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Agenda Item No. 4

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Homes and Safe Communities Scrutiny Committee: 6th  December 2017

 

Report of the Director of Social Services

 

Youth Offending Service - Report re impact of Vale of Glamorgan Court Closure

 

Purpose of the Report

  1. To provide Scrutiny Committee with a report regarding the impact of the closure of Vale of Glamorgan Magistrates Court on the Youth Offending Service (YOS) and its service users.

Recommendation

  1. That Scrutiny Committee notes the content of the report.

Reason for the Recommendation

  1. To provide Members with information regarding the implications of the Court closure for both service users and the YOS.

Background

  1. Following the presentation of the Youth Justice Plan 2018/19 to Scrutiny Committee on 6th September 2017, a request was made for a qualitative report to be provided to the Committee in relation to the impact of the closure of the Vale of Glamorgan Magistrates Court.
  2. The Ministry of Justice announced its decision to merge the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff Local Justice Areas on 14th December 2010 and to close the Vale of Glamorgan Magistrates Court.
  3. The Court closed in December 2011 and all cases transferred to Cardiff Magistrates Court with effect January 2012.

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. Prior to the closure, the Court operated a single Youth Court day where the majority of cases were listed for consideration, with the exception of remand hearings or trials. The YOS is not required to provide a presence when trials are being heard and would be informed of the outcome by the Court.
  2. Cardiff Magistrates Court operate Youth Court on 3 of the 5 working days and remand Courts on the remaining 2 working days and on a Saturday.
  3. HMCTS did not provide an option for cases from individual Local Authority areas to be heard separately as part of an area listing as their aim was to merge the benches into a single Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan Youth Bench. Bridgend Youth Court has also joined the court listing.
  4. As a result cases from the Vale of Glamorgan can be listed at any time over the 3 days the Youth Court Bench is sitting. There is also a requirement to cover remand hearings which can take place on the remaining 3 days, including Saturday.
  5. Outlined below are the numbers of children and young people listed between 2012 to 31 October 2017 providing an indication of the level of demand:-

 

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Weekend

2012

20

167

42

132

16

8

2013

15

132

55

120

22

8

2014

13

122

26

47

10

2

2015

13

138

39

28

6

0

2016

6

127

16

22

5

0

2017 - to 31/10/2017

17

96

13

27

8

2

             
  1. In order to mitigate against the requirement for a YOS Officer to be in attendance on all 3 Youth Court days, the YOS has agreed a Protocol with Cardiff YOS to provide cover for first hearings, sentencing outcomes where custody is not a consideration or any listings of revocation of orders
  2. Cases where sentencing may require the input of the YOS Officer with more detailed knowledge of the child or young person, or where custody or remand is an option both on working days or on Saturday, or breach of an Order, require a Vale YOS Officer to be in attendance.
  3. Prior to the merger the YOS anticipated there would be an increase in the numbers of children failing to attend Court. However, evidence from YOS records indicate that during the period since 2012, there have been limited failures to attend with the number of warrants issued with or without bail as outlined below. (Some warrants reflect non-attendance on consecutive weeks.)

2012 = 8

2013 = 13

2014 = 5

2015 = 2

2016 = 8

2017 = 1

  1. The Court merger has however increased the requirement for a YOS Officer to be present from a single day to up to 3 days per week, an increase in travel and parking costs for YOS Officers, additional travel and waiting time and financial costs for service users.
  2. The Court merger has also introduced delays in the listing of cases in relation to breaches, which could previously be listed within 1 week in the Vale of Glamorgan Magistrates Court, but can now take approximately 3-4 weeks to list.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. Closure of the Vale of Glamorgan Magistrates Court has resulted in YOS Officers spending more time out of the office, travelling to Cardiff Magistrates Court and increased travel, parking and waiting costs.
  2. The YOS has quantified the costs to the service which equates to £16,500 per annum based on additional staffing, travel and parking costs. However no additional resources are available to the YOS, therefore the YOS has had to redirect existing resources, this means that whilst practitioners are undertaking cover at Court, they are not able to undertake other activities, i.e. appointments with children, carrying out assessments, writing reports or other activities covered by the job roles.
  3. Residents of the Vale of Glamorgan have also been put to increased expense with train/bus fare cost ranging from £3.00 to £7.00 per person attending. Children are required to attend with a parent.
  4. The YOS has provided some families who are reliant on benefits with travel warrants to enable their attendance at Court.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. There are no sustainability or climate change implications as a result of this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. There are no legal implications arising from this report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. The work of the Youth Offending Service assists in the reduction of crime and anti-social behaviour by children and young people across the Vale of Glamorgan. The YOS is assisting, where necessary, children and young people to attend Court.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. There are no equality implications directly as a result of this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. The work of the Youth Offending Service helps the Council to achieve Well-being Outcome 1 (An inclusive and safe Vale in the Corporate Plan 2016 - 2020) and specifically Objective 2: Providing decent homes and safe communities.

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. This report is for information purposes only.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. The provision of Youth Offending Services is a Vale wide responsibility and there are no specific implications for individual wards.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. Homes and Safe Communities

Background Papers

Homes and Safe Communities Meeting Minutes 6 September 2017; Minute No 233.

Contact Officer

Paula Barnett, YOS Manager

Officers Consulted

Head of Children and Young People's Services

Assistant Team Manager, YOS

Practitioner Manager, YOS

Performance and Information Officer, YOS

Responsible Officer:

Lance Carver, Director of Social Services