Keep up-to-date with drugs and crime

The latest research, policy, practice and opinion on our criminal justice and drug & alcohol treatment systems
The IDEAS approach to effective practice in youth justice
The IDEAS approach to effective practice in youth justice: influence, delivery, expertise, alliance, and support.

Share This Post

Academic Insight

The latest publication in the Probation Inspectorate’s Academic Insight series profiles the IDEAS approach to effective practice in youth justice. Authored by Heidi Dix & Jen Meade, the report describes the five interlinked elements of Influence, Delivery, Expertise, Alliance, and Support. The first four elements focus upon the knowledge, skills and personal qualities of the individual practitioner, while the fifth element covers the all-important organisational support.

All five components are seen as necessary for effective evidence-informed, relationship-based practice. Crucially, the framework recognises the importance of drawing upon and merging the latest research findings, professional knowledge and practice wisdom, and the lived experiences of children and their families. Bringing all this evidence together in an accessible and comprehensive way is beneficial in building and embedding a continuous learning environment and culture, and ultimately in delivering positive outcomes for children and their families.

The framework is shown in the infographic I have reproduced below.

The key elements

The authors undertook a rapid review of the literature into what is most effective within youth justice and related fields. The key themes that emerged were a combination of:

  • the behaviours, values and personal qualities of the worker
  • the professional knowledge base, reflection and curiosity they bring to the work
  • the what of their work and how they do it.

These different elements were deconstructed and pulled together into five separate although interlinked parts which are called influence, delivery, expertise, alliance, and support, all of which we consider are necessary for effective relationship-based practice.

The authors provide a brief overview of each of these elements which I have reproduced in full below:

  • Influence in its simplest form enables practitioners to explore and become aware of their role, the boundaries within it, the limitations and how it is defined in law – the statutory aspects of the role and how practitioners can use this influence effectively to overcome structural barriers.
  • Delivery stands for the consideration of the professional tools and systems that support practice, such as the AssetPlus assessment, and the ability to apply these skilfully within organisational frameworks and processes.
  • The E stands for the expert knowledge and theory that is required within youth justice, as well as knowledge of effective interventions that informs this work.
  • Alliance is the ability to develop trusting relationships with children and their personal and professional networks. This is particularly necessary when working with children who may, for a number of reasons, have a fear of authority. ‘Tuning-in’ and offering an empathic response, without judgment, whilst not colluding, can help children feel listened to and validated, all important factors to help children to develop agency and a sense of self-efficacy.
  • The above elements are all focused on the knowledge, skills and values of the practitioner, and in order for the above four elements to exist, then organisational support is required. Space is needed for practitioners to engage in quality, critically reflective supervision to support professional expertise by ensuring that resilience, emotional intelligence, use of self, sound decision-making and reflective thinking skills underpin the effective use and application of the other parts of the model.

Developing a culture of effective practice

The authors suggest that the framework can be used in many ways to support effective, evidence-informed practice within a youth justice context including supportive reflective practice (either alone or as part of more formal supervision); in preparing for a new role or, indeed, as a framework for quality assurance.


The driver behind the development of the IDEAS framework was the ambition to reconcile relationship-based practice with research-informed practice, in the belief that both are equally important.


Thanks to Kvalifik for kind permission to use the header image in this post which was previously published on Unsplash.

Share This Post

Related posts

Prison van bringing prisoners from court
On Probation
IPP recalls mostly in line with policy

HMI Probation finds IPP recalls mostly in line with policy but deplores lack of support and continuity of supervising officers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Probation posts sponsored by Unilink


Excellence through innovation

Unilink, Europe’s provider of Offender/Probation Management Software


Get every blog post by email for free