Enabler Publications

Books to feed the Mind and Spirit

Making A DifferenceMaking A Difference

practice and planning in working with young people in community safety and crime prevention programmes

Sample from this book:

Introduction to Preventative Work

John Pitts, Alan Dearling, Alison Skinner

In the late 1990s there was something of a renaissance of ‘community prevention’ approaches within community safety, youth justice and allied initiatives. Typical of this is the following statement by John Blackmore (Community Safety Officer, Brent)


"It is not sufficient to have a single high profile project which works successfully with a limited number of juvenile offenders. Such projects need to form part of a co-ordinated youth justice and youth crime prevention programme, actively led by local authorities in partnership with police, probation, service, courts, health authority, voluntary sector and the community. If the private sector can be persuaded to demonstrate some sustained commitment then all the better; (Blackmore, 1997)

Relatively recently, Carol Martin co-ordinated the ISTD Handbook of Community Programmes for Young and Juvenile Offenders (first edition 1997). In the introduction to the book, Martin makes the point that the 1990s have been dominated by the spectre of the out-of-control persistent young offender, following on from urban riots in towns as far apart as Newcastle, Luton, Oxford and Cardiff and the highly publicised Jamie Bulger murder. Given this context, it is perhaps ironic, that Martin goes on to describe the contents of the community programmes included in the book, saying

"What became clear during the research is that the programmes which do target this rather euphemistically titled "at risk" category are an extremely valuable community resource and need as much attention as any other type or group of programmes." (Martin, 1997)

Given that the ISTD survey of community programmes was the most extensive carried out in recent years, it is interesting to note that the common themes identified in the programmes, fall into four categories:

1. Victim awareness/empathy issues

2. Anger management/violent behaviour

3. Drug/alcohol awareness

4. Positive leisure pursuits

Martin adds that, "so many programmes are based on cognitive/behavioural skills and groupwork that they are not separately indexed." (Ibid.)

During the 1990s and early 2000s, in a manner reminiscent of the original establishment of intermediate treatment, there have been various types of Youth Action groups established under a range of initiatives linked to community safety. Those funded by the Department of Education and Employment were primarily aimed at promoting targeted youth work with young offenders by the youth service providers (France and Wiles, 1996) A number of these foundered because there remains resistance to what France and Wiles reported to be, "work (which) was seen to compromise the values and principles of youth work (Adams, 1988) similar arguments have underpinned youth workers' unwillingness to become involved with agencies such as the police (Markes and Smith, 1988)." (France and Wiles, 1986).

France and Wiles concluded their evaluation of the scheme with the comment. "..How little youth work has developed as a profession, compared with, say, teaching or social work…. The professional development of youth work is important if the Youth Service is to play its role as an equal partner in multi-disciplinary and inter-agency responses to youth problems in general and crime in particular." (ibid.)

An even more extensive scheme is the mainly school-based initiatives sponsored by the Prudential and Crime Concern, which seem to have led to wider scale developments, with, "1,200 groups, involving the work of 20,000 young people in a quarter of all state secondary schools. The priority issues being tackled by these young people include bullying, vandalism, graffiti, personal safety, shop theft, bogus callers, burglary prevention schemes, school security measures and environmental improvements." (Pru Youth Action, 1997)

A further shot in the arm for a back-to-prevention stance came from the Audit Commission's report Misspent Youth published in 1996. That report recommended replacing ineffective court disposals with more preventative strategies designed to, "guide young people towards constructive activities." (Audit Commission, 1996).

It is a close echo of Douglas Hurd's aim of offering "attractive alternatives" with the establishment of Crime Concern in 1988. Crime Concern's briefing paper on "Young people, Crime and Prevention" contends, "In areas where there is a high level of offending by young people, it will usually not be sufficient to focus on just one aspect of a child's life or one stage of development. More broadly-based preventive action is necessary to ensure that there is continuity (over time), reinforcement (of standards in different locations) and inclusion (of young people in their communities)." (NACRO, 1997)

Preventative work retains the attraction of being financially cheaper than custody, electronic tagging, or intensive supervision. It also increasingly includes elements of the restorative agenda, particularly proportionality making appropriate responses that reflect the severity of offences. At the very least, it still offers social work, probation, housing, education, health authorities, the police and courts opportunities to work in ways which seem humane and caring, as well as containing a punitive element. This is just as possible in the youth justice system envisaged under the Crime and Disorder Act, 1998, as it was in previous eras.

