Knowsley Council’s Children’s Scrutiny Committee on 20 July 2023 received an update on children in the Youth Justice System, as well as the positive inspection outcome for the Knowsley Youth Offending Service which was undertaken by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation.
The Committee received updates from all partners who work with children in the borough to prevent them from offending, including representatives from the Council, Merseyside Police, Health services, Education and the Youth Offending Service (YOS). This multi-agency working is essential in identifying children’s needs and working with them to provide early help to divert them away from offending.
The Scrutiny Committee heard that this work has resulted in a year-on-year reduction in children from Knowsley entering the youth justice system, but that there is still more to be done.
Knowsley’s Youth Offending Service delivers a child-first approach which ensures every child (and their family) is supported to address the underlying features of their thinking and behaviour, empower them to take control of their lives, manage transitions and plan for a successful future.
The majority of children (67%) being supported by the Youth Offending Service are aged between 15 and 17 years. A high number of these have complex needs and / or have suffered ‘adverse childhood experiences’, which could be issues such as emotional or sexual abuse, physical or emotional neglect and domestic abuse. To put this into perspective, only 9% of the overall population has experienced four or more adverse childhood experiences – for those young people engaged with Knowsley YOS, the figure is 62%. Supporting these young people therefore requires highly targeted support and intervention.
There is a strong multi-agency (including the Council, Police, Health and Education) approach to addressing issues and supporting children and their needs in Knowsley. This includes:-
- The Council has significantly invested (£650,000) in prevention services in response to an increase in youth violent crime in 2021, with incidents reducing in 2022. The STEP (Support, Together, Empower and Prevent) Service is now established, which supports children and young people who are at risk of committing criminality or of exploitation. The team are currently working with 63 children and their families on targeted support.
- Ensuring children’s needs are met through embedding a ‘trauma informed’ approach across the service.
- Specialist support is provided to address a range of issues including health and wellbeing, mental health, speech and language, substance misuse and education.
- Development of the YOS Strategic Annual plan 2022, which was graded as ‘Outstanding’ by the Youth Justice Board. The 2023 plan has been submitted and key priorities are serious youth violence and supporting children with complex needs.
- Promotion of diversionary activities in the area.
- Improved relationship with schools, through utilising schools police officers and social workers in schools.
- Investment in more innovative interventions, such as virtual reality programmes on knife crime and gangs.
Knowsley Youth Offending Service has reported a number of successes this year, including:-
- A “Good” outcome following the inspection undertaken by HMI of Probation Inspection. Five of the twelve areas were judged to be “Outstanding”. Further details about the inspection outcome can be found here.
- Knowsley YOS, alongside the other four Merseyside Youth Offending Services, and the Merseyside Violent Reduction Partnership, won the Howard League for Penal Reform Award in the children and policing category. The award was for Operation Inclusion, aimed at tackling weapons and violent offences through targeted support and early intervention.
- Knowsley YOS are currently awarded the Special Education Needs and / or Disabilities (SEND) in Youth Justice Quality Lead Award. This recognition is provided by the Youth Justice Board and identifies that Knowsley YOS goes ‘above and beyond’ for children with SEND in the youth justice system and support is tailed to the needs of every individual child.
Cllr Margaret Harvey, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said “The report presented at the Children’s Scrutiny Committee highlighted the positive work being undertaken by our Youth Offending Service, particularly given the complex needs of the children they are supporting.
“Our Youth Offending Service is committed to meeting the needs of children, recognising the multiple issues of trauma, domestic abuse, poverty, education, Special Educational Needs and / or Disabilities, exploitation, substance misuse, knife crime, youth violence and other emerging themes.
“We will continue to work with our partners to ensure we are effectively responding to the needs of our children and families.”