The report was presented by the Operations Manager for Youth Offending Service (YOS) which outlined the current performance levels of the YOS. There were highlights on the work the YOS had been undertaking that included gang crime, knife prevention and child exploitation.
Councillor Redsell declared a non-pecuniary interest as she sat on the Essex Police and Fire Crime Panel. She mentioned using the YOS on previous occasions and suggested that councillors should be made aware of the services the YOS could offer. The Operations Manager for YOS said they were involved with community based projects in which they supervised young people to undertake. There had been good work carried out with past offenders who were making reparations. On reparations, the Chair queried if the YOS worked with probation officers to which the Operations Manager for YOS answered that the YOS worked with vulnerable young people and not adult offenders.
The Church of England Representative congratulated the YOS on the low re-offending figures. She went on to question how the YOS selected their providers to work with. The Operations Manager for YOS replied that schools would approach the YOS as the YOS did not choose. At the start of each academic year, the YOS would send an offer out to secondary schools on issues they could help with such as grooming and gangs. This was part of the Essex Police and Fire Crime Commissioner (PFCC) bid (a partner agency that funded the YOS) which was undertaking prevention work to place these issues as part of the national curriculum.
Welcoming the prevention work idea, the Church of England Representative queried if this would be available to primary schools. She had heard of knives found in primary schools as well. In response, the Operations Manager for YOS said the YOS was involved in a project on transition from primary to secondary school. However, care had to be taken on phrasing words to young children due to peer pressure.
The Youth Cabinet Representative 2 thanked the Operations Manager for YOS for attending a recent Youth Cabinet meeting. Referring to page 59, paragraph 2.11, he asked how the successes of programmes were measured. In reply, the Operations Manager of YOS said feedback would usually be sought from the local community. Also with reparations, it would help the young person to feel a part of the community and for them to give back to the community.
Referring to paragraph 2.18 on page 60, the Youth Cabinet Representative 2 queried if there were plans to expand the programmes. With a firm ‘yes’ in response, the Operations Manager of YOS explained it was part of the PFCC bid as mentioned earlier. There was also training given on issues such as gangs and the YOS’ offer of help was also available to the community on such issues. He went on to encourage the Committee to recommend the YOS to anyone within their community and portfolios who would benefit from the YOS.
Going on to congratulate the YOS on the low 5% re-conviction rate in paragraph 2.13 on page 60, the Youth Cabinet Representative 2 sought clarification on ‘better generic prevention programmes’ mentioned in the same paragraph. The Operations Manager for YOS explained that this was also part of the PFCC bid as mentioned earlier. Being exploited on involved in gangs was no different to any safeguarding issue for children despite the risks presented. There was a lack of national research on successful programmes that worked with young people involved with gangs. The YOS was currently with Gangs Line which will be audited to measure the success of the work and used as evidence for the PFCC bid.
Councillor Redsell commented that the Youth Cabinet had the venue and place to discuss the issues mentioned within the report. The reason was because young people would be within their own peer groups. Looking to the Operations Manager for YOS, Councillor Redsell questioned what plans were in place to prevent children buying knives. The Operations Manager for YOS mentioned that recent tests on knife purchases had been carried out by Community Safety Partnership. These tests had been carried out on small and major retailers and those who had failed would be going through the Licensing Sub Committee for hearing. Councillor Redsell stated the need to tighten control over the sale of knives.
Speaking to Councillor Redsell, the Youth Cabinet Representative 2 stated that knife crime had been the biggest issue in the Youth Cabinet’s ‘Make Your Mark’ ballot. The Youth Cabinet Representative 2 asked the Operations Manager of YOS whether the test purchase of knives was enough to control the sale of knives to young people. In response, the Operations Manager of YOS said this needed to be on a bigger agenda across the country. However, Thurrock had been ahead on knife prevention for a while. Adding to this, Councillor Redsell encouraged the Committee to attend the Essex Police and Crime Panel who would be able to answer questions on these types of issues. The Chair also encouraged this.
Councillor Rigby queried the ages of young people that the YOS worked with. The Operations Manager of YOS answered that statutory work was with the ages of 10 – 17 year olds but this would sometimes go over 17. Prevention work was with 8 – 18 year olds who had not gone through the criminal justice system yet.
The Parent Governor Representative congratulated the YOS on the outstanding work they had done. She went on to say the biggest challenge was knife crime as people were afraid to involve themselves in knife prevention. Safeguarding was mentioned in organisations but knife crime and gangs were not categorised in safeguarding so needed to be incorporated. Agreeing with this, the Operations Manager of YOS said the issue was on language and a solution to move children away from these issues.
The Chair said that the acquisition of knives could also be from the home kitchen. There was a need to advise parents to be vigilant on knives taken from home as well. Questioning the Operations Manager of YOS, the Chair queried how successful the work with Gangs Line was and if the exit programme was doing well. The Operation Manager of YOS answered there had been issues with Gangs Line as they had been pan commissioned by the PFCC to undertake the work. However, Gangs Line had been successful in a recent case and the YOS had been offering support in this as well. Regarding knife prevention, the YOS was currently working with Thurrock’s Communications Team on advertising campaigns around anti-social behaviour and knives. Young people were giving their stories which were another example of restorative justice.
Councillor Rigby questioned whether there were statistics on adults passing knives to younger people. In answer, the Operations Manager of YOS said there was none as it was part of grooming issues where evidence would show this happened.
Referring to the test of knife purchases mentioned, the Vice-Chair queried if it was possible to name and shame the major retailers. The Operations Manager of YOS replied this was not within the remit of YOS and that Community Safety Partnership did not name and shame either. Adding on to this, the Corporate Director said there were risks to naming and shaming. However, enforcement action would be taken and the service would work with young people to prevent them from re-offending.
That the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee noted and provided comment on the update and information provided within the report.