We spoke with Andrew Hillas, Head of Youth Offending Service at Southwark YOS about their work in youth diversion.
Why is Youth Diversion important to Southwark YOT?
We believe it’s important to ensure that as few as possible young people end up with criminal records. We think diversion is a good way to address the issues that may bring a young person into a position of risk of getting a criminal record.
We knew that our First Time Entrants (FTE) figures (young people entering the Criminal Justice system) had been very high compared to other boroughs in London, and we wanted to do something about it. What we did was to examine what was causing those high figures. We undertook this task in partnership with our police colleagues. In doing so we identified that previously there was a strict interpretation on how to deal with a second minor offence, and learned that other boroughs in London were not dealing with such situations in the same way. In an attempt to be more consistent with other areas, Southwark started to give a second community resolution instead of a disposal that would trigger a First Time entrant statistic.
What has been the biggest challenge or learning experience?
The issue of achieving and maintaining effective and trusting professional relationships with partnership colleagues such as police and education colleagues. We’re trying to ensure that there is a united approach to responding to the issue of young people coming into contact with the criminal justice system. We worked on this issue through holding regular meetings and open and frank discussions about the scale of the challenge.
Biggest success for Southwark?
Working collaboratively with our police partners and achieving a 25% decrease in FTEs. By creating new tailored services to young people subject to a community resolution, outside of our traditional offers. Through developing better partnership relationships with our police colleagues, we have helped them to create more joint confidence in how we as a YOS manage Community Resolutions together.
Advice you would give to a new scheme starting up?
Start with discussing what everyone can agree on and then work on the issues that differ. Ensure that there are open avenues of communication between all levels of a service, including both management, and practitioners; ensuring that conversations are as honest and mutually respectful as possible. In addition, clear and detailed recording of decisions is crucial to understand what works and what doesn’t work. It also helps to explain why certain decisions were made.