Youth Justice Standards were first introduced in 2002, following a comprehensive review of Scotland's Youth Justice system (Audit Scotland, 2002) and the subsequent 10-point action plan in which the then Scottish Executive committed to establishing a set of core National Standards. The original framework of six objectives and their underpinning standards were developed by the Improving the Effectiveness of the Youth Justice System Group (2002) and were established with the specific aim of reducing the number of 'persistent offenders' in Scotland by 10% by 2006. These standards included the appointment of a Youth Justice Coordinator and operational youth justice team in each local authority area, as well as the establishment of a local multi-agency Youth Justice Strategic Group. Key standards were focused on timeous processes and timescales, such as the timeframe for referral of children to the Children's Reporter by the Police; the provision of risk assessments and reports from social work teams; and the scheduling of hearings and decision-making within the Children's Hearings System.
The standards remained in place throughout a number of changes to Scotland's Youth Justice System, including policy developments such as GIRFEC, a new national Youth Justice Strategy (Preventing Offending Getting it Right for Children and Young People) and the roll out of the Whole System Approach (WSA). Amid a sustained fall in the number of children and young people charged with offences (Vaswani, Dyer & Lightowler, 2018) and the subsequent reorganisation or disbandment of several local authority youth justice teams, in 2012 the standards were substantially revised. Core principles and practices were incorporated into the Guide to Youth Justice in Scotland (CYCJ, 2019)
In 2018, the National Youth Justice Advisory Group (NYJAG) highlighted the need for updated standards to provide a framework for the audit of services which support children involved in offending behaviour. It was identified that the standards should include core principles and data sets which support local and national data collection to help monitor progress, service improvement and evidence improved outcomes for children (Scottish Government, 2019).
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