Surrey's young offenders 'going without education'

A young offender in a secure training centre Image copyright PA Media
Image caption The service works with 10 to 18-year-olds who have offended

Young offenders in Surrey are going without education and healthcare - two key areas that can help them turn away from crime, inspectors have found.

HM Inspectorate of Probation gave Surrey's Youth Offending Service the lowest possible rating of "inadequate".

Nearly 40% of children subject to court orders were not getting their education entitlement and some faced 16-week waits for mental health appointments.

Surrey County Council said it "recognises the need for improvement".

The inspectors' report outlined how youth offending work in the county was taken over in May by Surrey Targeted Youth Support.

'Urgent repair'

Chief inspector of probation Justin Russell said at the time of the inspection in June the service had been through a large-scale restructure and new processes were being established, but added: "We found a need for very substantial improvement."

He found assessments were insufficient and not always carried out, staff underestimated the risk offenders posed to others and did not always record it, and services to steer young people away from crime were not coordinated.

It said more than half of all young people using the service had been identified as having special educational needs, but the Surrey board overseeing youth justice "does not know if they are receiving adequate provision".

Inspectors made nine recommendations including that Surrey's director of children's services ensures all young people receive their statutory entitlement to education, and have access to high-quality education and training matched to their needs and interests.

'Motivated staff'

Howard League for Penal Reform chief executive Frances Crook said: "It seems that all the services for children in Surrey are in need of urgent investment and repair.

"Children who have offended or are at risk of offending are no different to other children.

"We've got to deal with children's problems early because otherwise we end up with a lifetime of problems, so health and education are really the answer."

The county council, which runs the service in partnership with Surrey Police, the NHS and the Probation Service, said: "An action plan has already been put into place with work under way on addressing the issues that have now been highlighted.

"The report also noted that staff were motivated to deliver good-quality services and engaged well with children and families, and there was praise for the work Surrey did in preventing children from reoffending."

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