GOVERNMENT inspectors have criticised work being carried out in Portsmouth to stop young criminals from re-offending, describing it as ‘worryingly poor’.
A report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate Probation has also said that work to manage the risk of harm to others is not good enough.
An inspection was carried out in the city of the youth offending team (YOT) in November and December last year and the report has been published today.
Paul McDowell, Chief Inspector of Probation, said: ‘Published data on first time entrants to the criminal justice system in Portsmouth had showed substantial improvement.
‘However, we chose to inspect in Portsmouth primarily because of concerns arising from the core case inspection of Wessex YOT (of which Portsmouth formed a part) in 2011, which had identified particular weaknesses in Portsmouth, together with higher than average rates of reoffending.
‘The new YOT Management Board has been far too slow to address the previous inadequate performance and to ensure that the required structures and resources were in place to enable improvement to take place.
‘As a result, the YOT continued to be beset by staffing difficulties that had a direct impact on the quality of practice.
‘We found some positive developments in Portsmouth and signs of encouragement in the developing YOT management and staff groups.
‘Work with children and young people assessed as posing the highest Risk of Serious Harm to others or assessed as being very vulnerable, was given priority and was generally undertaken well enough.
‘Case managers engaged with children and young people well.
‘Overall, however, work to reduce the likelihood of reoffending and work to manage the risk of harm to others were worryingly poor and suffered particularly from the long-standing staffing difficulties as cited above.’
Julian Wooster, strategic director at Portsmouth City Council and vice chair of Portsmouth Youth Offending Board, said: ‘Portsmouth youth offending team was formed by eight organisations in April 2012 when Wessex YOT disbanded and we inherited a service which had previously been inspected as ‘poor’.
‘We are disappointed that the inspection 18 months later did not recognise the degree of challenge, or the improvement we have made in turning around a service which was not ‘fit for purpose’.
‘We accept that there is still much to do and were pleased to hear that young people told inspectors that the support they receive is now good.
‘We are confident that we now have the staff in place that are committed to improving the service and we have continued to make progress since the inspection last November.’
Portsmouth YOT was formed in April 2012 following the disaggregation of Wessex YOT into its constituent local authorities.
A further full joint inspection will take place between a year and two years from this date.