The new service, which aims to support young offenders and help prevent them from reoffending, replaces the Worcestershire and Herefordshire and Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Youth Offending Services. The idea behind the creation of a single service is to improve efficiency and, building on the strengths of existing services, improve outcomes for young offenders. In Herefordshire, around 70 young people receive help from this service every year.
The West Mercia new service will be managed by West Mercia probation Trust and headed up by Keith Barham, previous Head of Service for Worcester and Hereford YOS. Although the responsibility for youth justice will ultimately remain with the four main local authorities, the new arrangement anticipates the coming of the Police and Crime Commissioner and will give the Commissioner a West Mercia focus to youth offending. The new arrangement also provides an opportunity for integrated working with other children and family services across West Mercia with the shared aim of reducing youth crime across the region.
David Chantler, Chief Executive, West Mercia Probation Trust, said: “My enthusiasm for this project is driven by an observation that in 35 years of working in probation, I have known very few people who started offending as an adult. If we can stop troubled youths from becoming troublesome adults it would enhance their lives and prospects immensely and free up resources in a range of adult services to be re-invested in early interventions. That would be an innovation of which to be proud.”
Councillor Patricia Morgan, cabinet member for health and wellbeing at Herefordshire Council, said: “We want the best for all our young people and the youth offending service plays a vital role in helping some of our troubled youngsters get back on track. The advantage of working in this new way is that we can share expertise and experience and provide better value for money at the same time.”