Reintegration and transitions for young offenders: guidance

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

Appendix 3 - Principles for Good Practice

  • Young people (under 18) need special measures compared to adults
  • Risk and need assessments should inform the young person's 'single' plan
  • All young people under 18 should have a 'single plan'
  • The 'single plan' should move with the young person into and out of secure care or custody
  • The lead professional/named person is responsible for overseeing the 'single plan'
  • Partnership working is crucial for successful reintegration
  • The underlying causes of offending need to be addressed to reduce risk
  • It is crucial that plans for an exit strategy are devised from the outset of a young person entering secure care or custody
  • Training or employment upon returning to the community are key factors for successful transitions
  • Families need to be involved and engaged throughout the process
  • Appropriate accommodation is essential for young people returning to their local communities
  • Communities and community based social workers need to be involved/remain involved with young people in secure care and custody
  • Health and substance misuse need to be addressed and appropriate services accessed for a young person within their communities
  • Young people's specific needs/issues/gender/religion/disability must be responded to when returning to the community

Examples of good practice

Moving On Renfrewshire Project

The Moving on Renfrewshire Project (funded 2008-11) provides voluntary throughcare support for young men aged 16-21 who are in custody or have recently left prison to reduce their offending behaviour and to access positive outcomes such as education, training, or employment. Specific objectives include sustained or improved physical and mental well-being including reduced or stabilised substance misuse, improved relationships with families, peers and the community, increased ability to access and sustain community supports eg, financial advice, education, employability, and addiction services, ability to access and sustain suitable accommodation and a reduction in offending behaviour. This project was developed by the Robertson trust in Partnership with Action for Children, Fairbridge, Princes Trust, Youthlink, the Scottish Prison Service, Renfrewshire Council and North Strathclyde Community Justice Authority.

Evaluation is provided by Families Outside. Initial evaluation in respect of re offending is positive 113

Lothian CJA

The Lothian CJA project is designed to reduce the incidence of re-offending by young men following their release from YOI Polmont. It is based on the assumption that young people are more likely to re-offend when their re-integration needs have not been adequately assessed, planned for and inadequate provision has been made for their release into the community. It also assumes that early engagement and relationship development with a key worker can provide continuity from 'inside to outside' and should provide ongoing community based support. The overarching aim is for every young offender leaving HMP YOI Polmont to have a planned release arrangement, linked with appropriate resources.


Within Falkirk Council, letters are sent to all sentenced individuals to advise them that they are entitled to a service from the criminal justice social work department upon release and can also be seen in the prison establishment. Below is an example of the letter sent:



Our records tell us that you have recently been sentenced to a period in custody. We would like to offer you a Voluntary Throughcare Service. You will be offered an appointment at Brockville Social Work Office by letter prior to your liberation date. If you require a prison visit prior to your liberation please tick the box below.

The purpose of a Voluntary Throughcare Service is to assist people to resettle into their community following a period in custody. This could include assistance with personal issues in relation to welfare matters, i.e. family, housing, employment, addiction issues etc. See attached leaflet.

Whether you would benefit from our Voluntary Throughcare Service or not please fill in and return the slip below.

The above letter is a good example of advising individuals in custody that they are entitled to a service from the social work department upon release.


Glasgow City Council use their Intensive Support and Monitoring Service ( ISMS) to support young people to return to their local communities. The programme, lasting approximately 3-6 months, tends to involve around 20-25 hours of multi-agency service input per week, including one-to-one community intensive support, provided by Includem, Education, Social Work and specialist support e.g. addictions and mental health services.

ISMS has been comprehensively evaluated and has been proven as an effective way of working with high-risk young people. Here is a summary of key findings:

  • ISMS is effective at reducing frequency and seriousness offending for the vast majority of young people. An evaluation of the ISMS service in Glasgow showed that offending levels reduced by more than half during an ISMS Order and that these positive outcomes are sustained 2 years after leaving the service.
  • ISMS slightly reduces indicators of risk of re-offending. But residual risk levels suggest that appropriate post- ISMS support is crucial in maintaining positive outcomes. Within Glasgow, ISMS reduced offending by 50%.
  • ISMS helps to reduce use of secure accommodation for young people admitted through the Children's Hearing system. In Glasgow 2008/9 secure admissions were 45% lower than before the service commenced.

