Agenda item

Wiltshire and Swindon Youth Justice Services

To receive a presentation on Youth Justice Services.


Michael O’Connor, Youth and Community Transformation Officer at Swindon Borough Council, delivered a presentation about the strategic priorities, and model of practice of the Youth Justice Service in Swindon. The Transformation Officer spoke about the close working relationship with the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office (OPCC) being a key part of their success and noted that Swindon Borough Council was seen as running one of the best Youth Justice services in the country.


Key priorities for the service included deterring poor behaviour, focusing on the children as being children, rather than juveniles, and reducing the use of custody. He highlighted that children not in education, employment or training (NEET) tended to have the high rates in custody but was pleased to report that in the final quarter of 2022 there were no NEET children in custody from Swindon.


Jen Murray, Contextual Safeguarding Practice Lead at Wiltshire Council, then gave a brief overview of their work, explaining that it was about understanding the extrafamilial risks faced by children and young people. She noted that Wiltshire was a pilot area for a scheme to protect children outside of the home. She stressed that they adopted a multi-agency approach, holding regular meetings between different agencies and working with individuals that often interacted with young people, including taxi drivers and librarians. To illustrate the value work that was going on, she shared a case study from Devizes where peer group assessment had been used to enhance services.


James Biggs, National Referral Mechanism (NRM) Co-ordinator for Wiltshire and Swindon, explained that an NRM Panel had been established to help the victims of modern slavery and human trafficking. It was one of 20 such pilot studies being undertaken in the UK, where many children were referred to the NRM Panel, rather than to the Single Competent Authority in the Home Office. The NRM Panel comprised experts form the police, children’s services and health authorities. Its role included deciding whether there were reasonable, or conclusive, grounds to suspect that a young person was a victim of modern slavery.


During the discussion, key points included:


·       The Police and Crime Panel thanked the officers for their updates and praised the positive work being carried out in the Youth Justice System, including their work on early intervention.

·       The NRM Co-ordinator stated that cross border contextual safeguarding meetings were held with Local Authorities in Avon and Somerset and Devon.

·       The NRM had received 14 referrals to date, 10 from Wiltshire and four from Swindon. The five children where there were conclusive grounds that they were victims of modern slavery all came from Wiltshire, four of which were referred by Wiltshire Council and one by Wiltshire Police.

·       The NRM Pilot study started in 2021 and was funded until at least March 2024.

·       The Youth and Community Transformation Officer at Swindon Borough Council explained that the five Ps approach was used to help identify why individuals committed certain crimes. He noted that his team worked with between 30 and 60 children at a time. Wiltshire Council were currently working with 124 children in the Youth Justice System.

·       In response to a query about whether a more cohesive youth service would reduce offending rates, officers noted that it was not possible to quantify but did emphasise the importance of early intervention.

·       It was noted that the Court Disposal Scrutiny Panel would welcome the regular attendance of a representative from the Youth Justice Service.

·       The Youth and Community Transformation Officer highlighted that support was key to try to reduce reoffending rates. He said that there was a need to work with families and connect better with vulnerable children than criminals were able to.

·       The Police and Crime Commissioner praised the work being done by different agencies across the Youth Justice System. He stated that the Chief Constable and he were working strongly on out of court resolutions and spoke about the importance of not stigmatising young people.


Please see Agenda Supplement 2 for further information.

Supporting documents: