HM Inspectorate of Probation conducted a routine inspection of Sheffield Youth Justice Service (YJS), part of Sheffield City Council. The YJS works with 10 to 18-year-olds; some are serving court sentences, while others have been given conditional cautions or community resolutions instead.
The Inspectorate looked at 12 aspects of Sheffield YJS’s work and has awarded an overall rating of ‘Good’.
Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell said: “Staff at Sheffield YJS are highly knowledgeable, skilled and well trained. They take the time to develop positive relationships with children and young people, and tailor work to meet individuals’ needs. As a result, we have rated this particular aspect of the service ‘Outstanding’ – our highest mark.”
Sheffield YJS is based at Star House in the city centre, alongside several other services for children and young people. Inspectors concluded the set-up was a child-friendly environment and helped the YJS to develop close ties with partners.
Mr Russell said: “Sheffield YJS is delivering good-quality work with children and young people who are serving court sentences or being diverted from the criminal justice system.
“The YJS has built up a strong network of partnerships. Children and young people have quick access to a wide range of targeted and specialist services to help them move away from further offending.”
Inspectors noted the YJS plays an important role in Operation Fortify, which tackles serious violent crime across South Yorkshire. Staff at the YJS have been trained to identify children and young people who are at risk of being exploited for criminal purposes. The YJS also works alongside other organisations to map and analyse patterns of criminal activity, and to develop measures to divert young people away from serious violent crime.
Inspectors identified two main areas for improvement.
Inspectors found too many children known to the YJS were not in education. At the time of the inspection, more than a fifth of children were excluded from school for a fixed term.
Mr Russell said: “We saw many examples of YJS staff supporting excluded children to take up other forms of education and learning. However, this does not tackle the root cause of the problem.
“Every child is entitled to receive an education and the YJS needs to address this at both a tactical and strategic level. We recommend the YJS work with education providers to reduce the number of exclusions. There needs to be a representative from the council’s education department on the YJS’s Management Board – there has been a gap of more than a year and this is hindering progress.”
The Inspectorate has also recommended the Board takes further action to improve staff safety and wellbeing. Better policies and equipment could help staff to deal with sometimes difficult young people and situations more safely.
Mr Russell added: “There is much to commend Sheffield YJS and, with some development, an overall rating of ‘Outstanding’ is within reach.”
Councillor Jackie Drayton, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families at Sheffield City Council said: “For our Youth Justice Service (YJS) employees to be rated ‘Outstanding’ is a fantastic achievement. The comments made by the Chief Inspector are a credit to all those who work so hard every day to help young people lead better lives.
“We are working hard to address the areas for improvement, with a clear aim to make sure every child is in education. We know that with an extra focus in these areas, YJS will be well on their way to achieving an overall rating of ‘Outstanding’.”
Councillor Abtisam Mohamed, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills at Sheffield City Council said: “The areas of improvement highlighted in this inspection refer to school exclusions. It is not the first report to highlight the need for exclusions in the City to be reduced. As many will know, reducing school exclusions is one of my key priorities, having campaigned on this for many years now.
“It is essential that all children have access to consistent, high quality education and my ambition is for all Sheffield children to be in education and I will be working with the Youth Justice Service to help them achieve this.”