Reintegration and transitions for young offenders: guidance

Best practice information for local authorities, community planning partnership and service providers.

Executive Summary

The following guidance aims to provide an over view of best practice within reintegration and transitions for young people under 18 who offend. As this age group can cross over child and adult services it is important that we recognise this to ensure that the transition process is as smooth as possible and that the service the young person receives meets their age and stage of development.

This guidance starts by giving an overview of definitions and legal requirements for young people depending on what system they fall into, or what their legal entitlements are. The research is then discussed to highlight the evidence for effectiveness in reintegration and transitions for young people, and the difference that this may include in relation to gender.

The main themes from the research include:

  • Good practice in transitions is crucial in achieving positive outcomes for young people;
  • Having detailed plans, that build on existing plans to enable better informed assessments, including risk and need assessment and involving exit strategies from the outset are essential;
  • Local Authorities and community planning partners have a responsibility to ensure resources are available for young people retuning to communities from secure care and custody to reduce the risk of them reoffending. These services should meet the needs of the young people; following a GIRFEC approach, that takes account if gender, race and disability;
  • Young people who offend should be included in integrated children service plans to ensure partnership working, communication and coordination of policy and strategy from both child and adult protection committees; and
  • Services should be streamlined with consistent planning, assessment and decision making; following the principles of a whole system approach; to meet the needs of the young people at the right time. This is true for services within the community as well secure and prison estates.

The services that form part of the whole system approach to improve reintegration and transitions, to support young people and reduce offending include:

  • Learning, skills and employability; by young people having access to these when returning to communities and opportunities to develop these within secure care and custody;
  • Family work; engaging with the young person and their family at all stages;
  • Accommodation; that is appropriate and supportive for young people leaving secure care and custody,
  • Community involvement; ensuring community based social workers remain involved with young people whilst in custody to plan for their release to the community at the point of sentence;
  • Substance abuse; by having age appropriate services available in the secure estate, prison and community that will engage with young people and address their individual needs; and
  • Health and mental health; by full assessments being undertaken when young people return to communities and appropriate services available to meet their needs.

The second part of this guidance examines the various stages of transitions that a young people can go through and the support and help that should be given at each of these. This section stresses that young people need more support than adults and as a result supervision requirements through the Children's Hearing system should not be terminated when a young person enters into the adult justice system. The opposite is in fact the case, and they should remain within a childcare system for a long as possible to ensure their needs are met. Young people will also need support at Court and the processes, language and expectations of them explained. This need for support continues if a young person is sentenced to secure care or custody and the need for community based social work to remain involved is further stressed here.

Fiona Dyer
Professional Advisor
Scottish Government

The Scottish Government would to thank all those who contributed to this guidance/working group (see Appendix 1).

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