Mentor for Thusha attacker claims youth service is in 'crisis'
The gang member convicted for his part in the shooting that left a five-year-old paralysed for life was “let down” by an overstretched youth offending team shackled by a tick box approach to youth services.
The allegations came from a youth worker who dealt with Anthony McCalla, who was given a life sentence last Thursday for his part in a gangland shooting that left little Thusha Kamaleswaran paralysed from the waist down.
The criticism comes as the former head of Lambeth’s youth services claimed case officers had twice the workload of employees in other boroughs, leaving “seasoned and ruthless” youths to walk the streets.
Last month, inspectors slated Lambeth’s Youth Offending Team (YOT) for failing to protect the public from young offenders, adding there would be “significant implications” if procedures were not reviewed.
They have since introduced a 12-month improvement programme.
McCalla’s former case worker, who was a member of Lambeth’s YOT but did not want to be named, slammed the council’s short-sighted “tick box approach” to youth services.
The worker said: "They didn’t pull out all the stops for that kid. I was shocked and disgusted [at his conviction]. The service did not do enough to help him. He was never a young man who was supposed to end up like that.
“But there are more Anthony’s out there who are more seasoned than him – they are a lot more cold and ruthless.”
The concerns were echoed by the council’s former head of youth support services, Junior Shabazz, who claimed case officers were being tasked with up to 30 medium- to high-risk offenders each – double the rate of other authorities.
Mr Shabazz said budgets had previously been slashed after the service had improved, and the council was consequently failing to identify the most serious offenders.
He said: “In too many cases these young people become important after the shots are fired. That is the failing. It is totally unacceptable for this community to live with the harassment and fear.”
The council blamed central Government for the changes saying it had lobbied ministers to reverse plans for a 20 per cent or £250,000 reduction to the £1.25m service in March last year.
A council spokesman said its contributions to the youth offending budget remained the same and said it had offered “extensive support” to McCalla up until his arrest.
He said: “Anthony McCalla was clearly a very troubled young man, but while it is tempting to look for straightforward answers, the causes of violence are complex.
“The only way to address the issue of youth offending is though the partnership working between parents, schools, police and the wider community – this issue will not be resolved through the efforts of one agency.”