New youth plan will ‘prevent organised crime gangs in Peterborough’

A new three-year Youth Justice Plan has been approved by Peterborough City Council.

Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 5:00 am

Aiming to provide support for young people and adults who want to gain access to education and improve their skills, the new plan – the first of its kind in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough – will run until 2022.

During that time, the priorities of safeguarding vulnerable children and adults will be matched with other programmes to help them gain access to housing, education and wellbeing as well encouragement to remain healthy.

Working closely alongside the central Youth Justice Board and HM Youth Probation Inspectorate, the new plan will provide annual reviews on progress helping first time entrants to the Youth Justice Plan to avoid custody and re-offending.

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Introducing the plan to members at the meeting of the cabinet on Monday, Cllr Irene Walsh, cabinet member for communities, said: “The strategic objectives of the partnership are all statutory requirements that we an authority are required to make.

“But I think members will agree with me that the service we offer our youth, particularly those at the greatest risk of harm, requires a very strong focus.

“We hear regularly about youngsters being lured into county-lines activity, becoming members of gangs roaming wild through our streets, creating anti-social behaviour and terrorising certain neighbourhoods, while at the same time we worry about the vulnerability of the children we have in our care.

“That said, I’m happy to report that the plan we have before you looks to be achieving its objectives and it is providing us with value for money at the same time.”

Sarah Ferguson, assistant director for housing, communities and youth, said: “There is no doubt about it, the people that we’re seeing pass through our youth offending cohort have got many more complex needs than we’ve ever seen at any time in the past, so it’s much harder to find successful educational placements that are going to work for them and the right sort of educational offers that will meet their needs.

“Over the past year I’ve been working closely with all of our partners to make certain that we challenge each other to provide the right education to meet those needs.

“It’s quite slow work but we are starting to see some progress and one thing that I would add is that we’ve just been joined on the Youth Justice Management Board by our new assistant director of education who’s taken a keen interest in this area of work, so I’m really optimistic that we will see an upwards trend in the coming months.”

Cllr Lynne Ayres, cabinet member for children’s services, education, skills and the university, had concerns about children in care and said: “Can you tell me if your collaboration with Children’s Services in Peterborough over the past 18 months has brought any definitive results and, if so, what those results might be?”

Ms Ferguson replied: “One of the best things to have happened in Peterborough in that timeframe is the creation of our Youth Justice Management Board and the collaboration with Children’s Services.

“This means that we’re able to work a much more integrated approach with young people already in care, or, importantly with those who are at risk of moving into care, and this has absolutely led to youth justice intervention so that our relationships with Children’s Services has improved 10-fold across the system.”

Cllr Steve Allen, cabinet member for housing, culture and recreation, said: “Can you tell what impact the proposed Targeted Youth Support Service budget proposal will have on the Youth Offending Service?”

“Ms Ferguson said: “The youth services we provide has not been affected in any way by funding alterations because we work so closely with the volunteer sector and other partners to see how we can maximise the things that we do.”

A concerned Cllr David Seaton, cabinet member for finance, said: “Do we have organised gangs roaming the streets of Peterborough?”

Ms Ferguson replied: “No, not yet, and if we keep on top of things with this Youth Justice Plan then we shouldn’t have that problem in the future.”

Members of the cabinet voted unanimously to adopt the new plan.

Robert Alexander, Local Democracy Reporting Service