Respect “tsar” Louise Casey (pictured) told the conference that the youth justice sector was failing to convince the public that it was working to protect them.
Youth offending teams hid the work they carried out “like some dirty secret” and needed to do more to publicise their success stories, she told delegates at the Youth Justice Convention in Cardiff last week.
YOTs in England and Wales should engage more with communities, including “door-knocking the estate” and contacting local media, Casey said.
The youth justice system was “impenetrable” to the public, she added. This was why communities backed name-and-shame initiatives such as the erection in Bridlington last week of a pillar displaying the names of people who had received antisocial behaviour orders.
“It’s a failure of the Youth Justice Board, it’s a failure of me, it’s a failure of all of us,” she told delegates.
Casey’s forceful speech came at a time of tension between her and the Youth Justice Board, which organised the conference.
A YJB report found that YOT workers considered Asbos to be ineffective, many young people did not understand details of their orders and courts had little grasp of alternatives.
Casey said this encouraged “a sense of hopelessness that nothing works” and that, although Asbos were “not perfect”, they were effective in challenging bad behaviour. However, YJB chair Rod Morgan said the board had simply been reporting the attitudes of the young people and practitioners surveyed.
He told Casey that she had spoken to the workforce “as if they didn’t know that they are working on behalf of the community” and said that everyone in youth justice was aware that was their duty.
Pauline Batstone, chair of the National Association of Youth Offending Team Managers, said Casey wrongly presumed that the workforce was “at odds” with her objectives.