A PROBE is underway after claims taxpayers’ money set aside to help young offenders steer away from crime was used to pay off a client’s drug debt.
An investigation was launched by Hartlepool Borough Council after claims that crisis cash was handed over to a drug dealer who had been owed money by a client who was being looked after by the local authority’s Youth Offending Service (YOS).
The Mail understands the dealer had visited the client at his home address and taken a television set bought by the service when it became clear there was not enough cash available to clear off the money owed.
It is then alleged when the incident came to light, the client was accompanied by staff from the service to visit the drug dealer and cash was handed over to reclaim the television with a further payment made to bring the matter to a close.
It is not clear how much money was used to clear the debt, though it is understood it was withdrawn from Section 17 cash, which is usually paid out to help young offenders buy items such as clothing or groceries when they come out of the judicial system.
According to Hartlepool Council’s website, the YOS “is responsible for the prevention of offending and re-offending by Children & Young People. The Youth Offending Service is made up of representatives from a wide range of services including Children Services, Police, Probation, Health, Education and the local voluntary/community sector which enables the service to respond effectively to the needs of children and young people (including their broader families) who are at risk of offending or who are involved in offending behaviour”.
Staff from the service, which is housed within Hartlepool’s Middleton Grange Shopping Centre, provides support to youngsters at risk of offending as well as helping youngsters who are subject to the likes of community orders having been taken through the court system.
Hartlepool Council has confirmed that a probe is now ongoing, but refused to elaborate further until the investigation is completed.
A spokesman for Hartlepool Borough Council said: “We can confirm that an investigation is under way to determine whether Council funds were used appropriately in relation to an individual receiving support from our Youth Offending Service.
“It would not be appropriate to comment further until the conclusion of the investigation.”