Agenda item

County Durham Youth Justice Service - Overview, Performance, Service Developments and Improvement Plan 2022/23


The Committee considered a report of the Corporate Director of Children and Young People’s Services, which provided an overview of the Youth Justice Service (for copy see file of minutes).


The Head of Early Help, Inclusion and Vulnerable Children, Martyn Stenton and Youth Offending Services Manager, David Summers, gave a detailed joint presentation of the County Durham Youth Justice Service, performance and development plans.


Members were informed that the service was operating above national and northeast averages in the three national measures of first time entrants into the Youth Justice system, re-offending rate was better than regional figures but similar to national figures and custodial sentence rates, adding the remand bed-nights statistic presented represented across the year for those remanded in custody awaiting sentencing. Members were informed of other work carried out by the service including the work done with victims of crimes and that additional funding for this work came from County Durham and Darlington Police and Crime Commissioner.  Members were advised of the support groups that had been set up With Youth in Mind which was an activity based support group and was currently working with 52 young people. It was noted that offenders had partaken in 1,247 hours of reparation, which was unpaid work in various forms, and included making things to sell and raising money from the sale of bling poppies for The Royal British Legion and Autism Awareness, the latter being a charity chosen by the young people.


The Committee was informed of an inspection carried out by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP) in August 2022 and published in November 2022, adding that the overall rating of requires improvement was disappointing for the service. The key area for improvement was the out of court disposals. Members attention was drawn to the areas of young people in custody/high risk of harm for which the service had been given an outstanding rating, and the court sentences which had been rated good with 100% positive feedback. Members were informed after the inspection an improvement plan was submitted to HMIP in November which was still awaiting a response with no issues expected. With regards to work done by the service in relation to young people in custody/high risk of harm, it was noted that the authority had been seen as an exemplar of good practice. It was further noted that the service was receiving additional funding of £360,000 over two years from the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) for the Turnaround Programme.  The service was looking to develop a link for early help with a one point service to intervene earlier with young offenders and to employ a family support officer to help with those in the early stages of anti-social behaviour and who were coming to the attention of police. 


Mr Balls congratulated the team on the re-offending rate and suggested that it was still higher than would be liked.


In response to questions from Councillor D Sutton-Lloyd, the Youth Justice Manager clarified that the custodial sentence figure given was not a percentage, but the rate of young people receiving custodial sentences per 1000, with the figures for 10-17 years equating to 10 or 11 young people. The aim was to ensure that those who received custodial sentences, this was the only option available. Members were informed that re-offending performance information of 33.9% was an overall figure. The Youth Justice Manager noted that ideally, he would like the figure to be lower, adding the courts review all young people at court and explained that the service works with these young people and two out of three do not go on to reoffend in the future. The Head of Early Help, Inclusion and Vulnerable Children added that they would try to bring the young people through using the Youth Justice system if possible. He advised that the young people had more welfare issues than criminal.


Councillor Reed congratulated the service for their outstanding part of the inspection and asked in relation to the improvement plan if further detail could be given in relation to any changes made to the service.


The Head of Early Help, Inclusion and Vulnerable Children advised that it was a technical inspection framework. The service had not given the same level of detail in less complex cases as it had done on the most complex cases and gave a proportionate amount of information, but inspectors expected the same level of detail on all cases. The cases referred to were at the earliest stage, those cases where young people were most persistent offenders were graded as outstanding, noting that the MoJ had advised other Local Authorities to use Durham’s models. 


Councillor D Oliver expressed concern that the inspectors had not yet approved the improvement plan and the resulting delays that this will cause the service in implementing the changes.


The Head of Early Help, Inclusion and Vulnerable Children advised that the inspection findings had been put in place and the service was still waiting for a response due to issues with the inspection framework. Following the inspection, the service had implemented a robust action plan and no comment from the inspectors indicated there were no concerns.


Councillor P Heaviside asked if once the improvement plan was approved could it come back to committee. 


In response to questions from Councillor Heaviside and the Chair, the Committee were advised that the improvement action plan would be appended to the Annual Youth Justice Report and both the annual report and action plan would go to County Council before being presented to the Safer and Stronger Communities Committee.




That the contents of the report be noted and that the committee receive the improvement action plan at the same time as the Annual Youth Justice Report.


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