South Tyneside's youth justice service ordered to improve after inspectors find failings, with pandemic hampering efforts to turn around problems

The coronavirus pandemic has slowed efforts to turn around South Tyneside’s struggling youth justice system, according to a Government watchdog.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation has identified a number of area's 'require improvement' at the borough’s Youth Justice Service (YJS)
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation has identified a number of area's 'require improvement' at the borough’s Youth Justice Service (YJS)

A probe by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation has identified a number of areas as requiring improvement at the borough’s Youth Justice Service (YJS).

But despite being marked Requires Improvement in nine out of 12 separate areas examined, assessors were confident that efforts to improve were bearing fruit and may have taken root quicker, were it not for the Covid-19 outbreak.

According to the report’s findings: “A new assessment process has been implemented [which is] an improvement on the previous assessment types.

“However, planning for the safety and wellbeing of children and management of any risk of harm the child might pose to others are inadequate and need significant improvement.

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“Undoubtedly, progress has been hampered by the steps needed to manage the Covid-19 pandemic.

“However, based on the evidence we have seen, there is reason to believe that the planned actions of the YJS will result in improvements in service delivery and outcomes for children in the future.”

The assessment of the service, which is supposed to guide young people and their families through the criminal justice system, was carried out in October (2020), although because of the pandemic this all had to be done remotely.

Despite an overall score of Requires Improvement, inspections marked the service’s governance as Good, while it’s assessments of youngsters preparing to go to court were found to be Outstanding.

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But other elements of its court working were found wanting, while planning for ‘out-of-court disposals’, in which offences are dealt with without prosecution, was found to be Inadequate.

A spokesperson for South Tyneside Council said it accepted the report’s conclusions.

It added: “While inspectors found elements of Good and Outstanding service, we accept that an overall rating of Requires Improvement means we must do better and we are committed to driving up standards.

“We are already working on a robust action plan to address the issues raised by the inspectors.

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“We firmly believe this will improve both the quality of our service and the lives of the young people who use it and enable us to more effectively protect the public.”

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