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Reshaping the youth justice framework in England and Wales

Research leads to Youth Justice Board abandoning ‘risk’ as the central animator of youth justice policy and practice

Assessment and intervention in the lives of young people entering the youth justice system in England and Wales is based on an analysis of the risk factors that previous research claims to have shown to be associated with offending. The basic premise of the risk factor approach has been cogently summarised by its leading proponent as:

‘The basic idea of risk-focused prevention is very simple: Identify the key risk factors for offending and implement prevention methods designed to counteract them.’

Research by Haines and Case showed that the simple premise of risk factor research and its implementation in the youth justice system of England Wales was deeply flawed – to the extent that it presented an overly abstract view of the real lives of young people – and that more attention in assessment practice and intervention planning needed to be paid to effective engagement with young people and their lived realities.

This work by Swansea researchers precipitated a review by the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales (YJB), provided evidence which has led the YJB to abandon ‘risk’ as the central animator of youth justice policy and practice, and provided further evidence which underpins the YJB’s new framework for assessment and intervention planning in youth justice.

‘The research and publications of Haines and Case …made a significant contribution to the YJB’s review of the Scaled Approach. Your critique … was influential in the review process…your research was particularly important in highlighting the potential pitfalls of relying over-heavily on limited research evidence and in adopting a too deterministic framework for youth justice policy and practice…Your research, alongside some other key pieces of research, was also extremely informative in re-shaping the YJB’s new proposed framework for youth justice.’ Chief Executive of the YJB

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