Developing the self-esteem, and the communication and social skills of young people trying to stay away from crime is a priority for youth offending teams. In a report published today, Estyn, the education and training inspectorate for Wales, recommends that youth offending teams improve the opportunities these young people have for education and training, as well as getting better at tracking progress in improving their skills and behaviours.
In its report, ‘The quality of education and training for young people engaged with youth offending teams’, Estyn evaluates the impact of the 15 partnerships across Wales known as youth offending teams or YOTs. These teams support young people referred from the courts, or are at danger of offending or of getting into trouble with the law. The teams comprise of social services, the local authority, the police, probation and health services. The young people they work with can have complex needs such as speech and language difficulties, mental health issues and family problems.
Meilyr Rowlands, Chief Inspector, says,
Young people who are supported by youth offending teams spend too little time in education, training or employment. Youth offending teams need to work more closely with colleges and work-based learning providers to improve the range of opportunities available for these young people.
These services are working with young people who do not always have the resilience to overcome the challenges they face. It is therefore vital that young people’s access to education is improved, and their progress is recorded carefully so that this information can be used to help improve opportunities for education, employment and training.
The report highlights how linking with local professionals can help find a suitable educational placement for a young person. However, only in a minority of areas do YOTs work in this way, for example in the Vale of Glamorgan and in Newport. Collaborative approaches like these are helpful, particularly in reducing the risk of young people disengaging from education. Further good practice and anonymised case studies about individual young people are outlined in the full report.
Inspectors also recommend that all youth offending teams have a dedicated co-ordinator for education, employment and training, develop strategies to promote literacy and numeracy skills, and extend management board membership to include local education and training providers.