A NEW official report into standards at Cardiff’s Youth Justice Service (YJS) has identified significant improvements in many areas.

The report, by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP), comes after a three-week review of the YJS, which works with children aged 10-18 in Cardiff to help prevention of offending, reducing offending by those children in the system and make sure custody is only used when necessary.

It comes after an earlier inspection, in 2020, rated the service as ‘Inadequate’. In the reinspection, carried out during March and April this year, the service – made up of a partnership of South Wales Police, the National Probation Service, the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and Cardiff Council – has been upgraded to ‘Requires Improvement’.

“Cardiff YJS is making progress and has made considerable efforts to address the issues we found in 2020,” said Justin Russell, the Chief Inspector of Probation. “It is now better equipped, in key areas, to deal with the needs of children under their supervision, improve their lives, and protect the local community.

“While a rating of ‘Requires Improvement’ means it still has some way to go, Cardiff YJS is showing signs that it can, and will, continue to develop.”

Among the improvements noted in the report are:

A large reduction in those coming into the justice system as the YJS finds better ways to prevent risk and providing challenge and support;

A reduction in reoffending by children; and

A reduction in the use of prison sentences as the judiciary now has confidence in the local services’ ability to oversee community orders.

The new report, which includes a number of recommendations, including encouraging the YJS to focus attention on improving the quality of court disposal casework, will now inform a revised strategy for youth justice services in Cardiff which will be launched in September and which draws on the views of children, staff, partners and councillors.

After the critical 2020 report was released, the YJS published ‘All Our Futures’, a two-yearplan to transform youth justice in Cardiff and made four pledges designed to improve the way it tackles the risks which some children in Cardiff face, including being targeted for criminal exploitation:

Make sure leadership and management are focused and effective;

Make better use of shared data and analysis to support children and assess services;

Make sure staff across services can work together effectively; and

Improve the offer to children and families to make sure services ‘achieve our goals’

Among the first steps taken was reshaping the leadership structure of the YJS, including appointing Graham Robb as the independent chair of the Cardiff Youth Justice Board, which oversees the YJS. In 2020, he said:

“The strategy has been developed with staff, young people, Council and partner organisations so it is a very powerful collective statement of the aspirations Cardiff has for some of the children most likely to cause harm or be harmed by others.”

Now, following the publication of the new report, he said: “HMIP has recognised three key pillars supporting progress:

The commitment of leaders to make real change happen;

Leadership and staff who now work in proven ways as a team and with partners such as police, education, health and probation; and

Improved analysis of the work being done and the outcomes for children

“But above all, this is about helping staff working with partners, including in the community, to find the best ways to work with children and their families. This gives the best chance of good outcomes for communities, those harmed and the children themselves.”

In a joint statement, Cardiff Council leader Cllr Huw Thomas, the chair of the Cardiff Public Services Board, Charles Janczewski, the vice-chair, and Alun Michael, the South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner, said:

“This inspection shows us that children in Cardiff who offend are now being better challenged and helped to improve their life chances and that victims of crime are being better supported.

“We congratulate all those who have worked to achieve this improvement, especially as it was undertaken during the two years of maximum COVID impact.

“The report also reinforces our own analysis that the foundations are now right and the next years will see further substantial improvement.”

 

By Gwynoro Jones

Former MP for Carmarthenshire, Gwynoro Jones joined the team covering politics in Wales. He has a wealth of experience in politics and has been a regular commentator on radio, TV and in newspapers in Wales. Email: gwynorojones@walesnewsonline.com

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