Councillor Josie Iles, Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, said:
“Medway Council’s focus is, and will always be, to provide the very best opportunities for all Medway’s young people to reach their full potential. Our Youth Offending Team (YOT) is an integral part of supporting young people who have found themselves on the wrong path to help break patterns of offending and start their journey to a more positive future. Whilst it is of course disappointing to have received an overall rating of ‘Requires Improvement’, it is worth noting that inspectors recognised a number of key areas in which the YOT works extremely well, with many areas individually being rated ‘Good’, and our overall rating being just one point away from a more positive rating. The Council also notes the improvements that have been made since the pilot inspection, and the trajectory of improvement remains positive.
Our drive and determination to continue improving the service for the young people we work with was recognised by inspectors. We are already fully committed to improving the partnership between Children’s Services and the YOT, and this had already been fully recognised and incorporated into the Council’s wider Improvement Plan. Moving ahead, I remain positive that the YOT will continue to build on the work that has already been judged as 70% Good and Outstanding over the coming months, not least with the help of the Youth Justice Partnership Board.
The electorate will by now have learnt not to trust Labour when it comes to their understanding of finances, and the reduction of central Government budget must be taken in the context of changes in the Youth Justice landscape – specifically a reduction of children in the criminal justice system. As highlighted at a recent Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Medway has not seen an increase in youth crime, and we have lower first time entrants and reoffending figures compared against both national and south east figures. Medway Council have in fact invested £7 million into children’s services this year, and additional to this we have been supported by the Police and Crime Commissioner with an extra £100,000 to support tackle reoffending in the YOT. Medway and North Kent have together been successful in securing a funding bid of £1.3 million to use to support children in schools, the community and those at greatest risk of offending. We have also been successful with a NHS bid for £56,000 to support psychology work in the YOT. Of course to mention such positive information would be completely out of character for my Labour colleagues, and would not fit with their scaremongering narrative!
I am disappointed that the Labour Group also fail to recognise the dedication and incredible efforts of the YOT’s staff. It is an absolute insult to their hard work to fail to recognise that the inspection identified senior managers as driving the direction and ambition of the YOT, demonstrating ‘their commitment to advocate, and achieve the best outcomes, for children’. The report also recognised ‘excellent case management and practitioners working well to understand the behaviour of children and young people and their aspirations for the future’. I wish to place on record my sincere thanks to the YOT team for going above and beyond in these challenging times, and for their incredible efforts as we continue on our improvement journey.”