Working with younger offenders

SWM Transitions is an extension of the T2A pilot project which ended in August 2012. The purpose of the Transitions project was to roll out the T2A approach throughout the Staffordshire and West Midlands region incorporating both Probation and Youth Offending Services and ensure integration throughout the Courts, police services and voluntary agencies.

The T2A approach stemmed from intensive research by the Transition to Adulthood Alliance (the T2A Alliance) which showed that a distinctive approach to work with young adults would be more effective in enabling desistance.

Young adults in the criminal justice system

Individuals aged between 18 and 24 form less than 10% of the general population in the UK, but make up more than one third of those on Community Order or Suspended Sentence Order; one third of the Probation Service’s caseload and almost one third of individuals sentenced to a custodial sentence each year.

These statistics clearly demonstrate the need to recognise and address the differences between young adults and other distinctive age groups and as a result develop effective sentencing and action plans.

Young adults are the most likely age group to desist or ‘grow out’ of crime, but ineffective and incorrect intervention at this time can slow or even prevent this process and extend the period that the individual will remain within the criminal justice system.

The T2A Alliance

The T2A Alliance was convened by the Barrow Cadbury Trust and encompasses leading criminal justice, health and youth organisations.

The T2A Alliance promotes:

“..the need for a distinct and radically different approach to young adults in the criminal justice system; an approach that is proportionate to their maturity and responsive to their specific needs…”

The T2A pilots

In 2009, three T2A pilots were funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust through the T2A Alliance to demonstrate effective interventions for young adults in the criminal justice system. The three projects were: in Birmingham, run by Staffordshire and West Midlands Probation Trust; across West Mercia, through Youth Support Services (YSS);  and in London through St Giles Trust. The pilots were evaluated by Oxford’s Centre for Criminology, which highlighted the successes of the pilots in engaging Young People and supporting them towards more successful lives.

The Birmingham pilot

The Birmingham pilot began in 2009. Links were made to various local and national third-sector organisations and statutory organisations to offer appropriate support to the young adults engaging.

It was recognised that transfers between the Youth Offending Service (YOS) and Staffordshire and West Midlands Probation Trust could be more efficient and effective. The transfer protocol was predominantly administrative and the young people being transferred from youth to adult offending services had very little knowledge of the differences.

So the administrative process was restructured and standardised throughout Birmingham. The T2A team would be informed of the transfer of a young person. Administrative work would be completed and a Community Engagement Officer allocated to the young person, to support them through the transition period.

When the young person was ready to be transferred to Staffordshire and West Midlands Probation, a case manager would be allocated. A meeting would be arranged with the young person, the YOS officer and the new case manager. Here, the young person could ask questions, be informed of the different protocols within the adult offending services and become comfortable with their new office and officer.

This process has been nationally recognised as good practice and is informing work with young people in Probation Trusts throughout the country.

T2A Values

Following the pilots, Barrow Cadbury published Pathways From Crime, highlighting ten T2A values:

  • T2A targets people in the transition to adulthood.
  • T2A improves transition from youth to adult services.
  • T2A is based on voluntary participation.
  • T2A understands diversity, is tailored, person-centred and holistic.
  • T2A engages family where appropriate.
  • T2A involves young adults and their families in the design of services.
  • T2A requires a multi-agency partnership approach.
  • T2A is intensive, requiring a high number of service hours and a high level of engagement from participants.
  • T2A provides user-led support to enable behavioural change.
  • T2A encourages the involvement of volunteers in the delivery of services.