Graham Hinchey, cabinet member for children’s services on Cardiff council, is facing calls to resign after the youth offending service was rated ‘inadequate’.
Inspectors gave the Cardiff Youth Offending Service the lowest possible rating in its work with child criminals.
Now the councillor in charge of children’s services has been told to “consider his position”.
Councillor Adrian Robson, Conservative group leader, said: “It is critical that young people who have offended, or who are at risk of re-offending, can access a quality service and are safe. But the inspectors had concerns about safety and wellbeing and a risk of harm to others.
“This appalling inspection report shows that the Labour administration were not focused on this essential service and the cabinet member must consider his position. In any inspection report you might expect some areas for improvement, but not a complete failure of the whole service to meet any of the standards.”
He also called for more scrutiny of the department. The children and young people scrutiny committee stopped meeting at the start of the lockdown, and he said it should now begin meeting again.
Cllr Rhys Taylor, Liberal Democrat group leader, said: “The findings of this review are incredibly unsettling. How many children and young people have been failed as a result of the dearth of leadership now evident in the council?
“This council is clearly failing to learn the lessons of the past. It should not take a review like this, when so many children have already been failed, to uncover such fundamental, long-standing problems in the service. There’s now no doubt that the lack of scrutiny and transparency in Cardiff council is putting children and young people at risk.
“There needs to be an urgent public debate and scrutiny about what has gone wrong, why councillors have been left in the dark, and how we rebuild confidence in the service.”
The inspection report showed that the youth offending service was rated inadequate in every inspection area and achieved a score of zero out of 36.
Cllr Hinchey said he would not resign and what young people need is “for us to stand together”.
He said: “I accept the report is disappointing, but I understand the actions we need to take. It’s made us accelerate some of those things we had to change, and the action over the last few months has been pretty excellent.
“We are addressing it and it needs my attention, not me resigning. I go out and see young people on a regular basis, on the frontline and I speak to social workers as well. They need us to stand together. They expect leadership, they don’t want people on social media nitpicking.”
He said the inspection report was embargoed, preventing him from sharing it with councillors before it was published, due to national regulations. But he added councillors were informed about the issue in briefings.
Council leader Huw Thomas pointed to the Tory government in Westminster cutting the budgets for youth offending teams. He said: “We do not shy away from the challenging conclusions of this report, but neither will we accept lectures from the Conservative party, whose government in Westminster has slashed central funding to youth offending teams in half over the last decade.
“Robust scrutiny is important and welcome. Although normal scrutiny functions have been curtailed due to the pandemic, the chair of the children and young people committee has been fully briefed on the report, and a scrutiny plan is in place to consider both the report and the new strategy.”
“The youth offending service is a multi-agency function, and I know Graham, and partners in police, health and probation, are ambitious and eager to deliver the changes which the new strategy sets out.”