Blaenau Gwent & Caerphilly Youth Offending Service (YOS)
Inspiring, motivating and supporting children to live crime free lives.
We will do this by:
- Preventing and diverting children from anti social and offending behaviour.
- Valuing the diversity of children and help them to achieve better outcomes.
- Ensuring children are kept safe and the risk to the public is minimised.
- Providing effective support to families and victims engaged with the service whilst working to ensure safer, inclusive communities.
- Ensuring restorative practice ethos, principles and approaches are embedded in every aspect of YOS service delivery.
- Investing in staff and volunteers to ensure a professional, skilled and knowledgeable workforce.
- Working in partnership.
Who we are
The Blaenau Gwent & Caerphilly Youth Offending Service (YOS) works with 8–17 year olds at risk of, or involved in offending behaviour.
Locally, the service brings together staff from a wide range of organisations including the local authority, police, probation, health, and education. By working together, sharing knowledge, skills and experience, the YOS aims to help children make the right life choices and reduce offending by children.
The YOS also works in partnership to address anti-social behaviour. It recognises the adverse impact anti-social behaviour can have on everyone in a community – both adults and children – and the importance of addressing such behaviour.
Integral to the work of the YOS is the encouragement of children to take responsibility for their actions by acknowledging the harm caused to others and offering a means of putting things right.
Early Support (Prevention).
REACH (Reach, Engage and Change Happens)
In April 202O the YOS merged its two existing prevention projects (Youth Inclusion Support Panel (YISP) - cusp of offending and Promise Project – antisocial behaviour) seamlessly into a new single prevention project called REACH.
REACH has been developed to provide a multi-agency response to children aged 8-17 at risk of offending or displaying anti-social behaviour. In order to ensure that those children and families most at risk receive the help and support they need; the following criteria has been applied:
- The child is aged between 8 and 17 years old.
- The behaviour of the child is of concern to agencies and/or their parent/carers and they consider that the behaviour requires a multi-agency response.
Referrals into the project will be accepted from professionals. The referral should include evidence of the triggers for anti-social/pro-criminal behaviour, as follows:
- At risk of entering the Youth Justice System
- Concerns around anti-social/pro criminal behaviour
- Lack of self esteem
- Substance misuse
- Unsuitable/pro-criminal peers
- Controlling / coercive behaviour
- Anger aggression in the community/school/home
- Exclusions from school linked to concerns in the community
- NEET status (Not in Education Employment or Training)
Involvement with the REACH Project is on a voluntary basis, so it is important that informed consent is gained. That is, the parent/carer and the child are willing to take part and give written consent for the referral to be passed to the project. The referral form includes a consent section.
The REACH project ensures that children and their families receive access to prevention support as well as substance misuse support, family support, mental health access and support, Speech and Language Therapist support and access to community activities following an assessment of need.
The work undertaken by REACH contributes to the reduction in anti-social behaviour locally, prevention of future victims, the reduction in children entering the youth justice system and safer communities.
Children and their families work with REACH on a voluntary basis for 3 - 6 months during which time they are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions, consider the impact their behaviour has on others and build on strengths.
Any agency can refer to REACH, in line with agreed criteria. Once a referral and signed consent form is received, a REACH Key Worker is allocated. The intervention begins with an initial assessment from which a plan is created with the child and parent/carer. The Key Worker will stay in regular contact with the child and family for up to 6 months; in this period, a review is conducted and a sustainable exit strategy (good endings) is developed.
REACH also offers support and services to every child at strike 2, 3 and 4 in Blaenau Gwent and Caerphilly’s Safer Partnerships antisocial behaviour processes. Trained community volunteers provide local solutions to local problems undertaking the role of mentors to children involved in anti-social behaviour.
Youth Respect Programme (YRP)
The Youth Respect Programme works with children aged 10-18 but with specific focus on the 14-18 year olds identified as at risk of offending or re-offending related to domestic abuse. This project looks to provide complementary, specialist targeted prevention, intervention and support services to child perpetrators of domestic abuse; where a child is showing early indications of, or are already exhibiting abusive, aggressive and controlling behaviours in family or intimate relationships. Complimentary support is also provided to the parent(s) to ensure change is monitored and sustainable. Through co-ordinated and effective case management, appropriate and simultaneous support and interventions are offered and/or provided to the victims and their families.
This model of work is supported by the ‘Respect Toolkit’, which seeks to address adolescent abusive and violent behaviours in close relationships whether in the family or in dating or peer relationships. The project incorporates individual and group work.
