Dedicated youth workers could be returning to Dorset

Dedicated youth workers could be returning to Dorset

Published by Maria Greenwood at 8:09am 12th September 2019.

Director of children’s services Sarah Parker said she hopes to set up more support services for adolescents.

The idea is to work directly with young people at risk of offending or risky behaviours – including re-introducing ‘attached’ youth workers.

She told councillors on Tuesday that offending behaviour in young people was often as consequence of trauma in their lives.

"We will be putting greater capacity into locality area (local teams) and ensuring we have better links with schools." 

The service is also hoping to work closer with families where children have been excluded from school, are only attending occasionally, or are being home-schooled.

child reading

The comments came after Dorchester councillor Molly Rennie said she believed there was a direct link between closing youth clubs over recent years and the number of young people finding themselves in trouble.

David Webb, from the youth offending team, said the direct link was hard to pinpoint, but added:

“I am sure a reduction in all support services has had an impact.”

He said that it was hoped to have more intervention worker in place across the county in the coming year.

Police Car

Cllr Toni Coombs said she was worried that the county was now bucking the national trend in seeing an increase in young first-time offenders. She said that she would like to see more effort made, working with the police, to put young offenders on restorative justice schemes, where they make amends for their behaviour, sometimes working with victims. She said it was a better course to follow than ruining young lives by giving them a conviction.

Mr Webb said that the approach was tried, where appropriate, but many of those who did receive custodial sentences had often failed at the restorative justice route, or their offences were too serious to use other means of disposal.

“We do need to respond to the behaviour and we don’t want to prematurely label anyone as an offender,” he said, adding that many offenders were themselves victims and also often vulnerable to exploitation themselves.

Cllr Clare Sutton said she was concerned that five of the recent nine young people from the county to get a custodial sentence were in care and that three of the nine were from black, Asian or ethnic minority groups. She said this was disproportionate compared to the county’s non-white population.

Mr Webb said it was difficult to draw conclusions from the small numbers but said that the concern was shared by the youth offending service which was investigating the reasons.

Concerns were also expressed about Dorset children who get caught up with county lines drug gangs.

Objectives for the youth offending service for the year include developing schemes to reduce the number of young people entering the justice system and to take a role in the local multi-agency response to child exploitation and knife crime.

Despite the problems of reductions in funding and staff the overall performance of the Dorset service is better than the national average.

By Trevor Bevins, Local Democracy Reporter