Plans to reduce youth reoffending in Bucks

Cllr Warren Whyte
Cllr Warren Whyte

A major action plan aiming to reduce youth reoffending rates in Buckinghamshire has been backed by councillors.

At a meeting of Bucks County Council on September 20 the council’s cabinet member for children’s services, Warren Whyte, was quizzed on the Youth Justice Strategic Plan for 2018 to 2019.

A report published by the Bucks Youth Offending Service (YOS) says it has faced a “challenging” 12 months in terms of performance, despite an array of “exceptional results” in recent years.

The proportion of young people reoffending “fluctuated considerably” in Bucks between 2014 and 2016 and has now risen to 42.7 per cent – exceeding the national and Thames Valley averages.

The plan for the next year will aim to reduce reoffending rates, as well as the number of first-time offenders and the use of custodial sentences, according to Cllr Whyte.

He said: “What is also important is the plan to be proactive.

“It is not just about reacting to youth offending, we try to prevent and re-direct people’s intentions.

“That is not only with potential new entrants to the system, but also to reduce re offending.

“We interact with the youth and try to get them on the right path, and then for some reason they reoffend again.

“That is something the offending service is keen to work harder on, because repeat offending is not good for the child and is not good for society.

“The other part of proactive work is working with schools to try to highlight some of the issues of bad decision making and the impact on their life but also on the potential victim’s life.”

The YOS is a multi-agency service made up of social workers, police, probation officers as well as staff with health and education backgrounds.

Lib Dem councillor for Aylesbury South West Niknam Hussain raised concerns over funding, after the report stated the YOS would not be able to “respond to unexpected financial demands.”

However while the YOS will need to work within its £1.5 million budget, Cllr Whyte assured councillors that collaborative working with different partners should reduce funding pressures.

Cllr Whyte added: “The budget is made up of a mixture of both the county council as the key funder but also another number of agencies.

“That does mean there is a fixed budget for the year of £1.5 million and as with any county council service we have to work within those budgets that have been assigned to us.

“One of the ways that I am pleased the Youth Offending Service is evolving is much closer links with children’s services itself and I would expect that to alleviate some of the issues that you are raising.”