Youth justice strategy: progress report

Report on the progress made since the publication of the youth justice strategy, 'Preventing offending: getting it right for children and young people', in 2015.


In Scotland we have a proud record of taking a holistic approach to the needs of our children and young people. For those involved in offending we remain committed to tackling the cause and impact of the offending behaviour together with addressing the young person's wider needs. As far as possible children and young people should be kept out of the Criminal Justice System, with proven alternative interventions delivered to address the behaviour and its causes.

In June 2015 we published the Youth Justice Strategy ' Preventing Offending: Getting it right for children and young people'. The strategy aims to support the overarching vision of making Scotland the best place to grow up for all of our children and young people.

"Preventing offending is integral to our vision of Scotland as the best place to grow up."

"The Scottish approach to youth justice builds on the hugely influential Kilbrandon Report (1964) by responding to deeds in the context of needs. We see, understand and deal with offending behaviour in an integrated way to help the child, their family and the community to flourish."

Michael Matheson MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Justice (2015)

Our commitment to implementing the strategy was reaffirmed in A Plan for Scotland: the Government's Programme for Scotland 2016-17 which highlighted that:

"Our priorities will be to advance the whole system approach, improving life chances and developing capacity and improvement in the workforce. We will report on progress by June 2017."

Building on success

Scotland's youth justice strategy is an ambitious programme - directed at building on the success of the Youth Justice framework for action ' Preventing offending by young people', which was published in 2008 and refreshed in 2011. Since 2008 we have moved to a more preventative approach, recognising that a child's early years are their most important and that their environment and wellbeing in this key stage of life can have a significant impact on their future lives and life chances. We also recognise that adolescence is a critical period of opportunity and brain development. The 2015 strategy is founded on a shared vision of what needs to happen through prevention, diversion and managing and supporting children and young people to change their behaviour.

The 2008 Youth Justice framework laid the foundations for a whole system approach ( WSA) to offending by young people. 2011 saw the national roll out of this approach, which remains underpinned by Getting it Right for Every Child ( GIRFEC).
The WSA involves putting in place streamlined and consistent planning, assessment and decision making processes for young people who offend, getting the right help to them at the right time.

The Whole System Approach comprises:

Early and Effective Intervention ( EEI) Maximising opportunities to divert young people from prosecution Providing court support to young people
Increasing community alternatives to secure care and custody Managing high risk Improving reintegration and transitions back in to the community

The WSA was independently evaluated in 2014-15. Findings showed that the WSA had been instrumental in improvements to partnership working and shared learning, and in turn improving outcomes for children and young people. It also highlighted areas where we must continue to focus.

"Improvements in partnership working, and in particular information-sharing and shared learning across agencies were reported in all three local authority areas."

Evaluation of the WSA (2015)

Scotland's record on youth justice

Scotland has seen some striking successes in youth justice over the last 10 years:

78% reduction in the number of young people prosecuted in Scotland's courts [1]

83% reduction in the number of children referred to the Children's Reporter on offence grounds [2]

64% reduction in the number of 16 and 17 year olds in custody [3]

The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey 2014-15 found that the proportion of crimes thought to have been committed by school age children (under 16) has decreased from 26% (363) in 2008-09 to 15% (100) in 2014-15.

Progress report

This report sets out the progress made in the two years since June 2015 and outlines some key next steps.

The report has been produced by the Scottish Government, with the support of members of the Youth Justice Improvement Board ( YJIB). The YJIB comprises national partner representatives, all committed to supporting young people and to reducing the impact of offending on victims and communities.

Information on Board membership and its Implementation Groups can be found on the Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice website.

The current strategy is broad in scope but at its heart is a child-centred, preventative approach which:

  • Helps communities to feel safe from crime and disorder
  • Improves life chances for children and young people involved in or at risk of offending
  • Enables all children and young people to be confident individuals, effective contributors, successful learners and responsible citizens.

Scotland's strategy re-emphasises the centrality of multi-agency partnership working. There is a shared responsibility for all those working with young people to ensure that they can realise their full potential.

The strategy's priorities cohere around 3 key themes:

The strategy's priorities cohere around 3 key themes


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