Youth offending teams in urban areas (YOTs) fear today’s launch of an intervention system, which the Youth Justice Board describes as “ground-breaking”, could add to their workload.
The Scaled Approach, which has been introduced alongside the new Youth Rehabilitation Order (YRO), represents a tiered system of interventions.
A YOT worker from London told Community Care that the new model could result in greater workloads and more paperwork for urban teams.
“In areas with low rates of youth crime, YOTs will be able to target just a few individuals for intensive support,” the YOT worker said. “This will mean less admin and more face-to-face time with youngsters. But in large urban areas it could mean quite the opposite.”
A YOT administrator from Rochdale who manages referrals said she had noticed an increase in workloads.
“We’ve been preparing for the Scaled Approach for 12 months,” she said. “There is more paperwork and database inputting, but at least it means that the right young people are getting the right help.”
Mike Thomas, chair of the Association of Youth Offending Team Managers, said the use of a new online case management system would reduce the time spent on paperwork and in front of a computer.
Meanwhile, previous concerns over a lack of training and readiness for the new system have been overcome.
In October 2009, 87% of YOTs reported having enough support to run the Scaled Approach successfully, according to a YJB survey.
John Drew, chief executive of the YJB, said: “All youth offending teams have now completed their required 100 hours of training for the Scaled Approach, so we are confident that they are all prepared. We piloted the approach last year and the youth offending teams involved spoke positively about their experiences.”
The YJB has trained 4,000 YOT staff online for the reforms.
But Tim Bateman, senior policy adviser at crime reduction charity Nacro, said aspects of the Scaled Approach were “patently unfair”.
“If two young people commit the same offence but have different risk scores, the higher risk one will be required to meet their YOT more often than the low-risk one, and more often than under the current system,” he said.
In effect, this punished those with social need, Bateman added, because the assessment used to measure the risk of re-offending considered factors such as education, neighbourhood and family dynamics. “Young people who score highest are also likely to be those with the highest level of social need,” he said.
Another consequence could be a rise in the number of young people breaching the terms of community interventions, such as supervision orders. “High-risk young people are also likely to lead more chaotic lives,” Bateman said. “They will be more difficult to interact with and more likely to be unable to stick to these terms. But we still have the same rules around how to treat a breach.”
Likelihood of re-offending
Under the Scaled Approach, the intensity of a YOTs’ work with a young offender will be determined, not just on the seriousness of the offence, but by assessing their likelihood of re-offending.
Young offenders will be graded on a three-tier system: low, medium and high risk. Those in the high-risk category will be required to meet YOTs more often than those deemed low risk, and more often than under the current system.
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