The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 established the prevention of offending as the principal aim of the youth justice system, and placed a statutory duty on all those working in the youth justice system to have regard to that aim.
New structures at local and national level have been introduced to provide a framework to tackle youth offending. Youth offending teams bring together the staff and resources of the police, social services, the probation service, education and health services in the delivery of youth justice services, with the scope to involve others, including the voluntary sector.
At the national level, the Youth Justice Board (YJB) for England and Wales, which began operation in 1998, provides oversight of the operation of the teams and the youth justice system as a whole. The Board sets standards and performance indicators, identifies and promotes good practice, and provides advice to the Home Secretary on the basis of its scrutiny of the youth justice system, particularly in relation to how well the aim of preventing offending by children and young people is being achieved.
In addition, under powers given to local authority overview and scrutiny committees (OSCs) in the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007, youth offending teams are required to provide information on matters relating to the Local Area Agreement (LAA) and as such may be subject to further scrutiny of their performance. Reviews into the performance of youth offending teams by OSCs are not uncommon as the local authority plays a prominent role in the team. With the abolition of LAAs, practitioners are awaiting a framework that will indicate how partnership scrutiny of this type will continue post-2011.