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West Mercia Youth Justice Partnership told it could improve

By Jordan Reynolds | Crime | Published:

The partnership that provides youth justice services across Shropshire and beyond has been told it could make improvements.

West Mercia Youth Justice Partnership was subject to a recent pilot inspection and was told it required improvement.

The partnership provides youth justice services across Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin, Hereford, and Worcestershire on behalf of the four local authorities.

The service is a partnership between the four local authorities, the National Probation Service, West Mercia Police, the NHS and the office of the West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner.

Youth justice partnerships are judged on the number of first time offenders, the number of offenders sent to prison, and the level of re-offending.

The number of first time offenders to the youth justice system, aged 10 to 17, is higher across West Mercia than nationally, with 354 per 100,000 last year locally and 295 per 100,000 nationally.

The number is lower than 2016 when it reached 408 per 100,000.

And West Mercia is "significantly better" than the national performance regarding the number of first time entrants being handed custodial sentences.

The rate of re-offending is also lower in Shropshire than nationally, but the number of re-offences per re-offender is higher across West Mercia than nationally.

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A recent pilot inspection by HM Inspectorate of Probation found the service to require improvement.

Of the 12 standards in the inspection, seven were found to be good, four to require improvement and one to be inadequate.

The inspectorate said: “There are many strengths of the youth justice practice in West Mercia. Staff carry out assessments of children and young people and implement and review court orders well.

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"Their planning is not as strong, although managers have taken recent action to improve the planning skills of their workforce.

"Staff have a strong focus on the safety and well-being of young people and place a high priority on continuity of the relationship between professional practitioner and the child or young person.

"That relationship is the basis for achieving positive change for children and young people who have offended. Work to protect victims and apply restorative justice principles is less well developed.

"There is a well-supported management board; however, there were areas where the board could have done more to drive the service.

"They had not developed an effective response to the relatively high number of first-time entrants, and information-sharing between the youth offending team and children’s services was short of current best practice. Additionally, West Mercia does not have a clearly stated vision for its service.”

The inspectorate made a number of recommendations to the service to improve. After the inspection, the service developed a plan, which has now been merged into a wider youth justice plan.

Among the priorities, the plan aims to improve multi-agency engagement at high risk and decision making meetings, ensure young people’s mental health needs are met, review and improve policy and practice in relation to out of court disposal, and anticipate and mitigate future risks to the long term delivery of their vision.

The partnership has undergone significant change during the previous 18 months.

As well as significant change in the leadership team, it has restructured the services changed its information systems, and updated its assessment framework.

Shropshire Council's people overview committee will scrutinise West Mercia Youth Justice Partnership’s youth justice plan at its meeting on Wednesday.

Jordan Reynolds

By Jordan Reynolds
Reporter - @jreynolds_star

Reporter for the Shropshire Star covering Shrewsbury and the surrounding areas.

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