Young people in the criminal justice system

Of the 87,531 people in prison on 31 March 2012, 9,198 were young people (aged 15-20).

Children who end up in custody are three times more likely to have mental health problems than those who do not. We also know they are very likely to have more than one mental health problem, to have a learning disability, to be dependent on drugs and alcohol and to have experienced a range of other challenges. Many of these needs go unrecognised and unmet.

Youth Justice Liaison and Diversion

At the point of arrest, there is an opportunity to identify these needs early on, to link young people and their families with the support they need and to reduce the chance of people going in and out of the youth justice system.

In 2007, alongside the Department of Health and the Youth Justice Board, we funded a major national programme of six pilot Youth Justice liaison and diversion schemes for young people with mental health, learning, communication difficulties or other vulnerabilities affecting their physical and emotional well being. The pilot schemes were designed to ensure that children and young people with mental health and other problems get the help they need as soon as they enter the youth justice system.

You can read examples of how the Youth Justice Liaison and Diversion can divert young people who are coming into contact with the youth justice system here.

In March 2012 an independent academic evaluation of the pilots was published, which measured their effectiveness in improving health and reduce offending behaviour. Among the findings were that young people involved in YJLD intervention took longer to reoffend as well as significant improvements in depression and self-harming.

Mental health service models

In 2007, we were commissioned us to explore models of mental health service provision in the following areas:

  1. The health practitioner in the Youth Offending Team (building on the work already completed by the NACRO)
  2. Forensic Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services
  3. Secure settings (Secure Children's Homes, Secure training Centres and Youth Offender Institutions).

We conducted interviews with a range of health and mental health practitioners, youth justice practitioners, managers, commissioners and Directors/governors of Secure Settings. We also made contact with families and young people involved in the youth justice system.

All three final documents fed into planning the Health and Social Care strategy. The finalized documents are available below.

Download You just get on and do it: healthcare provision in Youth Offending Teams (1.3 MB)

Download Directory of forensic CAMHS services for high-risk young people (817 KB)

Download Reaching out, reaching in: Promoting mental health and emotional well-being in secure settings (1.3 MB)

Checklist for identifying vulnerabilities
in young people

Most adults with poor mental health first present with symptoms during their teenage years so early intervention is critical to promote children's life chances and reduce multi-sector costs. Children with poor mental health are more likely to present with unclear symptoms (such as persistent behavioural difficulties) at this early stage in their lives making vulnerability less easy to identify for non-clinicians.

The document below helps those working in the youth justice system identify young people who might benefit from further in-depth screening for mental health, hidden disability or other safeguarding needs potentially compromising their mental health and emotional wellbeing.

Download the case identification checklist for young people (125 KB)


A Chance to Change

A Chance to Change

Parenting interventions can dramatically improve children’s futures but they must be made widely available, delivered well and targeted at the children who need them most, according to our new report.

A Chance to Change calls for government to spearhead a national campaign to raise public and professional awareness of childhood conduct problems and do more to support well-implemented and evidence-based early interventions.

£10.00 for a paper copy or FREE to download

Download size: 1258 KB

Download 1258 KB

A Need to Belong

This report is the result of an analysis of data collected for more than 8,000 young people at the point of arrest.

On average, young women involved with gangs had more than double the number of vulnerabilities than the other girls who were screened after arrest. The results of the screening shows clear evidence of the psychological vulnerability of gang involved young women.

£10.00 for a paper copy or FREE to download

Download size: 1.1 MB

Download 1.1 MB

Risk and resilience factors affecting multiple health outcomes

A number of factors impact upon young peoples' risk and resilence, affecting health outcomes, as detailed here

Children and Young People in the Youth Justice System

All Party Parliamentary Group for Children seminars reportThis is a collection of information from seminars organised by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children in 2009/10. It looks at prevention and entry into the youth justice system, courts, custody, vulnerable children, the age of criminal responsibility and resettlement.