Evaluation of the Children in Trouble Programme

Kerry Martin, Richard White, Karen Halsey

30 March 2010

The Children in Trouble programme set out to encourage, develop and showcase different approaches to reducing the use of custodial sentences for children. This report documents the achievements and challenges of the four pilot projects, following an evaluation by NFER.

Although sharing a common purpose, the four projects tackled the issue of children in custody in quite different ways - for example, one offered a direct alternative to a custodial sentence (intensive fostering), whilst another worked more strategically to better understand the use of custody in their authority (custody panel). Despite their differences, all projects demonstrated some success, which suggests that it is possible to divert young people from custody through a range of approaches.

The Children in Trouble programme, however, did more than simply pilot different approaches to reducing custody. It also established a forum, where experiences could be shared between the pilots projects and in the process, some of the wider issues associated with the use of custody began to surface (e.g. a lack of accommodation for young people, conflicting targets with the criminal justice system and issues over the funding of alternative provision and custody).

Key Findings

  • A drop in custody rates by 42 per cent in the area where a custody panel operated
  • Reports from young people that their accommodation placements and the support they received from a floating accommodation support service were key factors in their decisions to not re-offend
  • One pilot developed the use of restorative justice in residential children’s home and as a result relationships between the youth offending service and workers in residential homes improved, signalling a more partnership-orientated approach to preventing young people from entering the criminal justice system.

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