Young people in County Durham are being given the chance of a brighter future thanks to the hard work of Durham County Council’s Children and Young People’s Service.
At a meeting of the council’s Cabinet on Wednesday 12 July, councillors will hear how the service has made big strides in reducing first-time youth offending, increasing the number of foster placements for children, and gaining OfSTED recognition for safeguarding measures in the county.
Some of the biggest successes have come from the County Durham Youth Offending Service (CYDOS), which was set up by Durham County Council and is assisted by Durham Constabulary, the National Probation Service and local Clinical Commissioning Groups.
Due to the work of the CYDOS, the number of first-time entrants into the Youth Justice System has fallen to just 164 in 2016/17, which amounts to a reduction of 85.5 per cent from 2007/8.
Furthermore, the service has overseen a reduction of 56.3 per cent in the number of all offences committed and a 60.14 per cent reduction in the number of young people offending since 2010/11.
Cllr Olwyn Gunn, Cabinet member for children and young people, said: “It’s always encouraging to see a reduction in youth offending rates, particularly first-time offenders.
“It means we’re reaching potential offenders early on and combatting the causes of crime in our communities and preventing it before it even happens.
“Not only that, but by reaching out to someone who may be at risk of committing crime we can intervene positively in their life and set them up for a brighter future.”
The council’s fostering service has also made inroads into providing a brighter future for the county’s youth by ensuring vulnerable children have the best start in life.
The number of children placed with Durham foster carers has increased over the past year, rising from 438 in March 2016 to 552 in March 2017.
However, these increases have not kept pace with the current level of demand, which is reflected in Durham County Council’s continued efforts to enlist more foster carers.
Margaret Whellans, corporate director of children and young people’s services, said: “Creating better outcomes for our children in care is a really key area for us as a council and although we are pleased with our progress, there is a continued need to provide carers for children who need looked after.
“Fostering is a truly rewarding choice for any adult who feels they could provide the love and support required to offer a brighter future to a child in need.
“We would urge anyone who has ever considered fostering, to get in touch with our dedicated professionals in the fostering team.”
The Durham Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB), of which Durham County Council is a partner, also participated in the training of over 1,800 taxi drivers in preventing and spotting chid sexual exploitation, with safeguarding conditions now also built into the Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy.
OfSTED rated the effectiveness of the Durham LSCB as ‘Good’ in May 2016, and reported that “Durham Local Safeguarding Children Board is an ambitious and reflective board whose effectiveness and functioning has significantly improved since the peer review of October 2014.”
The DLSCB has also launched new Child Protection Procedures online, which are fully searchable and accessible from a multitude of devices.