Calls for independent inquiry into ‘inadequate’ youth offending service
Councillors are calling for an investigation into the failures that led to the 'inadequate' ratingby Alex Seabrook
Calls have been made for an independent inquiry into the failures that led to inspectors scoring Cardiff’s youth offending service the worst possible rating.
Inspectors gave the ‘inadequate’ service, which works with young people aged 10 to 17 to prevent youth crime, a rating of 0 out of 36 in July. The service is jointly run by Cardiff council, the police, NHS, and the probation service.
The shocking rating prompted opposition Tory councillors to hold a vote of no confidence in Cardiff council’s Labour administration, which the cabinet narrowly won.
Now, leaders of opposition groups on the council have jointly called for an independent inquiry into what went wrong in the youth offending service and the failures that led to the ‘inadequate’ rating.
The Labour administration criticised the calls for an inquiry as ‘playing politics’ and insisted the service has already improved.
Councillors Adrian Robson (Conservative), Rhys Taylor (Liberal Democrat), Keith Parry (Welsh National Party), and Fenella Bowden (Heath and Birchgrove Independents) signed a letter to the Children’s Commissioner about the youth offending service.
In the letter, the councillors said: “While the service and its management board have published a new improvement and performance strategy, it’s important we understand how it was possible for service failures to go unnoticed, seemingly left unaddressed, and not raised with elected councillors.”
The letter asked Commissioner Sally Holland to help set up the inquiry.
The councillors said: “The aim would be to ensure proper checks and balances exist elsewhere, to prevent harm and promote the wellbeing and rights of children engaged with council services.”
However, the Children’s Commissioner declined to get involved with an inquiry, saying her work needed to focus on what’s happening in the service now and in the future, rather than what went wrong before the inspection.
Ms Holland said: “As elected representatives you will need to decide how best to scrutinise the local authority’s record of support and protection of some of its most vulnerable children.
“Given the current concerns that affect every aspect of the day to day delivery of this service, I feel that my energy in this case should be focused on ensuring that children served by Cardiff Youth Offending Service are protected and provided for now and in the future.”
The Cardiff Labour party hit back at the calls for an inquiry, insisting the service has already improved, and highlighted how the Tories and the Liberal Democrats in national government cut funding to youth justice services across England and Wales.
A Cardiff Labour spokesperson said: “We take this report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons extremely seriously, and the council has responded quickly to address it. The request by opposition parties for an ‘independent investigation’ fails to understand the wholly independent nature of the inspection already carried out by HMIP.
“There is therefore little to be gained from a further inquiry, at significant cost, into how the Youth Justice Service historically was running more than four years ago. The response from the Children’s Commissioner would appear to confirm this.
“Since January, many changes, both in governance structures and operational areas of the service have already been put in place. No major issues have been raised by Care Inspectorate Wales.
“Just as importantly, the National Youth Justice Board governing body and the HMIP are supportive of the work being implemented in response to the inspection.
“The general public will see through this attempt by some opposition parties to play politics with this issue and instigate a ‘blame game culture’, while at the same time their parties in power nationally have instigated a programme of massive cuts to the police, health and other social care services that have directly impacted on youth justice services across England and Wales.”
HMIP will re-inspect the service in December.