Fife 16+

The 16+ Learning Choices Team developed an initiative with staff at Polmont YOI to offer a key worker service to young people residing at Blair House, the facility for 16 & 17 year olds males. The first formal meeting with young people at Blair House was in August 2010. This was the first of eight meetings there would be with young people. After this initial period, key workers attended for additional sessions.

Young people were informed of the Key Worker initiative within the 16+
CVconstruction, Arts & Crafts, Independent Living topics, and discussions. These workshops were primarily developed to enable key workers to develop a positive working relationship with the young people involved.


Up-2-Us provide an intensive support service to girls and young women 15-18 years leaving the secure estate and Cornton Vale through their dedicated girls project Time for Change. Time for Change offers its service to young people in the West of Scotland; where girls are referred by other local authorities they ensure that links are made to projects from their home area. Where girls self refer and this generally applies to girls in Cornton Vale, with the girl's permission we make links with the social worker if one is allocated.

The Resource Team also provides a purchased service to local authorities to support high-risk young person at transition or as a preventive measure.

Both projects offer an intensive support service tailored to individual need and this includes flexible working arrangements and 24/7 service access. The Resource Team also provides registered accommodation in the form of respite and wrap around care packages in a tenancy supplied by the referring authority and developed in collaboration with the referrer.

Sometimes young people move on to another full time placement out of the home area after secure accommodation and similar problems emerge at the point of reintegration - for example unsuitable tenancy allocation, return to local children's unit. Both projects can become involved in providing support at that point.

Families Outside

Families outside provide support to the families of people in custody at whatever stage they need it. This can be when they are preparing for a possible remand or sentence, during custody, in preparation for release, and after release. This includes families of young people and, of course, for the young people themselves if they need support with family issues ( e.g. with their own children, or if they have other family members in prison). We link directly with prisons for this work, for example receiving referrals from Family Contact Officers, but also receive referrals through our Helpline. This can include referrals from guidance teachers, family members, health workers, prison staff, etc. We also receive from and make referrals to other organisations (both statutory and voluntary) where appropriate, such as if they offer more specialised support they are better placed to provide. Again, our focus is very much on the family, though sometimes helping the young person is what helps the family most.

Venture Trust

The Inspiring Young Futures ( IYF) programme aims to help vulnerable, "hard-to-reach" young care leavers and young carers (aged 16-19) to make a successful transition into adulthood and independent living. Children who have been in care account for 49% of the under-21 year olds in contact with the criminal justice system 114 , and 29% of young males and 44% of young females in custody have spent time in care 115 . The IYF programme is certainly not a direct alternative to custody, but, given the preponderance of looked after young people in the criminal justice system, the programme can be considered as early intervention and/or preventative work to build confidence, motivation, employability and a range of vital lifeskills, to help participants avoid negative choices and situations in future.

The programme provides long-term commitment, founded upon extended community-based activities accelerating towards an intensive wilderness personal development journey, and culminating in support to move onwards into adulthood and independent living. The three phases of IYF are:

  • Phase 1: "Get involved" (1-to-1 and group-based personal development and activity sessions in and around local communities).
  • Phase 2: Intensive Wilderness Personal Development Journey (to ignite aspiration, motivation and lifeskills for independence and adulthood).
  • Phase 3: "Move on" (support and advice to enter and sustain positive destinations in employment, education, training and independent living).


Overall the community reintegration work Includem provides to young people is a relationship based approach rooted in cognitive and child development theories and desistance research. Focus is on the fundamental importance of building and sustaining meaningful one-to-one caring relationships with young people based on trust. The quality of the relationships determines the quality of the outcomes that can be achieved. It is this relationship that unlocks possibilities for change.

Support is based on core elements, most importantly:

  • persistence and stickability ie a non-rejection referral policy, dogged determination & engagement with young people and see past their presenting behaviour;
  • consistency of one-to-one worker and young person relationship; and
  • help and support at times of need, including a 24/7 helpline for young people and their parents/carers.

Includem's model of practice allows workers to undertake structured one-to-one work focussing on each young person's specific individual needs and risks, helping them to set goals and take actions towards a better life.

On returning from secure care, custody (or a residential placement) Includem will provide intensive support as part of a Supervision Requirement, until this requirement ends and therefore the statutory funding ends. This can range from a few months up to several years. After this point Includem offers Transitional Support to all those young people who need it, on a voluntary basis. This project can support young people up to the age of 24 .

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