Youth Justice & Young Adults

Probation Trusts have responsibility for young adult offenders (aged 18-20) serving court orders in the community. For juvenile offenders under the age of 18, that role falls to the Youth Justice Board (YJB) and regional Youth Offender Services (YOS).

Young adults make up a third of the probation service’s current caseload. Effective interventions for young adult offenders can save society large sums of money in terms of reduced criminal justice costs through diversion from crime.

The PCA recognises that a multi-agency approach works most effectively with young people and so it welcomes working in collaboration with other statutory organisations such as the Youth Justice Board (YJB) and interested third sector providers and pressure groups to ensure that the Young Adult offender agenda is moved on.

Young adult offenders are at a point of transition, moving from YOS management to Probation, and moving from being sentenced by Youth Courts to Adult Courts. Recent findings have demonstrated that taking a tailored and person centred approach to each young adult offender offers the best chance of success.

The process of transferring the case management of young people from YOS to Adult Probation has historically been variable across England and Wales. It is important to establish minimum standards for this process to ensure adequate quality of service is provided to young people undergoing this transition to reduce the numbers failing to comply with their changed supervision arrangements. Improving this process will also require the development of improved links between YOSs and local Probation Trusts, and methods of passing secure information quickly between the two agencies.

The PCA welcomes the publication of the YJB’s Youth to Adult Transitions Framework (2012) and considers its advice to both Youth Offending Teams and Probation Trusts to develop local youth to adult transition protocols extremely useful. The PCA also welcomes the October 2012 publication of the HMIP thematic inspection into Youth to Adult Transitions.

Sentencing Council guideline pronouncements have demanded that sentencers and court report writers take into account issues of “maturity” when determining sentence. The assessment of maturity is a neglected arena and urgent work needs to be undertaken to produce widely accepted frameworks or such assessments. On a related note, practitioners also need guidance on how best to intervene with those identified as lacking such maturity to enable the young person to obtain more pro-social attitudes.

The PCA fully supports the work currently being undertaken by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, Birmingham University and several Probation Trusts in developing an assessment tool to aid court report writers to more accurately measure young adult maturity.

Given the comparative neglect until recent times of the specific issues pertaining to young adult offenders, there has been little research or attention paid to other possible interventions. For example, it is now timely to examine the place Attendance Centres can play in reducing the offending rates of some young adults. Promising early results have been found from Probation Trusts implementing Intensive Alternative to Custody (IAC) programmes for this age group.

The PCA aims to evaluate the effectiveness of IAC schemes for young adults across England and Wales and seeks to promote the use of intensive community orders as effective methods of both avoiding the use of custody and providing an intervention that is proved to reduce re-offending.

The PCA’s Youth Justice & Young Adult Offenders policy portfolio is lead by Andrew Hillas, Assistant Chief Officer at London Probation Trust. For queries and contributions to the group please contact the lead here.

Previous Documents & News;

PCA response to Secure Estates Strategy Consultation (2011);The PCA agrees that the secure estate for children and young people should be provided as a specialist resource:Response to Secure Estate Strategy Sep 11b

The PCA back in 2010 submitted its views through the Public Consultation to Reforms Proposed in the Public Bodies Bill in relation to the Abolition of the YJB :reform-public-bodies YJB comments from PCA