Trust’s visionary work with of young offenders
Not only has our Youth Offending Service (YOS) dramatically reduced re-offending rates over the last three years but they have revolutionised the way young people are perceived and worked with.
While there is no getting away from the fact that young people who have committed a criminal offence legally have to undertake certain requirements under a court order, the way that is approached makes a world of difference to the success.
As Kathryn West, YOS operational manager, says, “There is no point setting young people up to fail.”
She and the teams explain that the young people they work with come to them with a whole background of complicated factors that have gone into creating who they are.
“A lot of our young people are the product of disrupted, or missing, stages in their upbringing. We have to unpick their past - like peeling away the layers of an onion - to understand why that young person behaves the way they do and then to find the most appropriate way of dealing with that and help them to move forward into a more positive lifestyle,” says Kathryn.
Key to this is the YOS’ ability to build relationships with the young people; based on respect, consistency and openness and transparency.
So, whilst YOS have substantially contributed to reducing re-offending among 10 to 17 year-olds in Doncaster to the point where they are consistently in the top 10 of the 141 authorities across England and Wales – rubbing shoulders with the likes of Kensington and the leafy suburbs of London – they continue to create an ever evolving package of interventions. These evolve in response to feedback from the young people with whom they work, to complement the fantastic work done by the embedded specialist staff in YOS.
“We were knocked back by the inadequate rating by HMIP in 2015. Morale was really low but we bounced back and have got ever stronger,” says Kathryn.
“The team pull together lots of strands involved in supporting a young person to a crime-free life and it’s our job to build the most appropriate package for the young person, in discussion with them.”
One of the big changes nationally was the introduction of a new assessment framework called AssetPlus. Kathryn explains: “This is a comprehensive assessment tool which draws on a number of theoretical models, like Signs of Safety, Desistance theories, Good Lives, risk assessment and management.
“It involves a lot more consideration of a young person’s childhood, such as gaps that can affect attachment and emotional resilience and how that impacts upon the young person we see before us today. That’s a massive change for us and one that our Family Therapist has particularly welcomed. It also focusses on their strengths rather than being deficit-led, which is a big change from the previous assessment framework. ”
Among their packed toolkit, the team also use Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, which helps the young people to recognise their emotions and make the right decisions around how to react.
“It’s not about being soft with the young people. It’s about helping them to find a more positive way of life and to tap into their skills. As a service we pride ourselves on being creative and thinking outside the box,” she adds.
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