Behavioural warning signs are too often missed
Reoffending by children and young people who commit sexual offences can be prevented, but opportunities to intervene early were often missed by professionals who failed to recognise the significance of their sexual behaviour, according to independent inspectors.
Their report, Examining Multi-agency Responses to Children and Young People who Sexually Offend, reflects the findings of HM Inspectorate of Probation, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission, HM Inspectorate of Prisons, the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales, Estyn and Healthcare Inspectorate Wales. Inspectors focused on the quality of the work undertaken with these young people and its outcomes, how the different agencies worked together and what had been achieved. The inspectors said that these children form a very small proportion of those who offend, but their behaviour is estimated to account for more than a tenth of all sexual offending and the impact can be extremely damaging.
Inspectors found that most children and young people complied with their order, engaged well with work undertaken to address their offending and the majority had not reoffended at all. However, interventions could have taken place earlier.
Inspectors also found that:
- cases were slow to get to court, and took an average eight months between disclosure and sentence, resulting in lengthy periods when little or no work was done with the young person;
- despite some examples of good practice, much work was characterised by poor communication between the relevant agencies, with inadequate assessment and joint planning;
- many young people had complex and multiple needs and positive examples of holistic interventions to address these delivered by a range of agencies were rare;
- once these children had been picked up by the justice system, their chances for rehabilitation improved and they clearly benefitted from the child-focused approach by YOT workers; and
- despite some successful outcomes, there was little evidence of routine evaluation at a strategic level of the quality of effectiveness of multiagency work.
Chief Inspector of Probation, Liz Calderbank, said on behalf of all inspectorates:
“The behaviour of this small but significant group of children and young people can be extremely damaging, often involving other children as victims. Yet the evidence from our inspection is that these children and young people do respond to intervention from the youth offending teams and can be prevented from reoffending before developing entrenched patterns of behaviour.
“We were therefore very concerned to find that a sizeable number of these children had been referred on previous occasions to children’s services but the significance of their sexual behaviour was either not recognised or dismissed. This, to us, represented a lost opportunity, both for the children themselves and their potential victims.”
Within the report inspectors made a number of recommendations to criminal justice agencies, children’s services and social services.
SOURCE: Family Law Week