- As the current Cabinet Member for Children and Young People I acknowledge that the inspection report presented an unacceptable picture of performance at the time of the inspection in April and June 2014 and I thank the member for asking these questions which will allow me to put on the record the strategy we have developed and the actions we have put in place to rectify the situation. At the time of the feedback from the inspection all involved fully accepted the findings and agreed the imperative had to be to learn from the mistakes of the past and ensure that moving forwards improvement was the only option.
The report reflected the practice at the time of the inspection which took place for one week in April 2014 and then a second week in June 2014. The inspection acted as a catalyst to review the YOS at all levels – strategically, managerially and operationally.
At all levels the practice of the YOS partnership has been scrutinised by not only the management team but all of the partner agencies, and the Local Management Board including the political representatives on that Board. The journey of improvement has been closely monitored by the Youth Justice Board. The process of improvement and change has taken time and the YOS continues to require a high level of vigilance to sustain the changes and fully embed improvement.
There is no quick fix to overcoming the challenges it is facing – but incrementally and collectively we are dealing with those and are on a different journey. The Youth Justice Board has confirmed both orally and in writing that the direction of travel has changed and they are encouraged by recent progress.
- There is a detailed Improvement plan, which has been developed in response to each of the recommendations made in the report of which there were 12. This is reviewed by the Management Board and the Youth Justice Board to ensure that actions are being progressed – and evidence is being provided to both the Board and to the Youth Justice Board to evidence this. I meet personally with the YOS manager on a regular basis and I am apprised of any challenges or barriers which need attention. There is an open dialogue taking place between the YOS management team and board, and a concerted effort is being made by all to make improvements and provide a better and more effective service to the children who offend, their families, their victims and their communities.
Within this overarching improvement plan are a series of smaller action plans which deal with specific issues for example there is one owned by the police to improve their overall ‘contribution’ to the YOS and one by the Education service which seeks to improve the education, training and employment work being undertaken. All elements of the improvement plan are reviewed on a monthly basis between the new YOS manager and the respective leads and then reported back to the management board. As areas of practice in need of development are highlighted through internal audits and such like, so plans are developed to respond to those. All of these are reportedto the Board.
At a strategic level, a successful conference took place last September that has led to increased discussion, challenge and participation at Board meetings - it is not a passive board and we hold each other, and the YOS to account.
Managerially, the YOS has restructured, 50% of the management team has been replaced; roles and responsibilities have been reviewed and amended; managers have had group and individual coaching and are now working as a team which was an area highlighted at the time of the inspection. A raft of new meetings and processes have been introduced the there is a strong emphasis on quality assurance and gatekeeping to ensure that standards are upheld.
Operationally, most of the processes and procedures have been and are being reviewed, new processes introduced; staff have had additional training and are being held to account.
Collectively the Board and YOS are doing all to support improvement. As a whole the YOS is now firmly embedded in the wider structures of Children’s Services. The move from the current premises to a site with other Social Services teams and the introduction of shared administrative and management function will further embed an additional layer of checks and counter checks.
The service is due to be re-inspected at any time 12 months after the publication of the last inspection report and we understand this is likely to be in September 2015 where these improvements will be embedded within practice.
- The YOS Board is a multi-agency partnership and as such all members have collective responsibility for the functioning of the Board not just the Chair. The Board has been strengthened by the addition of the Director of Social Services as a Board member and the new YOS manager, Vicky Self. The Board now benefits from regularly receiving evidence-based reports on performance and now has a clear line of sight into the functioning of the YOS.
The inspection team were clear in the need for the full commitment of all partner agencies and the importance of learning to move forwards. The Board as a whole and the management team of the YOS have taken and continue to take full responsibility for the inspection. The continuity for the Board and some of the management team has been vital in ensuring a full understanding and ownership of the required journey.
My thanks to Cllr Fouweather for giving me this opportunity to explain to members and residents more fully about this issue and I would urge him to lobby his party colleagues in Westminster not to continue with the austerity agenda that puts our public services at such extreme risk and cuts funding to young people who clearly need support and help.