Hartlepool young people turning their backs on crime

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HARTLEPOOL had fewer first time young criminals in the last year – but more youths went on to re-offend.

Hartlepool’s Youth Offending Service says it has seen success in a number of areas over the last 12 months to prevent and support youngsters who enter the justice system.

But staff say there are still key areas for improvement that will form their priorities for the coming year.

They include reducing re-offending further and working more closely with families. Mark Smith, head of Youth Support Services at Hartlepool Borough Council, outlined Hartlepool’s Youth Justice Strategic Plan for 2015-16 to councillors.

A review of the previous year’s plan suggests the number of young people aged between 10 and 17 entering the youth justice system for the first time was down from 50 in 2013-14 to 30 for 2014-2015.

It is said to be thanks to early intervention and preventative work going on between the youth offending service, which also includes representatives from the police, probation, health and voluntary sectors.

The number of young people being held in custody is also down by half year on year from 10 to five youngsters.

But the percentage of young people who go on to re-offend is expected to be up.

And the number of young people given custodial sentences has also increased from one in 2013-14 to four so far for 2014-15.

Mr Smith said the service’s restorative justice work, where young offenders undertake work in the community, has proved a success over the last 12 months.

He said: “We have made full use of the community payback options.”

Mr Smith added taking a whole family approach to working with young troublemakers will also be another top priority for the next year.

“We increasingly recognise if we are going to have a longer term impact with the child then we have got to look at things like parents’ substance misuse, worklessness and making full use of benefits.”

Next Year’s Youth Justice Plan was presented to the council’s Children’s Services Committee for approval.

Coun Sheila Griffin asked if the youth offending team received much opposition from families.

Mr Smith said: “We prefer to work with the young person and their family in partnership. In the vast majority of cases, we get there.”