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Neath Port Talbot’s Youth Justice Service makes ‘significant progress’

Neath Port Talbot

Neath Port Talbot’s Youth Justice Service (YJS) has been praised for making major improvements over the past few years in supporting young people and their families who are on the fringes of or involved in crime and anti-social behaviour.

The service has made “significant progress” going from a low rating at its last inspection to recently achieving “good” status according to HM Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP) and JICPA (The Joint Inspection of Child Protection Arrangements).

Also, Neath Port Talbot’s Youth Justice Service is the only one in Wales to have commissioned a groundbreaking Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) programme. The programme, in place since 2021, is said to have seen “fantastic results” and involves a number of young people working with horses and trainers to address issues like trust, emotional response and emotional intelligence.

EAL includes a number of beneficial activities with horses such as observing, handling, grooming, groundwork and structured challenging exercises focused on young people’s needs and goals.

The programme has been highlighted by HMIP as being one of a number of excellent examples of innovative practice by Neath Port Talbot’s YJS.

The praise for the rapid improvement was contained in an officer’s report to Neath Port Talbot Council’s Social Services, Housing and Community Safety Cabinet Board. The board, which met on Tuesday, October 11th, 2022, approved the NPT YJS’s annual youth justice and early intervention and prevention plan (2022/23) for commendation to the council for adoption.

An officer’s report to the cabinet board said: “The service has demonstrated resilience, consistent and continued improvement, high quality interventions, excellent organisational delivery, good quality out of court disposal work and outstanding governance and leadership. “

As part of the HMIP inspection (published in May 2022), four children gave feedback, with three rating the YJS as eight or more out of 10 (with 10 being ‘fantastic’). Inspectors spoke to seven children and one parent. They all felt their workers possessed the right skills to do the work and could access the right services and support to help them stay out of trouble.

When asked what was one thing they liked most about the YJS, one young person said: “Their kindness and they try to get you involved in things.” Another young person added: “It’s helped having someone to talk to and they have helped me stay out of trouble. I listened to the advice they gave me.”

Chief Inspector of Probation, Justin Russell said: “It takes considerable effort to make such significant progress over the past few years, especially through the pandemic, but Neath Port Talbot’s YJS has achieved it. In real terms this means their efforts to protect the local community, by reducing the likelihood of a child returning to crime, and to better the lives of children under their supervision, are working.”

•    The inspection also found Neath Port Talbot is below the average for Wales when it comes to first time entrants to YJS.
•    During 2021/22 the number of young people receiving a substantive outcome for offending reduced and continued the trend over the last few years.
•    The number of Referral Orders in 2021/22 (9) saw a 36% decrease when compared with the previous year. This follows on from the same percentage decrease noted in the previous year.

Cllr Sian Harris, Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services, said: “The progress made by NPTYJS during a difficult few years which included the Covid 19 pandemic, should be commended.  Improved outcomes for children, young people, the communities of NPT, and the victims of crime, is a priority for us, and it is heart-warming to hear the progress made so far.