A damning inspection has revealed serious failings at a West Yorkshire organisation working with troubled young people.
Inspectors found staff at the Bradford Youth Offending Team are not proficient at dealing with child sexual exploitation or safeguarding and do not have the knowledge to manage risks safely.
In one example, the HM Inspectorate of Probation revealed potential gang-related activity was not recorded on a young person's file and subsequently the gang assaulted the child and a family member leading to armed police being called to the scene.
Following the incident, staff did not review the initial assessment or seek further details from children’s social services or the police.
The service was graded as "requires improvement" - the second lowest mark.
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Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell said: “We had a number of serious concerns about this YOT, with performance on eight of our twelve quality standards judged to be ‘Inadequate’ and the service only rescued from an overall ‘Inadequate’ rating by some better-quality work with out-of-court disposal cases.
“Bradford YOT has been through a period of instability, particularly among its senior ranks. There has been an absence of strategic leadership, which has affected the team’s ability to work effectively with children and young people who have offended or who are at risk of offending.”
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Inspectors also found a lack of information sharing with the police. In the three months prior to the inspection, 168 children and young people were given community resolutions by the police for low-level offending. In nearly a quarter of cases, the YOT was not notified, so could not help those children and young people to move away from further offending.
Mr Russell said: “There is a new senior management team in place, and they know the challenges faced by the YOT, and are well placed and committed to address the issues identified. The staff have expressed optimism about the new leadership and its ability to make necessary improvements.
“Our report includes seven recommendations to improve safety, leadership, information sharing, and work with the police. We urge Bradford YOT to act on our recommendations to ensure vulnerable children and young people in the city get the support they need.”
Mark Douglas, Strategic Director of Children’s Services at Bradford Metropolitan District Council, said the authority "fully accepts" the report's finding and is "acting urgently" to ensure improvements are made and that young people in Bradford are safe.
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Mr Douglas said: "Our new senior leadership team was already aware of the areas of concern the report raises and we are now working closely with the police and other partners to ensure effective working arrangements are in place. The report identifies some positive findings on which we need to build, but we recognise that there are many areas of the service that are not yet performing at the level they need to be and we need to see a rapid improvement, particularly in the way we identify and mitigate risks to young people and the public.
“One area the report raised was a concern about was planning and it goes on to recognise that we were in the process of developing appropriate plans with the input of young people . The service has since gone on to win a national award for this work and this is the kind of improvement we must now make across the whole of the service.”
Councillor Abdul Jabar, portfolio holder for neighbourhoods and community safety said the outcome of the report is "not good enough" and "must improve at pase".
He said: "One of the main concerns the report raised was the instability within the board and leadership team. This has now been addressed with a new senior leadership team in place and a more stable and permanent board who are aware of the weaknesses within the service and are already making the positive changes needed. But we need to see a rapid turn-around to make sure that the young people and their families who rely on the service get the proper support they need so they don’t pose a risk to themselves or others.”