Diverting young people from prosecution: toolkit

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

11. Protection of diversion programmes

What about joint working across Local Authority areas?

Linking up programmes and protocols across Local Authority or Community Justice Authority areas should be considered. It could provide efficiency savings in using the same services for a larger number of young people and arrangements to jointly fund external programmes and projects would reduce organisational costs. If services are provided in-house, these can be shared across authorities with consequent reductions. These arrangements can also provide other benefits, such as:

  • one point of contact across the board for liaison with the key external agencies, such as the prosecutor and the police, improving consistency and enhancing good relationships
  • greater scope for development of specialist work within the staff groups
  • shared monitoring and evaluation.

A good example of this is the pan Ayrshire approach to diversion from prosecution (See Annex I).

Effectiveness of diversion

Increasing the number of 16 and 17 year olds diverted from prosecution and raising awareness of the robustness of the service is important. Maintaining a high profile and demonstrating the outcomes achieved will make the withdrawal of funding less attractive. Good practice in this area includes:

  • awareness raising events for decision makers
  • robust monitoring and evaluation
  • good relationships, one point of contact (possibly a coordinator).

Efficiencies and savings

The interim report from the Whole System Approach in Aberdeen identified:

'Non - financial benefits

It is undisputed that a range of 'non-financial' benefits have been provided by the programme since its inception and these are detailed below. These benefits relate to activities which have positively impacted on the youth justice environment, but have no 'cash releasing' element associated with them.

  • There is positive and improved partnership working in place . A range of Public sector agencies are working together co-operatively and are taking 'real' responsibility for getting things done. This collaborative working is focusing on a common aim where the 'value' generated is key. There is an increased trust and openness across boundaries, with a willingness to make changes. This has resulted in:
  • Sharing of information, advice and support across organisations- evidenced by the partners all working together to support each other in the provision of 'Intensive Support Services';
  • Sharing of paperwork across agencies - evidenced by sharing of. risk assessments to speed up the process and avoid costly duplication of effort and paperwork ;
  • Dropping of the boundaries across the Voluntary Sector Organisations - evidenced by different commissioned organisations putting their commercials aside and working openly together e.g. Apex have had open discussions seeking advice for Barnardo's;
  • Improved understanding of where people and organisations fit in the overall system, the role of individual agencies and how they relate to other agencies . Through partnership working and regular meetings and interaction, agencies now believe that they have a much better knowledge and understanding of the roles and responsibilities of partner agencies. This has allowed for improved working relationships and better decision making.
  • Greater engagement with Health and Education services . Through the introduction of PRS, and ISS, both Education and Health services are getting involved earlier in working to address the needs of young people and offending. This engagement has begun to see benefits generated already, although there is still more to be done in this area.
  • Introduced a robust 'Challenge Mechanism' . The programme has supported organisations to question and challenge the services which are provided; their current 'ways of working', their practices and values. Organisations are now thinking about the delivery of their own services and considering whether it fits the needs of the service user. This has been a distinct change of behaviour, but a welcome one in the current financial climate.
  • Commercial Awareness. The programme has been a catalyst in making people and organisations become more 'business' focused and commercially aware with a focus upon and transparency of how to spend money appropriately in the delivery of appropriate, timely and proportionate services.
  • Virtual Teams developed. Teams are being created which focus around an individual child and their needs, rather than being constrained by individual organisational boundaries.
  • Analysis of Offending Behaviour . Through the provision of more effective and timely information, offending behaviour is being analysed and assessed via the PRS meetings.
  • Reduction for YJMU [Youth Justice Management Unit] staff completing police database checks.
  • Profile of GIRFEC has been raised. The GIRFEC agenda has been highlighted by the YJDP and barriers which will impact on the ability to implement GIRFEC have been identified.
  • Cultural change facilitated. The programme has facilitated a shift in mindset from one of 'punitive' to 'working with' children with offending behaviour. This is a significant change and although not all stakeholders have fully embraced this shift, there is a perception that a large step has been taken in this new direction.
  • Personal development for staff. There has been increased learning for staff in all agencies about the broader agenda for reducing re-offending and the adoption of the WSA. People involved in the programme have been give the opportunity to widen their skills set and are now able to demonstrate the ability to change and cope with new initiatives.

Efficiency Savings [specific to diversion from prosecution]

The data provided for the forecast period 2010/2011 indicates a 20% increase in the diversion rate from prosecution of 16 and 17 year olds reported to the PF (i.e. diverted through: Fiscal Direct Measures, including diversion from prosecution; and no proceedings). This is a 50% diversion rate compared to 30% for 2009/2010).

  • Consequently, this leads to a:
    • Reduction in Procurator Fiscal time allocated to court work and a reduction in the use of courts, judiciary and legal aid ;
    • Reduction in the number of reports which require to be written by Social Work - allowing staff more time to deliver front line services, but an increase in the number of young people being supervised on diversion programmes;
    • Reduction in police time in supporting the criminal justice process - fewer police reports through police direct measures, less preparation of witness statements, less time spent in court. This reduction in police time allows staff more time to deliver front line services.

This reduction in workload signifies efficiency savings across the criminal justice partners in the region of £425K.'

Realignment of Funding

Funding for adult diversion is provided to Criminal Justice Social Work via Community Justice Authorities but this is not the case for diversion programmes provided by Youth Justice Teams. Demonstrating an increase in the number of 16 and 17 year olds diverted may provide an opportunity for funding to be realigned at a local level. If services that are already linked up have shown efficiency savings this could prove to be an attractive option.


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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