SWANSEA Council is to re-create a youth offending service after the regional body it is part of was slammed by Government inspectors.
Cabinet members said they were glad to take back full responsibility for the service, which supervises 10 to 18-year-olds who have been sentenced by a court, or who have come to the attention of the police but dealt with out of court rather than being charged.
Councillor Will Evans told the meeting: “This administration is determined to a provide first-class and effective youth offending service in Swansea.”
In 2014 the Swansea service became part of the Western Bay Youth Justice and Early Intervention Service, which also involved Bridgend and Neath Port Talbot.
HM Inspectorate of Probation found the governance and leadership of the regional service was ineffective, and there was confusion in processes and procedures, leaving some children and young people in unsafe situations.
Inspectors said a health representative had not attended a board meeting for 12 months and attendance by other board members was variable.
They cited good areas of practice – including an out-of-court disposal scheme and the Swansea-based intervention centre – but also said none of the three authorities had taken appropriate responsibility for the work of the service. Cllr Evans said the move from a regional to a standalone service was “likely to be cost-neutral”, and that early intervention work would be key.
Councillor Jennifer Raynor said Swansea’s previous youth offending service was “one of the highest rated” in the UK.
“It is very depressing to see what has happened,” she said. “If some of those key players don’t turn up (to meetings), such as the police and crime commissioner’s office, there are questions to ask.” If meetings were late, she said, because efforts were needed to make them “quorate”, there are “serious issues”. Cllr Raynor said joint management boards should be delivering outcomes rather than focusing on internal management issues. She said she was not shocked by the inspection report, and added: “There seemed to be structural issues which actually hindered the benefits and possible outcomes for clients.”
Cllr Raynor said there were lessons to learn in terms of how boards operated. “I’m thinking of ERW (Education through Regional Working) in particular,” she said. Council leader Rob Stewart said regional working was encouraged by the Welsh Government and “it was incumbent on all partners to play their full part”. He added: “Non-attendance at regional boards is not something that can be tolerated.”