Young offenders receiving better health services, say inspectors

28 Jul 11
Health services for young offenders have improved in the past two years, inspectors have found.

By Richard Johnstone | 29 July 2011

Health services for young offenders have improved in the past two years, inspectors have found.

Photo: Alamy

An investigation by the Care Quality Commission and the Inspectorate of Probation found that the boards of youth offending teams now include a health worker and almost all have a service agreement with their respective primary care trusts, leading to improvements in care.

However, they also found that teams are still not adequately integrating their offender services with health services. This is despite the fact that more of the team’s budgets are coming from primary care trusts – up from 3.4% in 2008 to an average of 5.4%.

The physical care needs of the children and young people are also still not always sufficiently assessed, and services such as alcohol and substance misuse programmes and mental health support are not being provided consistently.

There is a youth offending team in every upper-tier council area in England and Wales. Their role is to assess all young offenders from the time they enter the justice system, identifying the problems that make them offend and the risk they pose to others. They then identify support programmes to address these problems and reduce the risk of further offending.

The inspectors examined how well children and young people’s health needs are provided for as they move in and out of the criminal justice system. It is based on 19 inspections, case assessments by the probation inspectorate, and questionnaires returned from around 50% of all the 140 YOTs in England.

Care Quality Commission chief executive Cynthia Bower said: ‘Children and young people who offend are more likely to need community-level health support, such as assessment for mental health or learning disability services, alcohol or substance misuse services, but are often one of the hardest groups to reach.

‘We know that where youth offending workers can provide a holistic assessment of young people’s health needs and develop support programmes to support these needs, this can in itself help to address offending behaviour, providing immense benefit to the young person, their future and to their local community.

‘We’re delighted to find considerable improvements in this review but concerns remain that they’re not hampered by future cuts made in relation to the economic climate.’


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