Harrow’s youth offending service needs “drastic improvement” to protect the public from teenage criminals, with an improvement plan being put in place.
A report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation gave the borough a score of 43 per cent on its work to reduce the risk of harm to the public by young offenders, with “substantial” improvement also required to safeguard offenders and reduce the likelihood of reoffending.
The report judged Harrow’s service to be well below the national and London average, and said the risk of harm had only been thoroughly reviewed in 20 per cent of cases, with home visits carried out in 34 per cent of cases.
It added: “Overall, we consider this a very disappointing set of findings.
“Shortcomings in management and staff changes had impacted on the quality of work to manage risk of harm to others and to address safeguarding needs.”
Harrow Council’s cabinet will review the findings and are likely to agree to implement the report’s recommendations on Thursday night, nearly a year after it was published.
It comes two months after Ofsted inspectors found that the borough’s ability to safeguard children and look after those in care only met the minimum requirement, singling out healthcare for the 156 children in care as needing urgent improvement.
The inspection was the first since the system was overhauled two years ago after a review of child protection following the death of 17-month-old Peter Connelly, known as Baby P, in Haringey in 2007. Neighbouring Brent was given a similar ‘adequate’ rating last year, and Barnet was rated as ‘good’ in an inspection in January.
Conservative leader Councillor Susan Hall said the failings of the youth offending service were worrying after she had “expressed significant concerns” over the Ofsted inspection in August.
She added: “We now learn that another inspection – this time of the council's youth offending service – was even more scathing.
“These are important services, relied upon by some of Harrow's most vulnerable and challenging young residents.
“It is therefore vital that any concern or criticism regarding these services is examined with the utmost seriousness.”
Council officers have reacted to the two reports by coming up with an improvement plan and suggesting the recommendations to improve the youth offending service – including keeping better records and involving children and parents in decisions – are implemented.
It has set up an ‘improvement board’ to oversee the plan and will commission an independent inspection of the service later this year to make sure the failings have been addressed.
A separate board will also report back to the council on the implementation of Ofsted’s recommendations to improve the service for children in care, “tackling those areas of greatest risk first and laying the foundations for more effective practice”.
The Harrow Times is waiting for a response from Harrow Council.