Tackling Youth Crime and Reforming Youth Justice Services

Just over 49,500 children (aged 10-17) were arrested for notifiable offences in 2021. Although the rates of young people entering the youth justice system have decreased significantly in the last decade, there’s still work to do. 

youths in mentoring sessions
This article explains how a range of local organisations can continue working together to create youth justice services to ensure youth offending and re-offending don’t increase in the future.

Who’s Responsible for Tacking Youth Crime in England and Wales?

There's a range of organisations and bodies in each local area which should work together to stop young people from offending. These include:

  • The police
  • Police and crime commissioners 
  • Local authorities
  • NHS England health and justice teams
  • Youth offending teams
  • Local charities 
  • Schools

Each local area should have a shared vision regarding reducing youth crime create youth just services to achieve specific goals. You'll need to combine and implement various interventions to improve health outcomes in children in contact with the criminal justice system.

These interventions differ when reducing offending and reducing re-offending. They should also be approached from two different levels — family and community.

Reducing Youth Offending At a Family Level

Research confirms that children raised in supportive, affectionate and accepting homes are less likely to become deviant. What happens during the early years of someone's life has long-lasting effects on their health and well-being.

Therefore, local organisations must work with families to help prevent children and young people from offending. This can be done by basing work on three principles:

  1. Support responsive relationships.
  2. Reduce sources of stress in the lives of children and families.
  3. Strengthen core life skills and build resilience.

Reducing Youth Offending At a Community Level

Local organisations can also work collaboratively at a community level to prevent youth offending in your area. There are several actions you should take and these include:

  1.  Avoid school exclusion: Local schools can protect vulnerable children by encouraging educational achievement, creating strong mentoring relationships and developing social skills and self-esteem.
  2.  Prevent domestic violence: Research shows a link between children who suffer from domestic violence and those who offend when they're older. Local partnerships should prevent domestic violence in their health and well-being plans.
  3.  Prevent alcohol and drug problems: The police and other local organisations should carry out work to reduce drug and alcohol problems in their area and also offer the necessary support to offenders.
  4. Prioritise children in care: Children in care are over-represented in the youth justice system. Local organisations should strongly emphasise supporting these children to ensure they aren't inappropriately criminalised.

Reducing Youth Re-Offending From a Family Level

68% of children released from custody re-offend within a year. There are several ways local authorities can prevent young people from re-offending by taking the following actions at a family level:

  1. Use peer mentoring. 
  2. Promote family-based interventions. 
  3. Provide a clear route into education.

Reducing Youth Re-Offending From a Community Level

There are also actions local authorities can take from a community level and implemented into youth justice services. These include:

  1.  Use trauma-informed services: These services recognise the signs, symptoms and effects of trauma and include paths for recovery.
  2.  Promote nurturing environments: It's crucial that children in contact with the youth justice system experience a nurturing environment which focuses on building their confidence, life skills and resilience.
  3.  Identify and support children at risk: Local partners working with vulnerable young people need to identify children at risk early and refer them to services they need, such as substance misuse and mental health services.
  4.  Support young people's access to education and employment: Local authorities should work together to ensure young people have access to appropriate education and training opportunities. 

This is a top-level overview of some of the ways local authorities can work in collaboration to tackle youth crime and create youth justice services to reduce re-offending.