Youth offending teams ‘falling short on health obligations’

Youth offending teams in England are still failing to provide adequate health services, according to the Healthcare Commission and the Probation Inspectorate, three years after a criticial review.

In a joint inspection report published today, the two watchdogs said there had been insufficient progress since the 2006 appraisal.

They cited gaps in provision and “clear inequalities” across a range of local authorities, despite a statutory requirement on Yots to ensure vulnerable children who offend receive a consistent level of healthcare.

Staffing difficulties

Resources provided by primary care trusts were deemed inadequate in nearly half the 139 Yots in England, and PCTs’ funding contribution fell between 2006 and 2008, the watchdogs found.

Twenty-four Yots failed to meet their statutory requirement to have a health worker on site, and one-third lacked resources in general health nursing.

Inspectors found the health service faced major difficulties in finding staff experienced in emotional and mental health work who were willing to work with Yots. They also criticised a lack of “contingency planning” to help alleviate long-term vacancies for health staff in Yots.

Young offenders “let down”

A review of 450 cases by the watchdogs showed that nearly a quarter of young people were assessed as having a form of disability. Of those, half had a learning disability, one-fifth had a physical disability and the rest had a disability linked to their mental health or emotional state.

Anna Walker, chief executive of the Healthcare Commission, today accused the NHS of “letting down” young offenders.

“If we are truly serious about breaking the cycle of crime and preventing young offenders from becoming adult offenders, we must make sure that health needs are addressed,” she said. “Primary care trusts must look urgently at how they work with Yots, to improve the way health needs are assessed and to ensure appropriate and timely healthcare is delivered.”

Walker said that, as part of their annual assessment in March, PCTs’ obligations to young and adult offenders would be monitored. Follow-up checks would be carried out if necessary.

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