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BY ANDREW FORRESTER, Team Leader, Youth Justice Services

It is important to ensure that our work here at Youth Justice Social Work does not sit isolation strategically, and that our work contributes to supporting overall positive change as part of the Whole Systems Approach to young people involved in offending behaviour.

In her article “Overview – Glasgow’s Approach to Young People Involved in or at Risk of Becoming involved in Offending” Chief Inspector Natalie Carr, Police Scotland’s strategic lead for One Glasgow set out the strategic direction for One Glasgow as the city’s overarching structure for young people coming into contact with the justice system.  Youth Justice Social Work is one of the key delivery services within the Whole Systems Approach, with all of our work underpinned by the principles and values of GIRFEC (Getting it Right for Every Child) and Children’s Rights.

In view of this, the collaborative work that we do and how we measure our success and impact is integrated with, and takes account of, relevant policy and legislative influences and shared outcomes, both locally and nationally,  in particular:

Safer place where reoffending is reduced, the impact of crime is mitigated, and all citizens affected by offending have equal opportunity to thrive.”

“A world class city, with thriving and resilient communities where everyone can flourish and benefit from the city’s success.

Early & Effective Intervention (EEI) is part of the package of support delivered for young people under the Whole Systems Approach.  This is not delivered directly by Youth Justice Social Work, but instead, uniquely delivered by Glasgow City Council’s Neighbourhoods & Sustainability Service, co-locating the service alongside other elements of the Whole Sytem Approach,  to allow for a more colloborative model with other partners and stakeholders.

EEI Groups meet regularly in local areas to discuss the most recent young people to have come to the attention of the Police (committing 6 or less offences) and to decide the best course of action – where possible diverting young people away from more formal systems and enabling Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) to deal with more serious offending.

EEI targets resources and services at the minority of young people and families who might need ‘a little more assistance’ to desist from further offending behaviour and do not meet the criteria for some of the interventions looked at in the rest of this article. 

Through information gathering, the EEI coordinator will consider the most appropraite type of intervention; this in most cases is a referral to be discussed at a multi-agency group where partners disucss the range of interventions avaialble.

Neighbourhoods & Sustainability’s Intervention Team deals with EEI cases where there are wider concerns other than offending behaviour or where there is an identifiable piece of work that may be carried out, for example, a restorative conference or consequential thinking sessions. 

There may be a decision taken by the EEI Multi-Agency Group, to refer the case to the intervention team.  The Team coordinate support to meet the young person’s wider needs.  This more intensive service aims to address the underlying drivers of the young person’s offending behaviour and can be the personal link to community based interventions or support systems.

Between 2018/19 and 2019/20:

  • The number of young people referred to EEI by Police Scotland reduced from 607 to 446 in – that’s a reduction of 26.5%.

– suggesting a decrease in the volume of offending amongst young people in the City

  • Referrals to CSG Intervention Team fell by 9.8%.
  • There was a marginal increase in the successful completion rate of 0.7%                                                                      

Coupled with a 3.9% decrease in the number of Children reported to the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration over the same period and a decrease of 15% in recorded crime (under 18s – see figure 1), this suggests that there has been an overall decrease in the volume and gravity of offending by young people under 18 in the City.

Supporting Transitions & Integration Service (STARS) – The team consists of two Social Care Workers, who provide direct and indirect support to young males who have been on remand or sentence in Polmont. In addition support has been also been afforded to young people who have been discharged from a sentence in Secure Care should the Intensive Support and Monitoring Service (ISMS) – see below –  Service not be available to the young person.

Community integration and support are a main stay of the STARS service. Young people are initially given support for a three month period upon release from custody. This support is individual and tailored to the need of the young person and looks initially at three main areas:

  1. Does the Young person have somewhere to stay upon release.

This involves home visits to relatives/ arranging accommodation through the homeless case work team or attending Social Work’s Resource Prioritisation Group to look at supported accommodation.

  1. Sorting and applying for State Benefits.
  2. Employment and Training: Looking at options with the young person.

The STARS team also look at Health and wellbeing – supporting the boys to appointments or indeed arrange appointments and also provide, if necessary, financial support in the way of a food shop for the initial week and a bus pass if required to get to work in the initial week.  They also directly link with the Area Social Work teams to ensure that support and protection is given where appropriate to the young person and or family members

The numbers for the year have reduced falling from 40 in 2018/19 to 33 in 2019/20. This can be a positive as it suggests less of Glasgow young people ending up in the prison system with more young people under 18 going into Secure Care from Court instead –which is a better option – in fact, the number of direct sentenced admissions (excludes remand) of young males from Glasgow to Polmont fell from 17 to 12 between 18/19 and 19/20.

Whilst we have seen a reduction in numbers, the take up of the service is high with 23 boys (69.7%) continuing to engage with the service post liberationan improvement of 54.9% from 2018/19. Only 13% of those were returned to custody and 43.5% were recorded as having appreciable reduced risk of re-offending compared to 27.8% in 2018/19.

The team work in partnership with a number of 3rd Sector providers. Action for Children provide employment and training opportunities as well as some practical support. The team have also used the Celtic Foundation to great success with a number of boys successfully gaining a place in 2019/20. Glasgow Life have provided gym passes to encourage an active and healthy pursuit.

A challenge that continues is accommodation on release. Family are the main provider for the boys, with 69.6% of those who engaged post liberation in 2019/20 being recorded as living with family or friends.  However, if this is not an option, finding suitable supported accommodation is challenging, with only 17.4% being accommodated in this way.  That leaves around 13% with no suitable accommodation on release from custody.  Although an improvement on 2018/19 at 16.7% we strive to ensure that all young people have suitable accommodation, as evidence tells us that this is so important both in terms of better personal outcomes and in terms of reducing the risk of re-offending.

