Agenda item

Flintshire Youth Justice Service - Overview


(a)           That the Committee express support for the positive work undertaken by the Youth Justice Service and its impact on children and young people; and


(b)           That the Committee sends a letter to the Youth Justice Board to deplore the late confirmation of the annual funding for the Youth Justice Services in Flintshire.


            The Chief Officer introduced James Warr, Operations Manager, Youth Justice Service (YJS) which sat within the Integrated Youth Provision.  This report provided an overview of the statutory responsibility of this service which was very important but also had a number challenges. 


            The Operations Manager provided an overview of the work of the YJS which was a small service within the portfolio.  All Local Authorities were required to have a YJS which would vary depend on the population and needs of that organisation. The service had a wide remit which had shifted and changed over the years.  Originally the work was centred around court work and court orders but this had changed and was now focused on prevention and early help offer to identify and tackle issues early within our communities.


            The Operations Manager then provided information on the statutory Governance through the Crime & Disorder Act and an Executive Management Board which was chaired by the Chief Executive with the service Chief Officer as Deputy Chair.  The service worked closely with their partners which now included more organisations.   The service was required to provide a Youth Justice Plan which was revised annually.  The service was inspected by HM Inspectorate for Probation and had received very favourable inspections in the past.  He explained the upcoming inspection, service priorities and the impact of criminal exploitation such as county lines and child exploitation.


            The service also provided support to colleagues in education to reduce the number of exclusions and was developing programmes to divert these pupils from longer term exclusions and provide interventions to minimise the risk of criminal exploitation. 


            The challenge was working with reduced resources and still providing a service to the community. There were risks and challenges for the service with uncertainty of funding from the Youth Justice Board: it arrived late, in June or July which impacted the service greatly and militated against effective planning.


            Councillor Dave Mackie remembered being very impressed by this service when he was first elected. He said that the late funding issue was not acceptable. He suggested inviting the Youth Justice Board to attend Committee to explain this. He was also concerned at the local Analysis from January to June 2019 which said that   27% of children not accessing 25 hours in school and was concerned that this was a very high percentage.


            The Operations Manager explained the local analysis was for the 66 young people and that the size of the cohort was split with young people who should be receiving statutory education and post 16 young people. At any one time that could mean eight young people who did not receive that education.  It was not that this was not offered and went on to explain the challenges with parents, roles of schools and other challenges.  Recognition of the wider issues such as modern day slavery and county lines was also included in this. 


            As regards the funding question this was something that the Chief Executive and the Management Board had highlighted year on year and that the Local Authority took the risks of the staff being on temporary contracts. 


            The Chief Officer said that the committee could write to the Youth Justice Board as this was a considerable risk to the service, creating uncertainty for staff with the service then losing good people because their future could not be guaranteed.  The Chair agreed and sought the appropriate recommendation for this.


            Councillor Geoff Collett was concerned at the reference to ‘unpaid work.’   The Operations Manager replied that the service employed a project manager who visited communities to procure projects for people to complete their unpaid work hours for their court orders and out of court disposal and provided information on the various projects in the communities and schools. 


            Councillor Gladys Healey asked what was being done to educate our young people to not carry knives.


            The Operations Manager said the statistics in the Youth Justice Plan were for last year and demonstrated the offenses and outcomes which were delivered but the figures were constantly changing. Programmes were being developed within the Youth Justice Centre and also working within Education to provide schools with access to those programmes.  There had been an increase in substance misuse and knife offences. Schools required support with this and the service had presented a number of options to Head Teachers.  A Knife Crime Task Group had been formed to ensure resources were targeted where needed.  This would enable a multiagency approach to be deployed in an area considered to be at risk to provide reassurance and engage with those young people.


            The Chief Officer explained that this was in addition to the personal and social education programme delivered in primary and secondary schools supported by the school liaison officer.  She also welcomed the emphasis Welsh Government was now placing on this in schools.


            Councillor Heesom said it was a very good report and fully supported this service and but there was a real issue in addressing the needs of young people out of school because the funding was not there.


            Councillor Martin White asked whether the Board was represented on the Early Health Hub. It was confirmed it was. 


            Councillor Kevin Hughes referred to the county lines issue saying that this was not a new problem and would always be there.  The Chief Officer said it was the use of new technologies that was making things more difficult.  The Operations Manager added then when a group was removed by the Police they adapted and set up another line very quickly.  This was very difficult for the police and as a result the criminal exploitation of young people continued.


            Mr David Hytch commented that the underlying theme was of a neglected service as regards funding and staffing.  Weapons in schools may not a huge issue at the moment but this needed to be stopped before it escalated. The Operations Manager confirmed there was a very skilled highly trained team in place and that the Board had assisted them to gain funding to obtain the right staff members for the service.  

            The Chief Officer suggested the Committee could write a letter expressing concerns regarding funding but understood the board was currently without a Chair.


            The Chair thanked the Operations Manager for his attendance and the committee for their engagement with this item.


The resolution within the report was proposed by Councillor Dave Mackie and seconded by Councillor Janet Axworthy.


Councillor Heesom abstained on this vote.




(a)           That the Committee express support for the positive work undertaken by the Youth Justice Service and its impact on children and young people; and


(b)           That the Committee sends a letter to the Youth Justice Board to deplore the late confirmation of the annual funding for the Youth Justice Services in Flintshire.


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