Children Looked After (CLA)
The YOS also provides preventative services within the “Gwent Protocol to Reduce the Prosecution of Children Looked After 2020 – 22). The protocol is in relation to children aged 10 – 17 years and aims to enhance the good practice already in place across Gwent to meet the needs of Children Looked After.
Most children who experience care do not get into trouble with the law. However, children who are, or have been in care are over five times more likely than other children to become involved in the youth justice system. In a 2013 survey of 15-18-year olds in young offender institutions, 33% of boys and 61% of girls said they had spent time in care.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of The Child (UNCRC) includes preventing criminalisation of children and highlights the importance of this in protecting children. This is particularly true for children with additional vulnerabilities such as Children Looked After. Ultimately the question we must ask is: ‘would this be good enough for my child?’
The Protocol aims to strike a balance between the rights and needs of children, the rights of staff and foster carers, and the decision to involve the Police and/or CPS whilst attempting to reduce the prosecution of Children Looked After wherever possible through effective use of restorative approaches.
The Protocol supports the National Minimum Standards for Children’s Homes issued by the Welsh Government under Section 23 of the Care Standards Act 2000 (CSA). It also underlines the importance of regular and effective liaison between children’s’ homes staff and managers, foster carers, the social worker and managers, the Youth Offending Service/Prevention Team, local Neighbourhood Policing Teams, and Crown Prosecutors.
Harmful Sexual Behaviour
Additionally, the YOS also works collaboratively with Children’s Services in both Local Authority’s using the AIM 3 model. The AIM 3 Model of Assessment is a framework for assessing children who have committed, or where there are serious concerns that they have committed, Harmful Sexual Behaviour (HSB). AIM 3 enables the practitioner to consider the HSB within the wider context of the child’s life. The model therefore considers the child across 5 Domains - Sexual, Non-Sexual, Developmental, Family/Environmental and Self-Regulation. The assessment of these domains creates a graph profile of the child which identifies what areas require immediate risk management (red), medium/long term (amber) intervention as well as what possible strengths (green) exist for the child which can be harnessed to promote desistance from further HSB.
The AIM 3 Model of Assessment is designed to assist practitioners in reviewing with the child and their parent/carer what the most appropriate interventions are to reduce the areas of concern. It ensures individualised safety plans and targeted interventions are in place as the child progresses in their pathway to addressing the HSB
Community Resolution (CR)
Children aged 10 – 17 who have offended for the first time are referred to the YOS to complete a CR. The CR provides an opportunity for children to meet with the victims of their crimes in order to repair the damage caused and work on the factors that led to the offending behaviour. Successful completion of a CR allows the police to take no further action resulting in children not having a criminal record at this stage. Referrals are made by police officers.
Pre Court Services
Children who go on to commit further offences, which do not require decisions to be made by the courts, are dealt with by a Bureau system. At Bureau, police, community volunteers and YOS staff decide on the best outcomes to manage a child’s behaviour in the community and prevent further offending. The options available at Bureau are Youth Cautions and Youth Conditional Cautions but the police officer can also use discretion to charge the child to court.
Supervision in the community
Bail/Remand programmes of work
The YOS has a duty to provide information, bail support and supervision packages created for an individual child when asked by the Court. Whenever a court refuses bail to a child (aged 10-17), the court is required to remand the child to local authority accommodation unless certain conditions are met, in which case the court may instead remand the child to Youth Detention Accommodation. The YOS supports children and families receiving any of the above outcomes.
Where a child is before a court charged with a criminal offence and pleads guilty, the Court can impose a Referral Order. The child is then required to attend a Referral Order panel with their parents/guardian. Three volunteers lead the Referral Order panel from the local community along with a member of the YOS. Under the order the child agrees a contract, which can include reparation to the victim as well as undertaking a programme of interventions and activities to address their offending behaviour. Referral Orders may last for between 3 to 12 months. The conviction is ‘spent’ once the contract has been successfully completed.
Youth Rehabilitation Orders (YRO)
Children under the age of 18 years can be given a YRO at Court, which may last up to 3 years. The YRO can also contain one or more requirements, which will be decided by the Court following an assessment undertaken by the YOS. The YRO will include how many times the child must meet with the YOS. The YOS worker will help the child to understand what they are required to do, will assist them and support them to complete their Order. Much of the work will be about helping the child to think about their behaviour and the harm their offending has caused to a victim. The YOS worker will also help the child deal with problems and difficulties. Assisting a child to access education, training or employment is also very important as this can help steer them away from offending behaviour.
