Misspent YOTs? : an examination of the policy intentions of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and outcomes for joined up youth justice
The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 launched a new joined up youth justice system for England and Wales, which epitomised the policy themes and aspirations of a New Labour government. This thesis examines the YOT model to assess how successfully the policy intentions of the 1998 Act have been enacted. YOTs were intended as an exemplar of joined up team practice, integrating professional skills and knowledge towards a common service user focused goal, and promoting interdependency through partnership. New Labour's policy themes often conflict however and implementation has not been easy. The problem of youth offending and solutions to it are capable of being interpreted in many different ways by power holders. The YOT model appears to have been built upon flawed assumptions about what teams are, and what they are capable of achieving in the absence of fundamental changes to how the public sector is organised and managed. YOTs do not have the authority to sustain the high level of interdependency required of them and they lack many of the characteristics of effective teams. There is uncertainty about what interprofessional practice is and how it can be facilitated. Youth justice professionals have demonstrated that dynamic interprofessional team practice is possible, and has the potential to deliver joined up youth offending services. It will be argued however that the changes introduced by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 lacked a clear philosophical foundation. The weaknesses of the YOT model, and the muddled language of the joined up imperative, demonstrate the difficulty of attempting to launch multiple changes in a conceptual vacuum. The new youth justice system may disadvantage growing numbers of children and young people, while failing to achieve its main aim of reducing youth crime. The continued support of youth justice practitioners is not guaranteed.