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The landscape in which a youth offending officer works has changed considerably over the last ten years. Whilst the number of first time young offenders is down, YOTs are faced with a challenging cohort of repeat offenders. Here, we reflect on the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee’s (LAPCC) latest recommendations. 

The reoffending rate of young offenders in London who leave custody has continued to fall since its peak of 70% in 2011. Yet, we’re seeing persistent reoffending amongst those with specific non-custodial sentences. 

In a report entitled ‘Breaking the cycle; reducing youth reoffending in London’ published on 2nd July 2015, the LAPCC make it clear the challenges are far from straightforward for YOT teams already working hard to address the underlying issues. 

As with many densely populated capital cities though, London is rife with hard-to-reach young people who are in need of intensive supervision. The percentages are quite alarming. In June 2013, the youth reoffending rate for London rose to 42.2%. What’s more, young offenders on some community sentences in the city are now displaying similar patterns of reoffending to those who have been in custody; usually the rate is considerably lower. 

Challenges with recruitment and retention 

The LAPCC reported that London has traditionally seen a high turnover of Youth Offending Team staff, yet this is not unusual for a city of this size. It concludes that the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) should take a closer look at the recruitment of Youth Offending professionals, although the report itself does not make any specific recommendations.  There is, however, a clear need for attracting skilled youth offending officers with experience of working with those who persistently reoffend. 

We’re already seeing a number of specific roles emerging, including Gangs and Serious Crime Key Workers, whose responsibility it is to carry out targeted interventions and assisting young people in leaving gangs. 

Boroughs working together

The report also made a strong case for encouraging more collaborative resettlement programmes across London. Two consortia of partner agencies, covering 12 London boroughs have already been created. These deliver resettlement projects in specific areas where there are high custodial numbers of young people. It’s too early to measure their success, but early indications show that the approach is working. 

Involving young offenders

The LAPCC recommends that any new strategies going forward should involve direct input from former young offenders. In addition, more work is needed to raise awareness amongst schools and parents to establish whether a young person is at greater risk of reoffending. 
This is all very encouraging, and it certainly underlines the crucial role youth offending plays in addressing reoffending rates in the city. However, to address the issues of those needing intense supervision, youth offending teams will require adequate time and resource. This of course is closely linked to recruitment, retention and budgets. 

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