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Friday 26 February 2010

Young People’s Participation in the Youth Justice System

Young offenders have the same right to have their views taken into account as other children and young people. However a new NCB report, Young People’s Participation in the Youth Justice System, has found that there are a number of barriers to participative approaches in youth justice services, despite evidence that young offenders who have a say in decisions that affect them are more likely to have better outcomes overall.

The report suggests that negative public perceptions of young offenders have resulted in political ambivalence as to whether young offenders ‘deserve’ a say, while staff culture and commitment and a lack of training on participative approaches can further hinder meaningful contributions by young people in their own assessments. Furthermore young offenders have low expectations about their ability to influence the plans that are made for them, despite welcoming the opportunity to have more say.

While some local services have developed their own initiatives to consult young offenders on issues that affect them, the report recommends that the Youth Justice Board lead the process by developing a participation strategy covering all aspects of the youth justice system. It is imperative that such a strategy establish mechanisms that will support the development of a culture of participation throughout youth justice services. In responding to the report, Frances Done, chair of the Board, has stated that the Board will consider its approach to participation and regard the development of a participation strategy as a high priority.

We know from evidence and experience that outcomes are more likely to be positive when young people have been active partners in shaping the services they receive. The approach to involving young people within the youth justice system in their own assessment and case management should also be reviewed, in partnership with young people. Developing a comprehensive participation strategy covering both individual and more general aspects of youth justice services could greatly improve outcomes for young offenders and enhance the job satisfaction of staff working with them.

Diane Hart
Principle Officer
Youth Justice and Welfare
National Children's Bureau

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