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What are the needs of children in the youth justice system?
Aylesbury young offenders
A large proportion of children who are supervised by YOTs exhibit a range of important, interdependent and interrelated needs which are captured as concerns within AssetPlus.

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Assessing the needs of children in the justice system

Last week, the Youth Justice Board published data on the needs of sentenced children in the Youth Justice System for the year April 2018 – March 2019.

The data is derived from AssetPlus, the wide-ranging assessment and planning framework used by Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) and secure establishments across England and Wales. The needs of children supported by YOTs are regularly assessed by practitioners using AssetPlus to support the planning of suitable interventions both in the community and in custody.

This publication focuses on a small subset of AssetPlus data which includes 19 assessed concern types, eight care status types as well as the four ratings for both Safety and Wellbeing and Risk of Serious Harm. These are based on assessments of children who received a Referral Order, Reparation Order, Youth Rehabilitation Order or custodial sentence between 1st April 2018 to 31st March 2019.

Concern types refer to factors that practitioners judge to be affecting the child. The types of concerns cover their wellbeing (e.g. Mental Health, Physical Health and Safety and Wellbeing), how they relate to other people (e.g. Significant Relationships and Relations to Others), social factors and issues at home (e.g. Accommodation, Local Issues, Learning & Education, Training and Employment, Parenting or Family Behaviour) or their own behaviours (Substance Misuse, Offence Justification or Attitudes to Offending).
The factors around care status look at the child’s current and previous care history (e.g. whether they are subject to a care order or child protection plan, whether they have siblings in care or are remanded to local authority accommodation or youth detention accommodation).

The practitioner assessed ratings for Risk of Serious Harm look at the imminence and likelihood of death or serious personal injury whether physical or psychological and the ratings for Safety and Wellbeing look at the risk that a child’s safety and well-being is now or in the future potentially compromised through his or her own behaviour, personal circumstances or because of the acts or omissions of others.

Main findings

  • The number of concerns each child had increased with the severity of the type of sentence they received. Of the children assessed who received custodial sentences, 39% had 15-19 concerns present, compared with 11% of children assessed who received first-tier sentences.
  • Seven out of 10 children were assessed to have a concern present in at least five of the 19 concerns. These were Safety and Wellbeing (88%), Risk to Others (85%), Substance Misuse (75%), Speech, Language and Communication (71%) and Mental Health (71%).
  • Over half (56%) of children were assessed to be a current or previous Child in Need.
  • Over a quarter (29%) of children were assessed as having a High or Very High Risk of Serious Harm rating
  • Over two fifths (42%) of children were assessed as having a High or Very High Safety and Wellbeing rating.

This publication is an experimental dataset and has lots of interesting information for those with the inclination to look at the more granular detail available in both the report and associated data tables where each area of concerns is also broken down by ethnicity, gender and age.


Thanks to Andy Aitchison for kind permission to use the header image in this post. You can see Andy’s work here.

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