Youth justice strategy 2015 to 2020: delivery of the priorities - progress report

This paper outlines the progress made against the priorities of the youth justice strategy 'Preventing Offending: Getting it Right for Children and Young People' over its 5 year lifespan.

Delivery of the Priorities

Three implementation groups were set up to deliver on the priorities. These groups were chaired by external partners and were overseen by the YJIB.

The ‘we will’ commitments within the strategy were ambitious and required time and effort from all partners involved from across the youth justice sector in order to deliver on these outcomes.

In 2017 an update report was published, delivering the 2016-17 Programme for Government commitment to reporting on progress by June 2017. The progress report focussed on the two years’ work relating to the three priority themes. The report noted that, overall, progress had been sustained over those two years and that more broadly, over a ten year period, statistics had shown an 83% reduction in children referred on offence grounds, a 64% reduction in 16 and 17 year olds in custody and a 78% reduction in the number of young people prosecuted in Scotland's courts.

Areas of progress included engagement with community based planning partners across Scotland to highlight the value of an on-going commitment to a preventative approach to offending by young people, drawing on the voice and experiences of young people and using data and research to drive improvement.

Whilst a number of pieces of work had been delivered since 2015, many were long term ambitions to which progress is underway or which have been addressed but do not have specific end dates and, therefore, work will continue beyond the lifetime of the strategy.

Each implementation group has provided a report highlighting the work produced over the five years, challenges, lessons learned and future priorities. The full reports can be found at Annex A but a summary of each priority work stream has been provided below.

Advancing Whole System Approach

The objective of the Advancing Whole System Approach (WSA) Implementation Group was to focus on integration and sustainability as part of Community Planning; improve practice aligned with implementation of the 2014 Act; support timely and effective interventions to minimise the number of children in the Criminal Justice System and formal processes and assessing and managing risk and complexity for the small number of young people posing the greatest risk to themselves and others.

Achievements over the five years of the strategy included:

  • Providing effective leadership to keep WSA visible across Scotland.
  • Improving the profile of youth justice in relation to the ongoing review of strategic planning in children’s services.
  • Helping to embed good practice on 16/17 year olds in core panel member training.
  • Raising the profile of children and young people with complex needs or those at high risk.
  • Supporting ongoing and sustained improvement in joint referral (COPFS/SCRA) decision making.
  • Re-drafting FRAME and CARM.
  • Information about retaining children on a compulsory supervision order within the children’s hearings system – endorsed by Social Work Scotland and Children’s Hearings Scotland (CHS).

Early and Effective Intervention (EEI) is a key component of WSA. Core elements for EEI were developed in 2015 as a framework setting out best practice for effective delivery of EEI. An updated version was commissioned by the Advancing WSA group in order to reflect current practice, taking into account new research and changes in practice and legislation since the original document was published. Although local variation in the delivery of EEI is required, there is also agreement that a framework of core elements is required to provide a shared language, a shared intent and where possible a consistent approach. The revised EEI core elements was published in June 2021.

Framework for Risk Assessment Management and Evaluation (FRAME) was first published in 2015 by the Scottish Government. The guidance outlines principles of good risk practice as well as the process for risk management/reduction for children aged 12-17. The Advancing WSA group agreed that the guidance should be updated in conjunction with the Risk Management Authority, in order to provide up to date standards, guidance and operational requirements for risk practice. The updated FRAME guidance was published in June 2021.

Future - The Advancing WSA group feel that all under 18s should be considered as children first. With this in mind youth justice must be enmeshed and underpinned by children’s rights.

The WSA should also be extended to those up to the age of 26, with the condition that under 18s remain a priority for continued support.

There is a clear commitment to review the processing and treatment of under 18s within the court system to ensure compliance with UNCRC across all partners.

Mental health has, for a long time, been a priority area of need. Continued engagement and support as identified for Mental Health Strategy work, are required, to ensure the needs of children in conflict with the law are included in the development of appropriate pathways and resources which comes from this.

In particular during 2020 there has been anecdotal evidence to suggest an increase in serious and organised crime (SOC) and in particular child criminal exploitation. A commitment to engaging and supporting the development and implementation of the SOC National Strategy to understand and address the impact of child criminal exploitation across the continuum of WSA is required.

Improving Life Chances (ILC)

The focus of the ILC implementation group was on education, employability, stable relationships, successful transitions, health and wellbeing and support for victims and communities.

Achievements included:

  • Promotion of school inclusion.
  • Launch of an SQA course on Vulnerable Girls and Young Women.
  • Support the development of a Restorative Justice action plan and paper published on victims and community confidence.
  • Development of a Speech Language and Communication Needs action plan and delivery of strategic leads events to raise awareness.
  • Championing the distinct needs of children and young people within the disclosure system.
  • Publication of a Children and Young People in Custody in Scotland paper.
  • Publication of Improving the life chances of children and young people who offend- A summary of the key factors document. Whilst initially published in 2018 this paper has been updated and re-branded. It details a number of factors which consistently emerge as being central to improving the life chances and outcomes of children and young people. The purpose of which is to support practitioners, managers and policy makers in all sectors who are involved in improving the life chances of children.

Areas which still require focus include mental health and work to address disadvantages in relation to communication.

Developing Capacity and Improvement (DCI)

The aim of the Developing Capacity and Improvement (DCI) group was to support continuous improvement in developing and sustaining a workforce which comprises education, health and justice professionals in statutory and non-statutory roles with a focus on supporting workforce development, including enhancing training for practitioners, developing leadership opportunities and refreshing training for whole workforce taking account of the 2014 Act and improving systems, including strengthening the evidence base, data capture and sharing of information.

Achievements include:

The tool is designed to be used by professionals working directly with young people as a way of capturing discussions which happen between professionals and the young people and is linked to the SHANARRI indicators.

A number of barriers restricted the achievements of this group including access to meaningful data and data sharing concerns around the outcomes tool. Both aspects need to be resolved in order to assess the future impact of the work produced by the group.



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