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Study finds ‘Major barriers’ to participation in Education, Training and Employment for the most vulnerable children in the youth justice system

A review of hundreds of cases of children in youth justice services has found some have not participated in education, training or employment opportunities for two years or more.

HM Inspectorate of Probation, with Ofsted and the Welsh equivalent Estyn, conducted an inspection of education, training and employment services (ETE) in youth offending services in England and Wales between November 2021 and January 2022.

Of the 181 cases inspected, two-thirds (65 per cent) of children (aged 10-17 years) had been excluded from school and almost half (47 per cent) had been permanently excluded. This resulted in some children not participating in any ETE services for two years or more. To make matters worse, where there was participation, the quality of ETE provision was poorer for those who had been excluded from school or released under investigation by the police, and for children of mixed ethnic background.

Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell said: “Our findings lay bare a truth that many working in youth justice have come to recognise – but has seldom been given the attention it deserves – that getting children with complicated backgrounds into education, training and employment can be extremely challenging”.

“It’s worrying that those with the greatest need, and who are vulnerable, are the least likely to get the educational services they need. The support provided to the child to participate in ETE should be reviewed regularly and give every child under supervision the opportunity to improve their prospects and succeed.

The report calls on the Department of Education (and the Welsh equivalent) to address how the unidentified and unmet needs of children in youth offending services can be prevented by earlier specialist assessment and better intervention and support of vulnerable children.