The latest Research and Analysis Bulletin from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation focuses on multi-agency work in Youth Offending Services. This series pulls together all the data and learning from numerous inspections (in this case 45 YOT inspections carried out between June 2018 and July 2020) to provide key insights. The bulletin starts by quoting from Public Health England’s 2019 evidence review of offending and reoffending, which found that “the youth justice system has very little influence on almost all the causes of childhood offending, so it’s very important that a range of organisations in local areas work together to help prevent children offending and re-offending”. The graphic reproduced in the header image and below is of the CAPRICORN framework (collaborative approach to preventing offending and reoffending in children) and shows the diversity of resources required to help all children realise their potential.
The bulletin sets out the key findings and implications from the inspectors’ analysis:
- Multi-agency work undertaken by YOTs was often of good quality, with appropriate involvement of relevant agencies, sufficient information sharing and tailored collaborative work to facilitate progress in the lives of children.
- Co-location of partner agencies supported effective multi-agency work in YOTs.
- While the YOT work promoted community integration and access to mainstream services in the majority of cases, this was less likely for those children with more previous sanctions and for children ‘looked after’. This is a concern as these children can have complex needs, enhancing the requirement for integrated services and pathways of delivery, with interventions available at the individual, family and community levels.
- There was a sizeable number of cases in which inspectors concluded that insufficient recognition had been given to specific concerns and they disagreed with the ‘low’ safety and wellbeing and/or risk of serious harm classifications. Safety concerns can escalate over time, and well-focused, personalised and coordinated multi-agency activities have the potential to benefit both the children and wider society in the longer term.
Analysis of inspectors’ commentary indicated certain enablers and barriers to multi-agency work in YOTs. Key enablers included:
- Using all available sources of information in assessments that are analytical, holistically understanding the child’s life and how their safety and wellbeing is linked to social context
- Pulling together the various assessments made by partners into a single document which identifies and summarises the sources, facilitating a shared understanding
- Involving all relevant agencies in planning activity with the child, with contingency planning identifying plausible risks of escalation and deterioration, and identifying the actions required by all agencies working with the child
- A focus upon appropriate sequencing, when multiple areas of need are identified, to ensure that interventions are delivered in a way that will have the most impact
- Ensuring YOTs fully contribute to safeguarding processes, especially in relation to child sexual exploitation and criminal exploitation
- Using multi-agency resources and expertise to support engagement and compliance, counteracting identified barriers
- The YOT case manager acting as a champion for the child to other agencies and services.
The bulletin concludes that these enablers highlight the importance of taking an analytical, holistic and outward-looking approach, fostering a common understanding. The inspectors argue that there is clear value in thinking creatively about how agencies with a welfare or educational focus can contribute to engaging the child and their families, promoting positive development while at the same time paying attention to any safety concerns.
They also recommend an investment in up-to-date laptops and smartphones, mobile printers, and WiFi boosters to enable YOT practitioners to enhance multi-agency working and direct work with children. Finally inspectors raise the issue of children who are digitally excluded and recommend that the state seeks to remedy this exclusion.