INSPECTORS have praised Dorset’s combined youth justice service while also issuing a series of recommendations for improvement.
The service, which covers both the BCP and Dorset Council areas and works closely with Dorset Police, NHS Dorset and the Probation Service Dorset, was rated as ‘good’ overall.
Inspectors from His Majesty’s Inspectorate (HMI) Probation carried out their review of three weeks in September and October, with their findings published in a report released on January 17.
Justin Russell, HM chief inspector of probation, said: “The inspection found that children from the two local authorities covered by the YJS (youth justice service) have access to quality resources based upon their needs and these are not restricted by locality.
“The partnership board ensures that performance, learning, and good practice are effectively shared across the two areas.”
Mr Russell said while there was a strategic focus on working with schools, too many YJS children did not have access to full-time education and there was some disconnect with children’s social care.
Case managers understood dangers of county lines and recognised when children were at risk of or, already experiencing, exploitation, byt there was no agreed understanding of this area across the partnership, the inspector said.
Inspectors gave the service ‘good’ ratings in all areas bar two. It was rated ‘requires improvement’ for out-of-court disposals assessment, while it was ‘outstanding’ for planning related to out-of-court disposals.
Recommendations given to the combined YJS partnership were: Review board arrangements to ensure effective strategic partnerships across the combined area and consider whether additional independent chairing arrangements could improve these.
Develop a shared approach across the partnership to addressing child exploitation and county lines and put a framework in place which promotes effective practice.
Continue to support and challenge all schools to ensure that YJS children receive their full entitlement to education.
Improve partnership working with children’s social care by ensuring YJS case manager involvement in all statutory multi-agency meetings and improve their direct access to children’s social care records.
Cathi Hadley, BCP Council’s director of children’s services, said: “An effective youth justice service is vital in helping young people make positive changes to their lifestyle, keep them safe and secure, and offer assistance and reparation to victims.
“We welcome the inspection findings and the recommendations which will enable us to build on the strong foundations identified by the inspectors.”
Theresa Leavy, executive director for children’s services at Dorset Council and chair of the Dorset Combined YJS, said: “The inspection was a good opportunity to recognise the strong partnership working that we have here in Dorset, and I’d like to thank everyone who delivers services for our children and young people.
“As a learning organisation, we were pleased to get recommendations about areas where we could make improvements and we will be working on those over the coming months.”