Innovation, strong partnership working and an understanding of the issues that impact upon criminal behaviour have all contributed to a reduction in youth offending levels in Doncaster.
Doncaster Children’s Services Trust’s Youth Offending Service (YOS) is making history as, thanks to its work, it has successfully contributed to a considerable reduction in re-offending rates. Two years ago local re-offending rates for young people were amongst the worst in the country. However the latest data produced by the Ministry of Justice indicate that Doncaster now has the 4th lowest youth re-offending rate in England.
The Trust’s YOS is a strong partnership with professionals from a range of sectors, including the police, health, probation, youth justice, social work, education, housing, substance misuse and systemic family therapy, which help it to take an overview of offending among children and young people – and to view them as children first, offenders second.
The latest official data indicates a re-offending rate of 28.1% for Doncaster, compared to a regional figure of 39.6% and an England average of 37.7%
However that’s not the only good news. The number of young people entering the criminal justice system for the first time has also reduced substantially. In 2015 156 young people entered the criminal justice system in Doncaster, but in 2016 this had reduced to 110, representing a 29.5% reduction. This is particularly important as having a criminal record can blight young people’s employment prospects and once young people enter the youth justice system research demonstrates that they are often more likely to re-offend.
This success is in part due to the innovative work to prevent young people from offending undertaken by the recently created prevention service, Team EPIC (Encouraging Potential, Inspiring Change). While the YOS helps children who have offended and entered the youth justice system to avoid re-offending, team EPIC helps to prevent young people entering the criminal justice system in the first instance.
There are also financial savings: the average cost of one young person entering the criminal justice system is £3,620.
Head of Service at the Trust, Andy Hood, explained, “Team EPIC is designed to provide robust alternatives to police cautions, police conditional cautions and prosecutions where young people have begun to offend, thereby diverting first time entrants into the youth justice system using a robust triage model to intervene at the point of a young person being charged.”
It delivers a number of programmes, including the Think Forward scheme, based on building emotional resilience and consequence awareness, while encouraging young people to get involved in programmes and interventions designed to increase aspiration and opportunity.
Andy says that understanding the issues young people face in relation to their offending is crucial to helping the team to formulate an intervention plan to address any issues behind offending behaviour and to build on a young person’s existing strengths.
“Doncaster YOS is committed to the use of whole family approaches to achieve sustained change, so we work closely with Doncaster Council’s Stronger Families programme and use systemic approaches to strengthen families and thereby improve communities,” said Andy.
In addition, suitable accommodation and further education and training opportunities are key to a young person’s success, so strong partnership with the council’s housing services and local schools and education providers are also important.
This is all part of the holistic approach taken – something called for across the country by the government, as part of the recent ‘Charlie Taylor’ Review into youth justice, but which has already been taken on board by the Trust’s YOS.
Meanwhile the team’s Young and Safe programme, delivered through a partnership with Sheffield Hallam University into primary and secondary schools in the borough, aims to stop children and young people being enticed into a life of crime and anti-social behaviour.
This is receiving praise from educational professionals, with Kathy Thompson, Headteacher of West Road Primary School, stating: “Working with the EPIC team has transformed our approach to supporting our most vulnerable pupils. Delivery of the pilot sessions has been highly successful. Team EPIC’s positivity and enthusiasm is inspirational – Young and Safe will make a difference.”
The whole operational work of the YOS service is overseen by a strategic Management Board, composed of senior managers and leaders from partner organisations who have the expertise to challenge and develop the programmes. And Head of Service, Andy Hood, is directly managed by the Chair of the board, ensuring a clear line of sight to the operational practice.
Trust Chief Executive Paul Moffat said: “Helping young people to avoid getting involved in criminal behaviour is not only essential to ensure they as individuals have a more successful future; but it also helps make our local community a safer and more pleasant place to live for everyone.
“By working with our partners and engaging with young people, we are able to show them an alternative to a life blighted by a criminal record; and by getting to the heart of what can lead someone into a life of crime we are helping families to address issues at their source. This is good news for Doncaster as a whole.”
EPIC is set to celebrate its first anniversary with a large-scale Year On event at the Keepmoat on Friday 23 June, to which children and young people, as well as professionals, have been invited to hear about its successful programmes and sample some fun diversionary activities.