Youth offending under spotlight

HARTLEPOOL’S youth offending service is set to be reviewed in a bid to identify strengths and highlight areas for improvement.

The three-day peer review will take place in town between September 25 and 27.

The multi-agency service includes social services, probation service, police, primary care trust and community services including the youth service.

The aim is to prevent offending by youngsters aged between 10 and 17.

Officers at Hartlepool Borough Council stress the review is not an inspection but a chance for a team of specialists to come and assess the service.

The local authority and partners requested the peer review to make sure it is fulfilling its responsibilities and senior councillors have welcomed the review.

The main focus will be the performance of the service on the local rate of proven re-offending.

Staff, young people, parents and carers will all be interviewed as part of the review.

Plans were discussed by independent councillor Cath Hill at a meeting of her children’s and community services portfolio.

A report to the meeting said: “As part of the new approach to youth justice oversight and devolving accountability to local authorities, the Youth Justice Board in partnership with the Local Government Association has developed a youth justice peer review programme.

“The primary purpose of a youth justice peer review is to help a youth offending service and its partners identify their strengths and to highlight areas for potential improvement in the current provision of youth justice services.

“A youth justice peer review will be supportive yet challenging but is not an inspection.”

Coun Hill said: “Peer reviews are almost like free consultants.

“If we are open to everything that they have to say, whether it is good or bad, and take it all on the chin and learn from it then that is the whole point.

“Every service can improve, no matter how good they are and I’m sure that the youth offending department will learn from this review.”

The report added: “It is important to note that a review is not an inspection and should not be conducted like one by either the review team or the council and its partners.

“The review is intended as a learning process involving critical friends in dialogue with the authority and its partners.”

Nick Metcalf, head of youth justice services for Hull, will lead the review together with a team of specialists from other authorities.

Peer review members will look at outcome and performance, governance, partnership and good practice before giving a feedback presentation and putting their findings in writing.