Diversion from Prosecution (DfP) 16&17 Year Olds is fundamental to One Glasgow and the Whole Systems Approach for young people alleged to have been involved in offending behaviour.  Those assessed as suitable for DfP by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Services (COPFS) are referred to our team at Youth Justice Social Work and partners to address the underlying causes of the alleged offending – without requiring the case to progress through court.

DfP provides a more effective, tailored and appropriate intervention to young people who may still be maturing and lacking cognitive development, manifesting in poor problem solving skills and consequential thinking and who require an increased level of support to change their behaviour. Effective diversion should result in swifter justice than through prosecution, trial and disposal. 

Scotland operates a deferred prosecution model, with the final decision on prosecution delayed while support services are delivered.  At the conclusion of an agreed period of support, the final decision remains with the Procurator Fiscal. 

Diversion can be particularly valuable for young people, avoiding unnecessary involvement in more formal systems.  In Glasgow, Community Justice Partners recognise that diversion is the responsibility of a range of partners.  Those organisations involved in Diversion from Prosecution also understand the importance of consistent, clear communication between agencies and with individuals referred.

In Glasgow, as in other areas across Scotland, after a number of years of growth in the numbers of cases referred to Social Work for a DfP intervention, referrals began to decrease.  Our response has been to undertake an external review of the service and implement the recommendations and changes to improve our approach. This has included a commissioning review, restructuring some of our existing services and bringing on new 3rd Sector partner services.

This is the second full year of the service operating in its current form. It consists of a Social Work Team Leader and one Part-Time Social Worker. As expected the number of referrals in 2019/20 were 161 (see Figure 2) – we anticipated between 160 and 180 for the year.

The service successfully completed 107 diversion referrals with 4 outstanding – that’s 96.4% of those commencing a DfP successfully completing.

A number of young people still do not engage, with 31% of referrals not commencing the intervention following an initial screening in 2019/20.  Although this is an improving picture – with only 50% commencing during 2018/19, this remains a challenge for which we are exploring why and what options we can use to reach those young people.

Diversion is about providing the young person with the opportunity to explore the offence(s) and reflect on their behaviour. It also provides an opportunity to support the young person in other areas of their lives. This could be employment or college, access to health services or other positive destinations.

Offences dealt with under DfP interventions can range from very low level to more serious in nature.  Examples from the year include:

  • nuisance calls to Police;
  • possession of Class B Drug Cannabis;
  • threatening or abusive behaviour;
  • theft;
  • offence against a child assault;
  • carrying a knife;
  • racial aggravation; and
  • sexual assault.

Around one third of the offenses are for possession of substances mostly Class B cannabis.  The others are split into assaults/breach of peace/resisting arrest/theft or attempted housebreaking.  Weapons and more serious assaults such as sexual assaults which remain low but require a robust intervention.

The service at this time has three third sector partners, NHS Multi Risk Team, the SACRO STOP Hate Crime Team and ROSA Project.

HALT and a Social Worker form the Intensive Services Team provide support and interventions for the more challenging offences.

The challenge for the next year is to increase the partner agencies who provide interventions and support to the young person. As the referrals are likely to increase the Social Work Team will restructure to meet the challenge presented.

Intensive Support and Monitoring Services (ISMS)

The ISMS team are now well established within Social Work Children and Families Youth Justice Services. The team seeks to provide structured interventions based on evidence from assessments such as Short-term Assessment of Risk and Treatability (START) and Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth (SAVRY) risk assessment forms.

Young people can only access this service from the Secure Care Screening Group or from a referral from Court known as Alternative to Remand.

The young people referred to this service are usually know to Social work and present a number of challenges including multiple complex issues such as poor Mental Health, low educational attainment, low self-esteem and self-worth, substance and alcohol misuse and complex family networks.  Absconding for periods of time and potential exploitation by adults or criminal gangs are other significant features of some of our young people’s lives.  The team also support young people who are in Secure Care through social work intervention or by remand from court.

The service has a successful education base within Orr Street where young people are offered opportunities to re-engage with learning and structure as well as having assessments carried out – enabling a greater understanding of their learning needs and potential barriers.

Forensic Children & Adolescent Mental Health Service (FCAMHS) provide mental health assessment and support to the young people with interventions from the Psychologists if appropriate.

The team, through structured intervention and rigorous assessment, look to explore the reason behind the behaviours. Interventions are evidenced based and all the supports are individually tailored to the needs of the young person.

Numbers are low in compression to other services and this is good. As we are looking at the more extreme and troubling young people in Glasgow.  Over 2019/20: 

  • 60 Young people were discussed at Secure Screening
    • We had 28 young people (20 male and 8 female) commencing an ISMS intervention, compared to 21 over 2017/18.
    • 17 Young people were referred to secure care (compared to 15 in the previous year).
    • An additional 7 were referred on Alternative to Remand (ATR) Court Orders – 25 Reports were submitted to court for ATR with the 7 being accepted.
    • Other court outcomes included mostly standard bail with a small number sent to custody.

Any young person being deprived of their liberty is an extreme intervention and it is our hope that through continued work with all of our partners we can ensure that all is being done to maximise the opportunity for change within a community based setting.

Overall it has been a fairly positive year for the team.  That said, we are continually monitoring and evaluating our services for further improvements, and look forward to reporting on those in the coming years.

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