Report praises YOT service delivery during pandemic but warns of severe backlog
A new report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP) praised Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) for overcoming difficulties in the pandemic but highlights severe backlog of cases and insufficient access to technology for many children.
A new thematic review of probation and youth offending services in England and Wales found a strong early response to COVID-19 but warned that more work is needed to tackle longer-term challenges.
The report warned that a 55% increase in the backlog of cases due to the temporary closure of youth courts was causing anguish for victims and uncertainty for accused children. The proportion of children in custody on remand also rose to 38%, despite the total number of cases falling.
Inspectors also found that in 47% of cases children ‘did not have sufficient access to technology for school work and virtual communication,’ warning that ‘urgent attention’ was required in the face of potential further national, regional and local lockdowns.
Speaking to The Guardian, Peter Kyle, the shadow minister for victims and youth justice, said: “Delays at youth courts mean many months more anguish for traumatised victims, and more uncertainty for accused children.
“A decade of Tory cuts and closures left our youth courts on the brink of collapse even before the crisis began. The Tories must come up with an urgent strategy to make sure justice can be served.”
The report did however have praise for how various agencies in youth offending services adapted their partnership working saying that “in the main, the children and families in our sample were able to access critical services”
Pre-existing issues with children known to YOTs often experiencing difficulties in accessing and maintaining education were ‘accentuated’, however, due in part to a lack of suitable IT.
There were also concerns about parents who are victims of child and adolescent violence, with new pandemic arrangements causing problems balancing attempts to reduce the child’s challenging behaviour and support the victim at the same time.
Some adapted methods of service delivery plan to be kept, even after the pandemic restrictions are eased, with direct contact taking place in outdoor settings with what is described as ‘walk and talk’. Virtual meetings between professionals by video conference were also recommended to be continued due to the improved attendance of professionals at these meetings and the time saved.
The HMIP is recommending that YOT management boards should identify the backlog of cases that are being processed through courts and ensure that there is sufficient workforce capacity to deal with increased caseloads.
Read the report and its recommendations in full at https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation/inspections/edmyouth/
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