Vulnerable young offenders in Newham will have either a social worker or a youth offending team (YOT) worker, but not both, under plans being considered by the east London council.
Child protection concerns would take priority over youth offending issues and social workers may have to take the lead on children who are involved in gangs or who commit sexual offences.
But Community Care understands social workers fear they have insufficient training to take on such cases alone.
A spokesperson for Newham Council said the plans were part of the borough’s major transformational change programme which would reconfigure some of its social work teams into preventive teams.
“We are also keen to reduce duplication between YOTs and social care so that we make best use of our resources.” he said.
However, social workers would have access to YOT advice in cases with youth offending concerns, he added.
In a letter to Community Care Nicky Rayner, divisional director for families, people and youth offending, and Lorna Hadley, head of vulnerable young people for the council said it was part of the council’s committment to “one family-one plan” and would not reduce the range of interventions available to young offenders.
“Our proposed structure offers consistency and continuity to our most vulnerable young people. This will be provided by one worker, but that will, of course, not prevent us from using specialist workers to deliver support and/or interventions.”
The letter states that the council is moving one complete team of social workers and additional managerial oversight into the youth offending teams and the integration of their safeguarding skills in the team would benefit young offenders who would otherwise not have had a social worker.
It also points out the council is prioritising its early intervention work with young people at risk of youth offending to try and reduce the number of entrants to the Youth Justice System.
YJB chief executive John Drew said the government had emphasised in the sentencing Green Paper the enormous contribution made by YOTs to the success of the youth justice system and this was due largely to their multi-disciplinary nature.
“YOTs are well placed to develop innovative approaches to the challenges ahead in our complex and changing environment,” said Drew. “We are keen to meet Newham to understand more about this plan and how it fits with legislative requirements.”
Mike Thomas, of the Association of Youth Offending Team Managers, would not be drawn on Newham’s proposals specifically but said any changes councils were considering to YOT teams needed to ensure an appropriate range of interventions were still available and workers had sufficient training in dealing with adolescents.
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