Portsmouth's youth offending work criticised as 'poor'

Prison interior The Portsmouth Youth Offending Board said it was committed to improving the service

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Government inspectors have criticised youth offending work in Portsmouth for not doing enough to stop reoffending or to protect victims.

An HM Inspectorate of Probation report said the city's youth offending team failed in several key areas.

It also performed poorly in protecting children and young people. Management and staff shortages were blamed.

In a statement, the chair and vice chair of the team said they were disappointed by the findings.

They added that they were confident its problems could be turned around before the next inspection.

Portsmouth Youth Offending Team (YOT) was formed in April 2012 following the break-up of Wessex YOT into its constituent local authorities.

Paul McDowell, chief inspector of probation, said: "The new YOT management board has been far too slow to address the previous inadequate performance and to ensure that the required structures and resources were in place to enable improvement to take place.

"As a result, the YOT continued to be beset by staffing difficulties that had a direct impact on the quality of practice.

'Worryingly poor'

"We found some positive developments in Portsmouth and signs of encouragement in the developing YOT management and staff groups.

"Work with children and young people assessed as posing the highest risk of serious harm to others, or assessed as being very vulnerable, was given priority and was generally undertaken well enough.

"Case managers engaged with children and young people well. Overall, however, work to reduce the likelihood of reoffending and work to manage the risk of harm to others was worryingly poor and suffered particularly from long-standing staffing difficulties."

Supt Stuart Murray, chair of Portsmouth Youth Offending Board, said the team was committed to improving the service and to carrying out the recommendations in the report.

"Our ambition is to be assessed as good or outstanding in all areas when we are reinspected in one or two years."

Julian Wooster, strategic director at Portsmouth City Council and vice chair of the board, said the service it inherited in 2012 had previously been inspected as "poor" but accepted there was "still much to do".

He added: "We are disappointed that the inspection 18 months later did not recognise the degree of challenge, or the improvement we have made in turning around a service which was not 'fit for purpose'."

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