Cardiff City Hall. Source: Tony Hisgett (via. Wikimedia Commons)
Social Policy

The sorry tale of Cardiff’s Youth Offending Service

Last month on this blog, James Wallice rightly highlighted that our children deserve better than this Welsh Government. But the problems affecting children and young people go much further than the Welsh Government writes Councillor Adrian Robson.

There is no clearer example than the sorry tale of Cardiff’s Youth Offending Service (YOS). The YOS, which has the primary aim of reducing youth offending in the city, is led by a multi-agency management board including the Police and Crime Commissioner, Careers Wales and the courts. Much of the responsibility for the YOS lies with Cardiff Council including the Cabinet Member.
In July Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation published their inspection into the Cardiff YOS. The report was dire. It rated the service as “inadequate” – the lowest possible rating and gave the service a damning score of zero out of 36.

Many will be familiar with inspection reports, reports by Care Standards Inspectorate, Estyn school and education inspections. There are always areas of good practice highlighted yet there was none for the YOS. If this had been an inspection report on for example, Cardiff’s education service or social services then the Welsh Government would have put the Council into special measures.

To give an idea of the seriousness of this inspection, it is worth examining a few quotes from the report:

“The Youth Offending Service’s arrangements for governance and leadership, staffing, partnership and services, and information and facilities all failed to meet our required standards.”
“Frameworks and guidance were not sufficiently developed. There were outdated policies and procedures; a lack of adequate management capacity; an absence of effective systems and processes for management oversight of both risk of harm to others and safety and wellbeing”
“Partners do not understand or recognise their own agency’s statutory responsibilities and contribution to the YOS”
“The YOS partnership did not utilise sufficiently the National Referral Mechanism for protecting children being groomed by adults to take part in ‘county lines’ drug supply activity. This led to a need to grow knowledge and expertise from the ground up in the absence of robust guidance and management oversight. The consequence of this was that some children were not receiving the right support to keep themselves safe, meet their wellbeing needs or lessen risk to others.”
“Inspectors saw no adequate plans or clear accountability for progress against recommendations made after the previous HMIP inspection, in 2016.”

Damning comments and the last point shows that concerns highlighted in the 2016 inspection had essentially been ignored, leading to young people being put at risk. The seeds of failure were already sown but Cardiff Council and the other partners did nothing to address them.

The 2020 inspection also showed that, at a council level, all the checks and balances to pick up on the issues in the YOS had failed. Cardiff’s Young People Scrutiny committee, the Audit Committee, the Corporate Parenting Advisory Committee, the corporate risk register, the performance management reports either contained or were given no real indication of the trouble the service was in. It has left many Councillors wondering whether other council services are in or could fall into a similar position? It has also demonstrated one of the risks of multi-agency working, namely who is ultimately responsible and are more junior partners willing or able to take a full role in these services?

At the July Council meeting, Cardiff Conservatives tabled a motion of no confidence in the Labour administration. Labour’s slim majority saw them narrowly survive but during the debate we saw Labour’s arrogance in full flow, with not even an apology forthcoming to those who have been failed by the service, let alone any Cabinet member considering their position.

It is therefore vital that Conservatives continue to challenge Labour’s failure to support our young people; whether it be via the Welsh Government or from our County Halls. Our children deserve better but to be able to implement these changes needed Welsh Conservatives must first win the Senedd elections in 2021 and then take control of more Councils in 2022. Otherwise Labour’s arrogance and complacency will continue, and it is the most vulnerable who will suffer.

Cllr Adrian Robson is the Leader of the Opposition on Cardiff Council and a Conservative Councillor for Rhiwbina.

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