Budget cuts 'jeopardise children's rehabilitation' in Walsall
Budget cuts are jeopardising the rehabilitation of young offenders in the West Midlands, inspectors say.
Walsall's Youth Justice Service has been rated as requiring improvement by HM Inspectorate of Probation.
A second year of cuts to the service with the lowest budget in the region was "affecting the quality of work with troubled children", inspectors said.
They also found Dudley Youth Offending Service required improvement and was too slow in improving education.
Justin Russell, chief inspector of probation, said a "high number of young people" known to the service were "not in education or training, and children are offending at times when they should be in school".
"Some staff have resorted to teaching children who have been excluded because there are no suitable alternatives," he said.
In Walsall, facilities like youth centres had reduced in number, the report said.
Mr Russell said: "Walsall Youth Justice Service is attempting to minimise the impact of these savings but the effects are becoming clear to see.
"Key posts and facilities have been lost and the workforce has been operating at, and on occasions beyond, capacity.
"Work to identify and manage risk of harm to others and the protection of victims needs to improve, as it has lost focus and receives very little attention at strategic or operational level."
Inspectors also found that too many children and young people receiving supervision were not in school, training or employment and progress to address this had been too slow.
Both services supervise children aged 10 to 18 who have a conviction or are being dealt with outside the courts for minor offences.
Councillor Tim Wilson, portfolio holder for children's services in Walsall, said the authority was "committed to building on the excellent work" inspectors identified.
He added: "We recognise the challenges highlighted within the report and are committed to ensuring that we have a robust model in place to achieve better outcomes for victims of youth crime."
Councillor Ruth Buttery, cabinet member for children's services in Dudley, said the council welcomed the report which "praises the motivation and understanding of our staff".
She said: "However, we fully accept the report's overall findings that we require further improvement and our focus remains upon working closely with all partners and stakeholders to ensure we share information and increase effectiveness and efficiency across the service."
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