It is anticipated that the contents of this book will have some relevance to members of Youth Offending Teams and Youth Offending Panels, who are now being required to work with young people at risk and in trouble in new ways, following changes in legislation.

Since the advent of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 the whole diversionary strategy regarding young offenders has been transformed, with new procedures introduced. The previous system of cautions has been abolished and Sections 65 and 66 of the Act has established the system of reprimands

And Final Warnings. When a Final Warning is administered by a police officer they are required to refer children and young people to the local Youth Offending Team for a "rehabilitation programme" assessment.

If the assessment indicates the need for such a programme the YOT must produce one which:

1) Addresses the factors which contributed to the offending

2) Describes the commitment the parent or primary carer can make in supporting the programme.

3) Describes the contact made or attempted with the victim.

4) Describes work planned to increase the offender's awareness of the harm caused by crime, or to make reparation.

(Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, 1999)

In addition to intervention at this stage there is also a new point on the tariff for first time offenders. Part 1 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 provides for a Referral Order, which is intended to become the standard sentence imposed by the Youth Court or other Magistrates Court for children and young people convicted of an offence or offences for the first time.

They will normally be referred by the Court to a Youth Offender Panel who will establish a "programme of behaviour " which the young person will be obliged to observe. The principal aim of the programme will be the prevention of re-offending by the child. (S.8(1). Section 8 identifies typical components of a programme of intervention which include:

  • financial or other forms of reparation to the victim/s of the offence/s;
  • mediation sessions with the victims;
  • unpaid work as a service to the community;
  • conditions that require the child to be at home at specified times and attend school or work;
  • specified activities to "address offending behaviour" and /or to serve rehabilitative purposes with respect to drug and/or alcohol misuse;
  • reporting conditions to persons and/or places;
  • prohibition from association with specified persons and/or places;
  • compliance with the supervision and recording requirements of the programme.

The terms of such a programme will form the basis of the "youth offender contract" S8 (6) which the young person will be required to sign. Once the programme of behaviour has been established and the contract signed, the progress of the young person will be subject to review by the Youth Offending Panel. (Godson, 1999)

The implementation of the Act is still in its early stages and it is not yet clear how YOTs and Youth Offending Panels will interpret their responsibilities.

There are concerns in the field about the philosophy, assumptions and procedures underpinning this diversionary approach, well expressed by Goldson (1999) and Haines (1999). Modifications may well take place as the new systems bed in, but in the meantime staff need to think about the type of programme which might best deliver these objectives.

Haines (1999) sets out some principles regarding work with young people which should apply to the operation of Youth Offending Panels:

  • "The best interests of the child should be the defining principle of the aims of Panels, in full recognition that in so doing measures to promote the prevention of re-offending will be maximised;
  • Representation on Panels should include agencies and organisations who have general and specific responsibilities to protect and provide services to children. Panels should be managed in such a way to ensure these agencies' responsibilities are properly discharged;
  • The measures applied to young persons under the Youth Offender Contract should reflect the age and maturity of the young person, their degree of culpability and the seriousness of the offence;
  • Particularly for young and minor offenders, overly intrusive measures which focus on criminogenic need are inappropriate and should be replaced by interventions which seek to promote positive behaviour."

References

Adams, R, (1988) 'Finding a way' in Jeffs,T and Smith, M (eds) Welfare and youth work practice. Macmillan

Audit Commission (1996) Misspent Youth, Young People and Crime. Audit Commission

Blackmore, J, (1997) 'Community support for young people' in Criminal Justice Matters, no.28, ISTD

Crime Concern (1997) Young people, crime and prevention (briefing paper 4),Crime Concern

France, A and Wiles, P, (1996) The Youth Action Scheme: a report of the national evaluation. DFEE

Goldson, B, (1999) 'Wither Diversion? Interventionism and the New Youth Justice' in Goldson, B, (Eds.) The New Youth Justice. Russell House.

Haines, K, (1999), 'Referral Orders and Youth Offender Panels: Restorative Approaches and the New Youth Justice' in Goldson, B, (Eds.) The New Youth Justice. Russell House.

Martin, C, (1997) The ISTD Handbook of Community Programmes for Young and Juvenile Offenders. ISTD/Waterside

Pru Youth Action (1997) Partners for life: young people and community safety, Crime Concern/Pru Youth Action

Read the other sample from this book - games and activities

Making A DifferenceMaking A Difference

Compiled by Alan Dearling and Alison Skinner

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