MORE than half of the Dorset young people who received a custodial sentence over the last two years were in the care of the local council.

The annual youth justice report says that only nine were involved in total – five of them in care. Two of the nine were girls.

The report also highlights that when custodial sentences are given the young people involved are likely to be held some way from home which causes difficulty for family and professionals to visit. The centres used for Dorset offenders were at Parc, near Bridgend, at Feltham in north-west London, at Medway in Kent and at Oakhill, in Milton Keynes.

Authors of the report, which will go before Dorset Council this week (Tuesd 10th), say that one of the key performance areas has worsened since the last report – the rate of young people entering the justice system for the first time.

The report also notes that the annual Youth Justice Grant has been reduced from £790,000 in 2014/15 to £588,708 in 2019/20 with some staff vacancies not filled as a result.

Despite this the service managed to obtain additional funding to pay for a speech and language therapist after evidence that the majority of young people in contact with youth justice services have communication needs.

Objectives for the year include developing schemes to reduce the number of young people entering the justice system and to take a role in the local multi-agency response to child exploitation and knife crime.

Despite the problems of funding and staffing the overall performance of the Dorset service is better than the national average.

Local data showed that 10-13 year olds were most likely to re-offend, followed by 15 year-olds. 27% of boys reoffended compared to 18% of girls; but the girls who did reoffend tended to commit a higher number of offences.

During the year all the 27 young people who completed a feedback questionnaire said they felt listened to and they understood what was required of them. 100% answered Yes to the question about being helped to realise that they could make changes in their lives. 22 of the respondents rated the service as ‘good’, with the other 5 rating it as ‘OK’.