One positive and sustained relationship with a youth worker can make all the difference in helping young people leave crime behind, said Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation. Today she published a report on the effectiveness of practice in Youth Offending Teams (YOTS), looking at the main themes which desistance research has identified as being important in supporting children and young people’s routes away from offending.
The report, Desistance and young people, relates to findings from interviews undertaken with young people who had not reoffended for 12 months after the end of their community or custodial sentence and with those who had, to see what they thought worked or did not work for them. Interviews were also undertaken with parents/carers and key workers and case records were checked. In recent years, YOT workloads have reduced, as has their funding and often their continuity of staff. Those changes as well as the relative lack of youth research may have affected how far YOTs have applied themselves to youth desistance. Inspectors found some case managers had an excellent grounding and understanding of desistance theory, but most staff were unclear about how key approaches could be applied.
Inspectors were concerned to find that in some cases, case managers were ambivalent about reparation work and felt that children were sometimes slotted into existing projects that case managers thought unlikely to prove effective. Some case managers reported spending too much time getting young people into unpaid work, with enforcement action if they didn’t complete it. Many of those young people persisting in crime had found unpaid work ineffective in promoting desistance despite the effort and cost involved in making it happen. On the other hand, those young people who desisted from crime had much more positive experiences of unpaid work.
Inspectors were pleased to find that YOT workers generally worked hard at building relationships. Those young people who were successful in turning away from crime laid great store on a trusting, open and collaborative relationship with a YOT worker.
The Youth Justice Board and youth offending services have continued the national implementation of the AssetPlus assessment and planning framework which will help YOTs to personalise desistance support for young people and all youth offending service staff are due to complete training which includes desistance theory.
Dame Glenys Stacey said:
“The Ministry of Justice is considering whether the way youth justice works at the moment is fit for purpose, and is looking at how to prevent youth crime and how to rehabilitate young people who have committed crimes. The review’s interim report in February 2016 highlighted the importance of improving educational outcomes for children and young people who have offended and we agree – YOTs need to give this greater emphasis.
“But there are other factors YOTs would do well to focus on – which include stimulating a child’s motivation to change, addressing substance misuse and helping them to become part of a community. This inspection has highlighted some critical lessons to be learned if desistance theory is to become fully embedded in youth offending service.
“Most notably – and I think this does take the research forwards a little – those successful in desisting from crime laid great store on a trusting, open and collaborative relationship with a YOT worker or other professional, seeing it as the biggest factor in their achievement.”
A copy of this report can be found on HM Inspectorate of Probation’s website at http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation.