New Youth Justice Strategy Announced

Date: 17th June 2015
Category: Child justice system

Scotland's new strategy to prevent children from offending was announced by Justice Secretary Michael Matheson MSP on 17th June 2015.

Opening this year's Annual National Youth Justice Conference, the Cabinet Secretary paid tribute to huge falls in youth crime and the work of agencies across the country, saying that the time was right to build on the success through a new strategy for Scotland.

Around 200 youth justice practitioners were in attendance at the launch of the two-day long event which will also feature leading professionals discussing current issues in the field.

'Preventing offending: getting it right for children and young people' builds on recent progress made in the youth justice sector and sets out three main priorities to take forward.

These include advancing the Whole System Approach which ensures young people receive the right help at the right time, improving life chances for young people and developing capacity and improvement throughout the youth justice sector.

The announcement coincides with the publication of a new independent evaluation of the Whole System Approach which has been in place since 2011. The approach provides a clear focus on early and effective intervention and diversion as well as appropriate support to improve outcomes for children and young people involved in offending.

Speaking at the Conference, Mr Matheson said:

"We have already seen dramatic and positive changes in the youth justice sector since our decisive shift towards prevention in 2008 and on a recent visit to Polmont YOI I was extremely encouraged to learn that the population there has more than halved since 2007.

"The number of under 18s in custody has reduced by 70%, there has been an 83% reduction in the number of children referred to the Children's Hearings System on offence grounds and there has been a 74% reduction in children appearing in court over the last seven years.

"Preventing offending is integral to GIRFEC and I look forward to playing my part in helping to ensure Scotland is the best and safest place to grow up."

The 2008 'Preventing Offending by Young People - Framework for Action' document was a significant shift towards prevention and early intervention, combined with interventions to manage high risk and build community confidence.

The Whole System Approach was introduced in 2011 to provide a more robust and efficient mechanism for delivering the early intervention and support necessary for young people who offend, integrated with the approaches necessary to deal with the minority of young people who continue to commit the most serious offences.

The Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research has carried out an independent evaluation of the whole system approach (WSA). Focussing on three areas in Scotland, it shows that the WSA has helped improve partnership working, information sharing and shared learning across agencies - improving outcomes for children and young people. The findings also confirm that the principles of the WSA are the right ones.