Care Quality Commission
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Working with children to prevent crime needs better evaluation, say inspectors

The work to turn children away from crime needs to be more focused and to be evaluated better, said independent inspectors who have recently published a joint report on youth crime prevention.

Many adults in the criminal justice system began offending in their childhood or early teens at a time when a number of factors made their offending more likely. HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, HM Inspectorate of Probation, the Care Quality Commission and Healthcare Inspectorate Wales examined the approaches to child crime prevention, visiting seven local authorities and examining 75 individual cases where children aged 8 to 13 had been referred for interventions to prevent offending.

Inspectors confirmed that a number of factors in a child’s background can make that individual more likely to offend. The report emphasises that it is difficult to turn some of these children away from crime, but details many examples of prevention work that were having a positive impact on children’s lives.

Inspectors found impressive partnership working and considered approaches to youth crime. However, better coordination and improvement in identifying what works, both locally and nationally, is needed.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • the quality of key workers was impressive, including their knowledge of and commitment to the children they were working with;
  • once a child had been identified and assessed, entry onto a prevention programme was generally swift; and
  • the scope of interventions varied widely and there were some very simple, inexpensive but successful interventions.

Inspectors believe some processes could be refined and better managed, and were concerned that:  

  • there was little co-ordinated evaluation of interventions which have achieved longer term success;
  • a number of aspects of the underpinning processes and assessment frameworks were overly bureaucratic;
  • health services were not integrated to the same extent and did not always see themselves as key to prevention; and
  • the short-term nature of some funding and the different reporting requirements caused concerns about future continuation.

The inspectors said:

“The scope of interventions to prevent youth crime varied widely. Some work was very simple, inexpensive but successful. In some cases, however, it was difficult to understand why a particular intervention was made as it did not appear to address the issues raised at the child’s assessment. The quality of intervention plans ranged from those which were clear, time bound and reviewed to having no plan at all. A significant minority of these plans lacked detail, outcome milestones and an exit strategy. There was little evidence of any local evaluation either of individual interventions or of the longer term outcomes for children. Better evaluation would enable everyone to see what works and improve the ability of practitioners to turn young people away from crime.”

Notes to editors

1. A copy of the report is available at www.hmic.gov.uk or from our website here.

2. HM Inspectorate of Constabulary is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing in the public interest, and rigorously examines the effectiveness of police forces and authorities to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMIC inspects and regulates all 43 police forces in England and Wales together with other major policing bodies such as the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the British Transport Police and HMRC.

3. HM Inspectorate of Probation is an independent inspectorate, funded by the Ministry of Justice, and reporting directly to the Secretary of State on the effectiveness of work with individual offenders, children and young people aimed at reducing reoffending and protecting the public.

4. The Care Quality Commission is the independent regulator of health and social care in England. The CQC regulates care provided by the NHS, local authorities, private companies and voluntary organisations. Its aim is to make sure better care is provided for everyone - in hospitals, care homes and people's own homes. The CQC also seeks to protect the interests of people whose rights are restricted under the Mental Health Act.

5. Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) is the independent inspectorate and regulator of all healthcare in Wales. HIW’s primary focus is on: making a significant contribution to improving the safety and quality of healthcare services in Wales, improving citizens’ experience of healthcare in Wales whether as a patient, service user, carer, relative or employee, strengthening the voice of patients and the public in the way health services are reviewed and ensuring that timely, useful, accessible and relevant information about the safety and quality of healthcare in Wales is made available to all.

6. The inspection team visited seven local authority areas – Derby, Stoke on Trent, Bristol, Enfield, Newport, Hartlepool and North Yorkshire – and examined 75 individual cases where children had been referred for interventions to prevent offending. The inspection team spoke to practitioners and managers of children’s services, police and health. This thematic inspection is one of several which, with the Core Case Inspections, form the three-year Inspection of Youth Offending programme co-ordinated by HMI Probation.

7. Interventions aim to enhance the “protective factors” and reduce the “risk factors” present in a child’s life which make antisocial and offending behaviour less or more likely. The work can be broadly grouped into four aspects – the family, school, neighbourhood and individual. Risk factors could include low educational achievement, poor parental supervision and discipline, hyperactivity and impulsivity and lack of neighbourhood attachment. Protective factors could include a resilient temperament, stable, warm relationships with one or both parents and prevailing attitudes across a community. For further information on risk factors and protective factors, see the Youth Justice Board’s publication Risk and Protective Factors, http://www.yjb.gov.uk/Publications/Scripts/prodView.asp?idProduct=246&eP=.

8. Please contact Robert Stansfield (HMI Constabulary Press Office) on 020 7802 1824 if you would like more information or to request an interview.