Waltham Forest’s Youth Justice Service told it needs to improve

His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation said the quality of work for children facing cautions or community service was ‘inconsistent and insufficient’, reports Marco Marcelline

Main image credit: Katarzyna Bialasiewicz via Canva

Waltham Forest’s Youth Justice Service (YJS) has been told it needs to improve.

His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation said the quality of work for offending children facing out-of-court disposals was “inconsistent and insufficient”.

The inspection looked at standards of organisational delivery (leadership, staffing and facilities), their management of children serving court sentences (court disposals) and children serving cautions or community sentences (out-of-court disposals).

In his report the inspector pointed to high staff sickness rates which can impact on operational delivery, while an “overreliance on ‘bitesize’ training” was also criticised as it was not always “fully understood” by staff. 

A further criticism was that YSJ assessments done on how to keep children and other people safe consisted of too much description rather than analysis.

In one case that was inspected, staff used Google Translate in the delivery of services for a child. The scope for potential issues with this approach, particularly in terms of ensuring the child’s comprehension, were not considered, the inspectors said.

This was illustrative of a common theme whereby interventions were “commonly not sufficiently tailored or focused to the child’s needs”, the Inspectorate said.

The report also stated that home visits were not always carried out with the frequency expected while children who didn’t feel safe coming to YJS’s office due to postcode peer rivalries were not always given alternative meeting points.

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Martin Jones, the Chief Inspector of Probation did however commend WJS staff for “showing a genuine desire to listen to voices of children”.

Kizzy Gardiner, cabinet member for children and young people, said the outcome of the inspection was “disappointing”.

In a statement issued to the Echo, she said: “We fully accept the findings and recommendations made by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP). In response, we have restructured the youth and family resilience service in which the YJS sits, and external auditors have reviewed the casefile of every young person known to the service.

She continued: “We have developed a thorough plan with our partners outlining how we are acting on the recommendations, which will be published in full on Friday 24th May as per the HMIP guidance. It is important to note that neither HMIP nor the external auditors have identified any immediate safeguarding risks to children. However, we do not hide away from the fact that there is work to be done to improve.

“Alongside our partners in the police, the NHS, and local education providers we are determined to learn the lessons from this inspection and make the improvements that are needed to provide local families with the service they expect and deserve.”

The full report is available to read here

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