The Youth Offending Team (YOT) has produced a Youth Justice Plan every year and submitted it to the Devon YOS Management Board. Subsequently, the plan is formally submitted to the Youth Justice Board, as we are legally required to do. Devon is in the South West and South Central YJB for this. The Head of Children’s Social Care chairs the YOS Management Board. Before 2020, Darryl Freeman was the chair. Since Darryl’s departure this responsibility has fallen to Rachel Gillott (though in practice Jenny-Ellen Scotland has deputised for her). Members of the Devon YOS Management Board are drawn from the six agencies that fund Devon Youth Offending Service (Devon County Council, the National Probation Service, Health, Devon and Cornwall Police, the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Youth Justice Board) and other allied agencies such as the Youth Court Magistrates or Devon Education.
In 2020, due to the pandemic, the YJB lifted the requirement to produce a formal Youth Justice Plan. Instead, all YOTs were asked prepare a Covid-19 recovery plan. Devon submitted such a recovery plan in 2020 and this was signed off by the YJB. Despite it not being a formal requirement last year Devon YOS Management Board asked that a Youth Justice Plan was prepared for 2020.
Creating the Plan
In terms of creating the plan, it is written with assistance from colleagues within the Devon Youth Offending Service and partners. It is then submitted it to all partners before a meeting of the YOS Management Board and this results in changes/additions/greater clarity. The role of the YJB is particularly crucial here as they have to ultimately approve or reject the plan. This means that the plan is usually close to the final version by the time it is formally considered at the YOS Management Board.
Signing off the Plan
Dates have sometimes varied but essentially every YOT in the country has to submit a Youth Justice Plan (to a template laid down by the YJB) to the Youth Justice Board around the end of June each year. This plan has to be signed off by the YOS Management Board and satisfies the legal requirement to demonstrate how the Youth Justice Grant (paid to each YOT annually) is spent. Additionally, the County Treasurer has to provide an audit certificate to cover the expenditure. If these processes are not followed, then the Youth Justice Grant could be delayed or even withheld (in 2020/2021 Devon YOS received £656,944 from the Youth Justice Board).
Following the briefing session by the Children’s Scrutiny Committee’s Special Advisor, the issue of full council approval of the plan was raised. To follow up on this, Scrutiny Officers asked The YOS Manager, if the plan needed to be presented for approval to full Council. To the YOS Manager’s knowledge, Devon has never set up a process that requires the Devon Youth Justice Plan to be scrutinised by the Full Council. DCC have been happy with the level of scrutiny given by having the Director of Children’s Services as part of the YOS Management Board. Although, should this change, the YOT would be happy to present the plan to Councillors.
In terms of the scrutiny of the Plan by Council, the reasoning behind why it has fallen to the YOS Management Board revolve around the ownership of the plan. DCC funds approximately one-third of the overall Devon YOS budget (the rest of the funding is from other partners). So DCC is not the only agency with an interest. Should the Youth Justice Plan also be scrutinised by the Police, The Police and Crime Commissioners? The YJB and other partners too? Can DCC make decisions about the spending of other agencies funds? What if one agency’s priorities are different from those of DCC?
These complications are the reason why many local authorities leave the scrutiny of the Youth Justice Plan to the YOS Management Board. The multi-agency YOS Management Board is where all these agencies are represented and have equal voting rights.
The guidance on Youth Justice Plans is clear that the YOS Management Board must approve the plan and refers to the fact that the plan may be subjected to wider scrutiny from local authority scrutiny committees. This is stated on section 5, page 7 of the guidance.
Thor Beverley (Devon YOS Manager)
27th January 2021