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Effective approaches with young adults: a guide for probation services

The aim of this guide is to give probation practitioners, whether in the National Probation Service or Community Rehabilitation Companies, the tools to deliver a more effective approach to young adults. It provides practical suggestions for effective ways to engage young adults and support their desistance from crime. It also includes suggestions for managers on what they can do to enable practitioners to improve outcomes within probation services.

Young adults (18-24-year-olds) constitute less than 10% of the general population but make up one third of those involved in the Criminal Justice System (CJS). However, young adults are the most likely age group to desist and grow out of crime, and the wrong intervention at this time can slow desistance and extend the period that a young adult is involved in the CJS. Getting it right at this critical time is crucial to assisting young adults to make a successful transition to a crime free adulthood.

It is now known that brain development and maturity are not complete until the mid-twenties amongst the general population, and young adults in the CJS often face additional challenges as a result of abuse or neglect in childhood. In recognition of this, almost all European countries have accepted that the specific needs of young adults should be reflected within their justice systems, and many have set their youth/adult threshold at 21 or older.

Probation services often find young adults harder to engage than older adults in services, which can be due to maturity levels, chaotic lifestyles and difficulties building a trusting and effective relationship with the practitioner. Young adults are the most likely age group to reoffend and to breach Orders.

We have spoken to probation practitioners and service users to learn from them the most effective approaches to working with this age group. This guide includes:

  • Practical suggestions to assist probation practitioners in their day-to-day work with this age group;
  • Information on the specific issues facing young adults and how they impact on their engagement with probation, including maturity, trauma, health needs and the development of life skills;
  • Guidance on how to tailor services to specific groups of young adults with particular needs such as women, Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) young people, those with disabilities and care leavers;
  • Views of young adults themselves on what they feel makes a good probation officer:
  • Measures that managers and commissioners can take to enable effective engagement of young adults and adapt services where
  • necessary;
  • Examples of how different probation services have adapted their approaches for young adults.

Download the guide here

PUBLISHED: September 2015