Toolkit and Briefings on Youth Diversion Published

The Centre for Justice Innovation has published two new briefings on diversion commissioned by the Youth Endowment Fund (YEF) as well as the latest version of their youth diversion toolkit to form part of their work providing guidance to local leaders on evidence-led diversion for young people under 18. 

Details 

The first briefing, ‘Inspection Frameworks: Youth diversion and out of court disposals (OOCDs)’, provides an overview of the existing national inspection frameworks for diversion and OOCDs, summarises findings and recommendations from recent inspection reports, and outlines recommendations for improvements in how this work is inspected. The second briefing, ‘Data on youth diversion,’ provides an overview of national and local youth diversion data - who collects the data, what the data includes, an assessment of the current data available and recommendations for improvement. The most recent update of the ‘Valuing diversion toolkit’ (originally published in 2015) lays out the research case for youth diversion generally before going into specific policy and practice considerations within youth diversion models. 

Youth diversion Inspection Frameworks

  • Joint inspections are crucial to scrutinise the practice of youth justice services and police working together to deliver effective diversion and OOCDs; 
  • The lead inspectorate in joint inspections face difficulties in getting other inspectorates to engage fully and resource themselves adequately;
  • Thematic inspections (such as those centred solely on OOCDs or diversion) are found to be useful by practitioners and inspectors but local areas find themselves less bound to their recommendations compared to those made in their inspection reports 
  • Key recommendations are:
    • Inspectorates should be able to make recommendations publicly in their reports relating to other agencies, for relevant inspectorates to then follow up on 
    • His Majesty’s Inspectorate of probation (HMIP) and His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) should undertake another thematic inspection on OOCDs and diversion given the significant changes in recent years;
    • HMICFRS should publish a spotlight report on good police practice in OOCDs and diversion;
    • HMIP and HMICFRS should carry out a thematic inspection on the policing of children.

Data on youth diversion

  • Over the past ten years, there has been a major shift in youth justice services, and now the majority of youth justice service caseload is made up of children receiving preventative or diversionary support (rather than statutory cases) but as there is no requirement to report nationally or consistently record data around diversion, Current national funding formulas do not adequately account for this shift; 
  • Two significant amendments are being made to the collection of youth diversion data. Firstly, diverted children will now be assessed with a slimmer version of Asset Plus currently being developed by the Youth Justice Board (YJB). Secondly, the recording of all youth justice services’ diversion work is becoming mandatory to build a more complete picture of their caseloads;
  • Some stakeholders expressed the view that data collection on diversion could be harmful to children by leading to more stigmatising contact with the justice system, and thus some gaps in data collection on diversion should remain intentionally. 
  • Key recommendations are:
    • Home Office should make outcome 22 (a diversionary policing outcome which does not require an admission of guilt) a positive outcome and ensure police understand how to use this; 
    • Police should inform local youth justice services of Community Resolutions given to children so they can be offered voluntary support;
    • YEF and others should use the new YJB data collection requirements as a platform to conduct additional, scheme level evaluations of youth diversion;
    • The Ministry of Justice should use new diversion data to explore its implications for diversion funding.

Valuing diversion toolkit: newest edition

  • There is a strong evidence base nationally and internationally showing that formal criminal justice processing makes the majority of children more likely to commit crimes again, and that youth diversion can reduce crime, cuts costs and create better outcomes for children.
  • Key principles of effective diversion practice:
    • Eligibility criteria for diversion should be set as broadly as possible, not precluding children who have been offered diversion before, and opting for an acceptance of responsibility rather than admission of guilt;
    • Speedy referrals into diversion; 
    • Children’s needs and strengths should be assessed upon induction;
    • Diversion programmes should be light-touch, evidence-based and therapeutic.

Commentary 

Youth diversion has come a long way over the past 10 years, and currently almost all local authorities in England and Wales deliver a diversion scheme. Concurrently, the number of First Time Entrants into the youth justice system has reduced dramatically— by 80% over the last 12 years. Despite its major success, youth diversion still faces issues in obtaining accurate recognition and ensuring consistent and effective delivery of schemes. Diversion is still not offered equal, especially to children from minoritised communities and can be difficult to engage with for children with Special Educational needs and Disabilities. Changes to the ways in which data is collected around diversion will help create a clearer picture of schemes delivered, and continued support for and inspections of local youth justice services will help address disproportionality and increase evidence-based delivery. 

 

Written by Carla McDonald-Heffernan, Centre for Justice Innovation