Intensive Supervision and Surveillance (ISS)
Some children require ISS to help prevent them from further offending. A YRO with ISS is usually given to a child who continue to offend, or as an alternative to custody (prison). The child is supervised for 25 hours a week for the first 3 months and is also subject to an electronic curfew (tag around the ankle) and must remain at home between certain hours
There are 2 types of custodial sentences; a Detention and Training Order (DTO), which can be from 4 months and up to 2 years in length, or a Section 91/92 Order, which can be 2 years and more; this Order is only imposed in a Crown Court and is given for very serious offences. Children would serve the first half of a DTO or Section 91/92 Order in custody and the remaining months in the community “on licence” and being supervised by the YOS. The YOS works closely with the Prison and Secure Estate in supporting children who receive custodial sentences. The YOS regularly visit the children and hold meetings with staff, children and their families to plan programmes of work whilst they are “inside” and also planning for release. It is important that all the good progress that is made whilst in custody is continued upon release, therefore we work with the children, their families and other agencies in getting children back into education, training or employment, and supporting them in not committing further offences as part of resettlement plans.
The YOS provide a range of services for parents/carers of children that are involved with the YOS across all of its services. The YOS also works with partnership agencies to ensure that family support can be accessed across both counties from a variety of different organisations to provide sustainable ongoing support.
The YOS runs voluntary parenting programmes, either stand-alone or as part of other projects, to help parents improve their skills in dealing with their children’s behaviour and thereby reduces the risk of offending or re-offending. The programmes give parents and carers individual advice and practical support in handling the behaviour of their children, setting appropriate boundaries and improving communication.
Improving the parenting skills of parents and carers has been shown to be very successful in reducing the risk of children offending or re-offending and also helps to prevent younger siblings being drawn into offending.
If the YOS assesses that children and their families would benefit from a parenting programme, but the parents or carers are not willing to take part, the YOS can apply to the courts for a Parenting Order which compels the parents/carers of a child at risk to participate.
Supporting victims of youth crime
The YOS takes into account victims needs and concerns in all their interactions with victims and the service they deliver.
The YOS operates within the principles of Restorative Justice/Restorative Approaches. Wherever possible and appropriate, all victims of crime committed by children will be given the opportunity to be involved in Restorative Justice processes. In accordance with relevant legislation and guidance, all victims will be contacted by the YOS Victim Liaison Officers (VLO’s) to ascertain their wishes and feelings, update them on the crime committed against them and offer restorative justice/approaches interventions.
Victims involvement is voluntary and made on an informed basis, with adequate information and support being given by YOS victim liaison staff, or from any other supportive agency e.g. Victim Support.
It is the aim of the YOS that victims of youth crime by children feel empowered by their experience in any Restorative Justice/Approaches processes. It is hoped that their wishes and feelings being expressed will support staff in enabling children to recognise the consequences of their actions, to prevent further crime and the creation of further victims.
The YOS works in partnership with local agencies to provide a number of initiatives to support and enable children to raise their awareness and understanding of risky behaviours whilst also increasing their self-esteem and self-confidence. Most of the projects run by the YOS are educational and enhance the skills and knowledge of the children they work with.
Cars and Consequences
Children who attend the awareness day are shown the potential effects of stealing and driving away cars. They are also shown the impact such incidents have on the emergency services. A car crash scene is reconstructed which demonstrates the potentially fatal consequences of getting involved in vehicle crime. A victim also explains the impact of such crime from their own experience.
The Phoenix Project is a Fire and Rescue initiative aimed at children between the ages of 11- 25. The aim of the project is to address issues within children ranging from low self esteem and lack of confidence to anti social behaviour and /or fire related problems such as deliberate fire setting and hoax calls. Phoenix challenges existing attitudes and promotes independent thinking in children by using fire service activities to develop personal attributes such as working as a team, exploring physical and mental limits and promoting and educating children about the role of the fire and rescue service.
Construction Skills Certificate Scheme (CSCS)
To aid children aged 16+ to find meaningful employment the YOS supports age appropriate children in applying for the CSCS card. The CSCS card provides proof that individuals working on construction sites have the required training and qualifications.
Volunteers are an essential part of the YOS and they recruit and train up to 50 volunteers every year for a variety of roles. Volunteers not only assist the YOS in supporting children, their families and the victims of offending behaviour but they also support the YOS undertaking work in the communities they live in. Volunteers are currently recruited by the YOS in the following areas: Mentoring, Community Panel Members, Appropriate Adults, Bureau community representatives and Restorative Justice conferencing.
To apply to become a volunteer please contact the Youth Offending Service