Parents voice concerns over young offenders plan for Walthamstow families and homes hub

A council has denied “untrue” claims that it plans to house a probation service next to a primary school.

The former Wood Street library site in Walthamstow is to become a “families and homes hub”, with a planning application expected in January and demolition work already underway.

The new building will include nearly 70 homes and office space for council services, including “a small number of” appointments for young offenders.

A group of “concerned parents” have objected to the idea of young offenders attending appointments next to the Woodside Primary Academy, on the assumption they will misbehave in the area.

The borough’s Youth Offending Service (YOS) is currently at Rowan House in Leytonstone, where it is around the corner from a primary school.

Responding to objections in its newsletter to residents, Waltham Forest Council emphasised the hub will be a “safe and welcoming environment” and is the most “sensible” location for the service.

Patricia O’Reilly, who created a petition opposing the move, said parents must “safeguard our children from the crimes and anti-social behaviour” she claims the service for children would bring.

In her petition she alleges the Youth Offending Service is just a “nice name” for a probation centre, adding: “There really could be no worse place for this development.”

Services for young offenders are not probation services, which supervise “high-risk” criminals after they are released from jail.

Young people seen by a YOS may not even have been convicted of a crime and the services also run programmes to prevent crime.

The last Ofsted inspection of Azhar Academy Girls School, located around the corner from the current YOS, rated it “outstanding” for student welfare and noted pupils “say that they feel very safe”.

In a newsletter sent on Friday, a council spokesperson wrote: “Following recent speculation around probation services being offered at the hub, we would like to reassure residents that this is not true.

“When the suggestion of a Families and Homes Hub was first made, a long list of possible services it might offer was prepared and some of the organisations on that list were removed as not being suitable, including the National Probation Service.

“The YOS works with children who have come into contact with the justice system and their families so it is sensible to have them at the Hub where support for young people and families is available.”

It added that only “a small number” of YOS appointments will take place at the hub, with the bulk of this work moving to a “Family Resilience Centre” planned for the south of the borough.

Following consultation with residents in September, a number of changes have been made to the design-in-progress for the new building, currently intended to be 11 storeys tall.

These include separate entrances for the housing and hub sections of the building, moving the building back from the street and restructuring the homes to reduce how much they overlook neighbouring homes.

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter