Youth Justice Liaison and Diversion pilots

In 2007, the Department of Health, the Centre for Mental Health and the Youth Justice Board funded a major national programme of six pilot Youth Justice liaison and diversion schemes for young people with mental health, learning, communication difficulties or other vulnerabilities affecting their physical and emotional well being. The pilot schemes were designed to identify and support under 18 year olds (and their families) more systematically into services at the point that they enter the Youth Justice System.

The six diversion pilot projects have been testing different ways in which children and young people with mental health and other problems can get the help they need as soon as they come into contact with the youth justice system.

DH commissioned Liverpool University to produce an independent academic evaluation of the pilots, to measure their effectiveness in improving health and reduce offending behaviour. The final evaluation report, published in March 2012, will inform the National Liaison and Diversion Programme as part of the Governments commitment to make liaison and diversion services for all ages available on a national basis from 2014.

Significant findings indicated the following:

  • Young people subject to YJLD intervention took longer to commit their first reoffence than matched young people in comparison sites. This increase in desistance to offending behaviour raises the question of whether a ‘booster intervention’ at a later stage might be effective in further delaying offending behaviour

  • YJLD intervention led to significant improvements in reported depression and self-harm, as measured by SQIFA

  • The more appointments kept, and hours of contact with the YJLD workers, the greater the improvement in health scores, as measured by SQIFA and HoNOSCA

  • HoNOSCA scores showed that those with lower knowledge of where to seek help tended to show less improvement in assessment of health after 12 weeks, than those with greater knowledge

  • More than anything, focused attention and periods of one to one contact are what the children and young people most valued

  • Two characteristics were commonly cited as barriers to young people engaging with services: their intellectual abilities, and the difficulties they often experience in retaining concentration and focus

  • The greatest barrier to implementing liaison and diversion, derived from competing priorities and agendas of partners involved in the delivery of the project

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