Youth justice service recognised for 'powerful anti-racist stance'

A staff member from the Council's youth justice service talking to young people from Hackney during Takeover Week about the work of the service

An inspection of the youth justice service in Hackney has recognised the service for its ‘powerful anti-racist’ stance and bid to reduce the number of Black and Global Majority children impacted by racism in the justice system. 

Inspectors from His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation made the comments as part of their report into the Hackney Youth Justice Service, which was, this week, awarded an overall rating of ‘Good’.

The service, managed by a board made up of senior representatives, including its Cabinet Member for youth justice from Hackney Council, Police, Probation, Courts  as well as health teams and Hackney CVS, was rated on the quality of the work done with children who have been sentenced at court and those that are diverted from the youth justice system, as well as on leadership, staffing and facilities.

More than 86% of children who enter the criminal justice system in Hackney are Black, Asian or Global Majority, despite only representing 62 per cent of those aged 0-19 in the local population. 

Inspectors were particularly impressed by the ‘unambiguous and assertive commitment to make anti-racism the foundation of practice with children and families.’ 

Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell said: “Hackney Youth Justice Service is a strong and passionate team who are determined to do all they can to improve the lives of the children they supervise. This is a service unafraid to tackle the issues children face, not least racism and disproportionate representation, and make positive changes. I look forward to watching them develop further.”

His report praised the service for:

  • Putting the voice of the children and their families at the centre of its work
  • Actively seeking to build confidence and trust in the criminal justice system
  • The focus on identity and heritage in its work with children, delivered by staff who mirror the local population. 
  • Its knowledgeable, experienced, and skilled group of managers
  • The passion staff demonstrated in their work with the children, supported by feedback from children and their parents or carers 
  • Understanding the diverse needs of children 
  • The highest standard of work to resettle children from custody back into the community.

Children and their parents/carers were interviewed as part of the review. One parent told inspectors: “The YJS worker is fantastic. He has been with us every step of the way and he has formed a really positive relationship with my son, which is helping him to move forward. He is consistent and makes my son feel valid. He is a positive role model, and he gets things done. The communication is exceptional. I could not ask for a better YJS worker or a better social worker.”

Cllr Susan Fajana-Thomas, Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Regulatory Services

I’m absolutely delighted with our ‘Good’ rating. It’s testament to the hard work of all those in the partnership, and particularly our frontline staff, who work day-in, day-out to prevent offending; to prioritise the best interests of our children and recognise their potential; and to create safer communities with fewer victims of crime. 

I’m so proud inspectors have recognised our commitment to anti-racism, not only in the service but also in the Council more widely. As part of that, we have pledged to tackle all forms of racism in our community where we have influence and reach - including driving institutional change.  

As part of this, we know Black and Global Majority children are subject to adultification bias. This is a form of racism which means that they are more likely to be criminalised than their white peers. The work we are doing - and recognised in this report - aims to stamp out this prejudice and protect our children from its harms. 

Trust and confidence in the police - and the wider justice system - is at an all-time low, but the work we are doing at local level with partners in the local police service demonstrates that we can work together to begin fixing a system that has for too long disproportionately criminalised those from our Black and Global Majority communities. 

This is key in order to drive change and rebuild trust in institutions which should serve and protect everybody equally.

Cllr Susan Fajana-Thomas, Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Regulatory Services

The report, which followed a two-week-long inspection earlier this year, conducted jointly with HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue and the Care Quality Commission, also made six recommendations including that the service improves the quality of planning and the oversight of work with children, particularly those dealt with post-court, to keep them safe. It also recommends a review of the current approach to resettlement and the application of the learning from this, with the intention of reducing the disproportionate representation of Black children subject to custodial sentences.

You can review the Council’s anti-racism journey here.