they need their workers to help them about how to keep out trouble

Wainwright, John Peter orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-8190-0144, Nowland, Rebecca orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-4326-2425, O'riordan, Zoe orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-8083-2648 and Larkins, Cath orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-2999-6916 (2022) they need their workers to help them about how to keep out trouble. Discussion Paper. UNSPECIFIED. (Unpublished)

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A Child First Pathfinder Preliminary Evaluation– Lancashire Child and Youth Justice Service - Diversion and Alternative Out of Court Disposals – Final Report

Executive Summary
Lancashire Child and Youth Justice (LCYJS) Diversion service workers co-worked with children who accessed this service to develop strategies to think about their decision making at critical moments to desist from offending. LCYJS Diversion workers were very aware of the diverse geography and demography that children had to navigate, survive and thrive, and were able to support children in this process. The LCYJS Diversion workers acknowledged social media has the potential to draw children back into offending behaviour and talked to children regarding how they could minimise this happening. The LCYJS diversion workers focused on the many and diverse strengths of the children that accessed their service; they encouraged children to aspire to have ambition for themselves, future education, training and employment, and broader horizons for a fulfilling life and future.

LCYJS workers understand that there have been significant cuts to youth service provision, outdoor activities, sports and some training opportunities for children. Yet, the evidence in this evaluation suggests the LCJYS workers co-work and problem solve with the children to provide the best alternative opportunities and solutions to these barriers.

Approximately 80% of children who have accessed the LCYJS Diversion service have not reoffended. Similarly, approximately 100% of children who have been screened out and 90% who have been screened out to other services through LCYJS screening process have desisted from offending. The screening process was seen by professionals that were interviewed as child focused and centred ondiverting children from the criminal justice system, fostering success in producing high outcomes
related to reoffending.

The children in the evaluation felt that their LCYJS Diversion workers were empathetic, supportive, and that they were listened to and respected. Children in the core group and in the interviews explained that their LCYJS Diversion worker had been instrumental in supporting them online and at times in person, during the periods of lockdown. The vast majority of children stated that the Child First co-work they undertook with their LCYJS workers enabled them to learn and develop strategies to engage in creative activities and desist from offending. The children felt valued as children first and foremost. For many of the child co-participants, their LCYJS Diversion service worker acted as a bridge to support them in their difficult and complex relationships with their families and where possible, facilitated a child re-joining their family.

Quantitative measurements over a period of eight months evidenced that the children’s views about the support from the LCYJS workers was positive from the start, and this improved at the follow up. Children’s free text responses in the measurement tool about getting into trouble indicate that working with their LCYJS Diversion worker had enabled them to have a more nuanced understanding of their behaviour, the consequences and how to change it to desist from offending.
The walking tours and the map making activities children undertook provided a window into their world, including their experience of ongoing threat of violence, the importance of space, belonging to a neighbourhood and community and their ambition to be creative, achieve the best that they can in training and employment and for their future lives. These walks and maps emphasised that the LCYJS Diversion workers had supported them to avoid difficult and violent situations, and to aspire to the best opportunities for themselves.

Parents of the children all stated that the LCYJS Diversion workers were committed to co-working with and improving children’s opportunities to desist from offending and to engage in more constructive activities. Three out of the four parents who participated felt that the LCYJS workers had a transformational impact on their child’s behaviour, with the impact of them desisting from further offending.

All the children talked about the threat of violence that they had to navigate on a daily basis in their neighbourhoods, by their peers and/or from adults. LCYJS workers co-worked with child to develop strategies to avoid these situations as much as possible, to protect themselves, others around them, and their families. LCYJS workers understand the threats to safety children experience and work with the individual children regarding how they can negotiate the nuanced differences, threats and opportunities in each of their local communities. Often children and parents stated that their schools had been problematic for them and that children felt excluded, blamed and pathologized. LCYJSworkers supported children in developing strategies to navigate the difficult experience of school and/or engage in alternative pathways to opportunities in training and employment.

All the children enjoyed working with their LCJYS workers, as did their families. The LCYJS workers developed sensitive, empathetic and enduring working relationships with the children. The children liked their LCYJS workers. Irrespective of the focus or type of intervention, diversion, or other disposals, an authentic, empathic and consistent working relationship was central to enabling the children to explore ways to develop resilience against the problems they experienced.

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