Evaluation of the Children in Trouble projects
The LGA Children in Trouble project aims to reduce the use of custody for children and young people. Evidence suggests that the use of community sentences that target the root of offending behaviour reduce the seriousness and frequency of re-offending. The first phase of the Children in Trouble project is to run pilots in four locations around the UK. It is hoped that these pilots will demonstrate innovation and good practice in reducing custodial sentencing and reoffending rates. The NFER has been asked to evaluate the impacts of the pilot projects over a period of two years (starting from May 2007).
The main aim of this research study will be to gather evidence on the outcomes of the four Children in Trouble pilot projects.
The different outcomes will be divided into two distinct tiers for the purposes of evaluation and reporting. Tier one concerns a set of six shared objectives across all four pilots. The evaluation will report on the extent to which each project has made progress against these specified outcome areas.
- Children in custody: has there been a reduction in the number of children and young people in custody?
- Offending behaviour: has the amount, frequency and seriousness of youth offending/re-offending reduced?
- Relationships: have relationships with key partners and stakeholders improved within and beyond the local authority?
- Communication: has there been an improvement in the council’s capacity to articulate the benefits for the local community from its work in this area?
- Value for money: has there been an improvement in ‘value for money’? (including cost efficiencies through better joined up working)
- Process: have therefore been any developments/advancements in processes that may impact on the above outcomes, for example meetings arrangements, new panels?
The second tier of outcomes for investigation will concern those that could be regarded as project specific. Whilst each pilot is seeking to meet the global aims of the Children in Trouble project, variations in focus and approach will inevitably mean that there will be an additional set of aims that each is working towards (for example, increased entry to education, training and employment). The evaluation will therefore set out to capture those ‘tier two’ outcomes which are unique to the individual projects and their chosen approaches.
Impact and outcomes
Evaluation findings will be relayed in two main reports. The interim evaluation report (completed in June 2008) will present findings from the first year of the project and include recommendations and advice for the final stage of the pilots. The final evaluation report (completed in June 2009) will build on the first and span the full two years of project activity. It will also offer recommendations and advice for the roll-out of the project in other areas. The research will therefore help inform the development of the Children in Trouble projects as well as similar schemes that may be set up in other locations.
Research design and methods
The project will be carried out in four main phases:
- Phase one. Identification and collection of baseline data (May 2007 and ongoing). Researchers will collect quantitative data on offending behaviour and the numbers of young people in custody. This information will be obtained from national sources (for example, the Youth Justice Board) and locally, from the four pilot projects. The evaluation will also include a brief attitudinal survey for all young people involved with the pilots. The survey will be completed on entry to the pilots and also at the end of any intervention, thus giving a before and after picture across the entire intake of the pilots (this data will complement the information obtained from interviews in later phases of the research.)
- Phase two. Interviews with project managers and baseline interviews with a sample of young people (July 2007). Project managers will be interviewed in some depth in order to clarify the key features of each pilot (for example, the projects’ objectives, the intended target group, details of how the project operates, which other agencies are involved and anticipated project costs). A small sample of young people (two per project) would also be interviewed in order to illustrate the kinds of young people targeted by the pilots.
- Phase three. Interviews with key partners, young people and significant adults (between January and March 2008). It is envisaged that between six and eight key partners will be interviewed from each pilot project. Key partners would comprise those staff directly involved with the project and any other agencies which contribute indirectly or may be able to comment on the impact of the projects. Possible interviewees could include magistrates, police, health workers, housing representatives, Connexions staff, children’s services representatives, substance misuse workers, social workers, training providers, representatives from the Princes Trust, floating support workers, YOT staff and educational workers. Up to six young people per project will be interviewed during phase three to establish how involvement with the pilots has impacted on them. A further perspective would be added by interviewing ‘a significant adult’ for example a parent, carer or teacher.
- Phase four. Interviews with key partners, young people and significant adults (between January and March 2009). Repeat visits will be made to the pilots in their second year of operation, during which time a second round of interviews will be conducted with the key groups noted above.
The findings from the evaluation will be of interest to those working with young offenders (for example youth offending teams, alternative education providers, social workers,and so on.)
Time scale: May 2007 - June 2009
NFER Project Code: CTI