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.

5. Practice Context

When working with children and young people who offend, the approach taken should be informed by thinking of them as children first and foremost. Children and young people see and experience the world in different ways from the manner in which adults see and experience the world. Their view of themselves and the people around them is profoundly influenced by factors such as the way they have been parented and the modelling provided by adults in their lives. The socialisation provided by education and the influence of peers is also highly significant in the development of attitudes and behaviours. Their ways of conceptualising and making sense of experience is still evolving and children's thoughts, feelings and behaviours need to be considered by adults within a developmental context.

This extends to risk: the idea of what is considered a risk and what is not is conceptualised and experienced in very specific ways by children at different developmental stages and will be informed by a range of factors related to the family, environment and the individual.

In working directly with children and young people who offend, the challenge for professionals is in ensuring that communication and engagement are at the appropriate level to match the developmental stage of the child.

Less serious behaviour may be better dealt with by providing positive supports and diverting the child from formal proceedings which might label the child an offender [4] . More serious behaviours may involve degrees of risk management, but these processes will often rely heavily on the supervision and monitoring that is provided by parents and / or carers and be embedded in the practices of day to day family life [5] .

Children are not 'mini-adults' when it comes to crime. The reasons why children commit crimes are often different to the reasons why adults commit crimes. Due to the differences in the developmental needs of children and young people, assessments and interventions must differ from those used with adults. More detailed advice on good practice with young people who offend can be found in the National Youth Justice Practice Guidance. [6]


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