector of Probation and author of the report, called it “an extremely disappointing set of findings”.

He said: “Seven of the eight inspection criteria require substantial or drastic improvement, and we found very little evidence of effective management oversight of practice.”

Sefton YOT comprises representatives from the police, probation service, social services, as well as health, education, drugs and alcohol misuse and housing officers. The poor inspection raises fears it may lack proper co-ordination.

There had been no manager in post at the time of the inspection and a deputy manager vacancy had existed for some time.

On Wednesday, justice secretary Jack Straw cited Sefton as a reason to bring in legislation enabling experts to takeover failing teams.

The powers could also see the government remove ineffective staff.

He said: “I am determined to step in where youth offending teams are failing our young people.”

Sefton Council is now in the process of putting an action plan together in light of the inspection.

A spokesman said: “We accept that the report is very critical of certain areas of the service and we will strive to make improvements as swiftly as possible.”