Assessment and management of young people: guidance

Guidance for local authorities on the assessment of young people who present a risk of harm through sexually harmful and/or violent behaviour.

4. Policy Context

There are 3 fundamental perspectives that underpin the policy context of work with children and young people who offend in Scotland.

Firstly, there is early intervention and prevention as outlined in Preventing Offending: A Framework for Action (2008). The over-arching purpose of the Preventing Offending Framework is to deliver real improvements on the ground - to identify and develop good practice and embed this as standard practice; to support the development of effective interventions; and improve the range, quality and effectiveness of provision.

While concentrating effort primarily on prevention and early intervention for the 8 to 16 age group, the Framework for Action also has a particular focus on successful transitions into adulthood. Emphasis is placed on early intervention in the child's life before any concerns about behaviour or welfare begin to escalate and become more serious. Those young people that present a significant risk should be managed within a community based setting wherever possible. This work is underpinned in primary legislation within the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968, Children (Scotland) Act 1995 and the Childrens Hearing (Scotland) Act 2011.

Secondly, work with children and young people who offend should also take place within a child protection context. Approaches with children and young people who offend will often go hand in hand with protective work: many children and young people who display offending behaviours are also highly vulnerable and may have experienced crime and trauma in their own lives. A small proportion of young people may become involved in serious offending with little or no indication in their early lives or environment as to why this occurred. However, for others, it is increasingly recognised that negative early life experiences can leave some children extremely vulnerable to environmental pressures and this can contribute to the emergence of violence and/or other forms of harmful or anti-social behaviours in childhood and later life. This is relevant to any consideration of risk assessment and management: an assessment of their vulnerability as well as the risk of harm they may present to others needs to be taken into account.

Work with children and young people who offend needs to consider and prioritise their protection as well as tackling behaviours that have an impact on others. Practice with these young people must be in line with the government's National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland and local child and adult protection procedures.

Thirdly, work with children and young people who offend should embrace the principles of Getting it right for every child ( GIRFEC). GIRFEC is based on research, evidence and learning from practice and is designed to ensure all parents, carers and professionals work effectively together to give children and young people the best start to improve their life opportunities. It provides a common assessment framework in order to achieve this.

The GIRFEC approach is value based and places children and young people's needs first. It ensures that they are listened to and understand the decisions which affect them and that they get more co-ordinated help where this is required for their well-being, health and development. It requires that all services for children, young people and their families - social work, health, education, police, housing and voluntary organisations - adapt and streamline their systems and practices to improve how they work together to support children and young people, including strengthening information sharing.

GIRFEC provides specific tools to help analyse the child's world alongside their environment; such as Well-being Indicators, My World Triangle and the Resilience Matrix. It also promotes a common assessment framework that should assist practitioners working with children. Further information about the use of the assessment framework can be found in the GIRFEC guidance. The GIRFEC values need to underpin all work in relation to risk assessment and management with children and young people who offend.

The GIRFEC approach to risk assessment and management builds on the other policy approaches and conceptualises risk in a particular way, seeing risk and need as interrelated, and linking risk taking behaviour to the expression of unmet need.

These three perspectives in social policy - Preventing Offending, the child/adult protection context and GIRFEC - prioritise the consideration of welfare when working with children and young people who offend. Ensuring effective practice in this area requires joined up planning at operational, tactical and strategic levels between criminal justice, adult protection [3] , child protection and childcare services.


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