Building the case for a more localised youth justice system in the West Midlands
Demand on youth justice services in the West Midlands was changing, driven by a small number of children and young people with complex needs who had committed high harm offences. With fewer resources available in justice, education and mental health, the system was under strain, and ideas for reform were being explored.
Crest was asked by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to carry out a comprehensive strategic needs assessment to understand the needs of children (10-17) accessing and coming into contact with local youth justice services and youth custody. In addition, we were asked to develop a new strategic approach to improve collaboration between existing services across seven local authorities and the justice system in support of a more localised and flexible strategy.
We reviewed local, regional and national performance data to map flows through the youth justice system and identify the distinctive challenges faced by the West Midlands. We engaged with key local stakeholders including local YOT workers, heads of youth offending services and directors of children services to understand the specific needs of children in the region and particular pressures on local services. Using this analysis and our experience of what has worked well in other areas, we considered the opportunities for collaboration and devolution, including different commissioning options, and tested them models with senior stakeholders from a range of agencies at local and regional events.
We used these inputs to develop a Strategic Needs Assessment for youth justice across the West Midlands and used this evidence-base to inform a range of high level policy options. This included a new youth diversion scheme which would improve outcomes for 20% of young offenders and deliver savings to police and youth offending services. Senior stakeholders were extremely positive about the analysis and recommendations for a more preventative and joined up system and have used them to drive change to improve the system for young people.