Children in Dorset are more likely to get a criminal record than almost anywhere elsewhere in the country.
The county’s police and crime panel is being told that 350 youngsters per 100,000 entered the youth justice system in Dorset for the first-time last year compared with averages of less than 250 nationally and regionally.
The figures apply only to those aged between 10 and 17.
The panel will also hear that cumulative cuts to the Dorset combined youth offending service have reached 27 per cent in five years and that for next year alone further cuts of between 5 and 25% are being anticipated.
The total of grants from 2014 to 2019 to the youth offending services has reduced from £809,700 to £588,700.
Despite the cuts the service is said to be performing well in terms of reoffending, outperforming regional and national averages at the time the Youth Justice Plan was developed.
The service also continues to see very low numbers of custodial sentences, exceeding regional and national averages and remaining low for a number of years.
But the panel, which meets on the 14th, will be told that the numbers entering the youth justice system across Dorset is a ‘cause for concern’ with an increase over the last two years, described as being more marked in the rural part of the county.
More work is needed to fully understand the complex reasons behind this increase.
However, it does coincide with a reduction in local authority supported youth services Dorset County Council took the decision in 2016 to reduce their youth budget from £2.2 million to no more than £1.2 million, for example.
National research by the YMCA has identified a 69% reduction in funding for youth services between 2010/11 and 2019/20, including a 42% reduction in Bournemouth and 21% reduction in Poole, said a report from the chief executive of the police and crime commissioner’s office, Simon Bullock.
He says that schools exclusions are another worry with an average increase of more than 25 per cent in 2016/17, amounting to 1,800 in Bournemouth area and 2,200 in the former Dorset County Council area.
Mr Bullock says work is being done to help reduce the number of children entering the justice system including helping schools to manage incidents without the need for a court appearance and delivering education programmes and interventions in schools, including targeting knife crime.
Funding from the commissioner’s office has been promised for an officer over the course of a year to help coordinate and develop local responses to children at risk of criminal exploitation.
By Trevor Bevins, Local Democracy Reporting Service