Diverting young people from prosecution: toolkit

Guidance for service providers on providing effective, tailored and appropriate interventions for young people who offend.

9. Tailored services to meet the needs of young people

Why have diversion tailored to meet the needs of young people?

Getting it right for every child ( GIRFEC) 9 is the foundation for work with all children and young people, including 16 and 17 year olds. It builds on universal health and education services, and is embedded in the developing early years and youth frameworks. It has been implemented across Scotland; therefore the development of any services for children and people should be based on the GIRFEC model.

GIRFEC aims to improve outcomes for all children and young people. It promotes a shared approach that:

  • builds solutions with and around children and families;
  • enables children to get the help they need when they need it;
  • supports a positive shift in culture, systems and practice; and
  • involves working together to make things better.

Young people aged 16 and 17 have different needs and circumstances and adult services may not be appropriate for them. Research 10 indicates that young people in this category are still maturing and often demonstrate a lack of cognitive development which manifests in poor problem solving skills and consequential thinking, requiring an increased level of support to enable them to change their behaviour.

What should a tailored diversion programme include?

Using the GIRFEC principles a successful diversion programme should:

  • have a multi-agency approach (including information sharing);
  • provide services that address the needs and behaviour of the young person on an individualised basis, (including gender 11 ). A wide range of services should be available to address specific needs or risks, as opposed to fitting the young person into a service which may not be appropriate;
  • an appropriate assessment should be undertaken (with partner agencies) to decide the most appropriate type of diversion programme ;
  • make families aware of the purpose of diversion and intended outcomes (see Annex G for an example), involving them where appropriate;
  • consider whether group work or individual work will provide better outcomes for the young person.

It will be important that diversion programmes address a wide variety of behaviours. Procurators Fiscal can only refer cases for diversion if they can be satisfied that the issue causing offending or the nature of the offending behaviour can be addressed. The Procurator Fiscal must dispose of a case within set timescales and it will therefore be essential that diversion programmes are completed within these timescales. However, in exceptional circumstances it may be possible to continue working with a young person following a report to the Procurator Fiscal (which marks the formal end of diversion). It may be that the diversionary work is providing good outcomes but more time is necessary due to the young person's complex needs.

In some cases restorative justice or social work diversion may be appropriate but the young person still has a clear need of support that will not be addressed by these options. It will be important in such cases to ensure that they are signposted to the necessary service or support. Where possible a referral should be made on their behalf. Other services that may be required could include those concerning:

Mental Health (see Appendix B - pathways to psychiatric care)
Learning disabilities
Learning difficulties
Drugs, Alcohol
Careers, Education
Anger management
Parenting support (young parents)
Domestic abuse 12
Housing support
Sexual Health
Benefits/Financial advice

The lead professional should also take account of any services that a young person is already engaged with. Care leavers, for example, may be in receipt of support for housing, finance, education and training. Using the GIRFEC model will ensure that these supports are delivered coherently and duplication is avoided.


Care should be taken in drawing up diversion protocols to ensure that they do not unintentionally discriminate, for example, prioritising one group of young people over another. It will be important to ensure that there are services in place to meet the differing needs that can be presented by 16 and 17 year olds but this should be about having a service in place rather than prioritising one or more groups for diversion. Young people should be considered for, and therefore potentially have access to, a youth justice diversion programme regardless of their gender, race, faith and belief, sexual orientation or disability.

An Equality Impact Assessment has been carried out on this toolkit and is available at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/People/Equality/18507/EQIADetails/Q/Id/647


Email: youth.justice@gov.scot

Telephone: 0131 244 5443

Care and Justice Division
Scottish Government
Area 2-B North
Victoria Quay

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