The YJLD model

Referral sources

It is deliberate that youth justice liaison and diversion (YJLD) activity is positioned on the interface between children’s services, health services, services for families with multiple needs, and early contact with the youth justice service.

This approach is intended to help YJLD achieve its goals of effective diversion and early intervention and liaison and to avoid the risk of young people being drawn unnecessarily into the formal youth justice system. We know that unnecessary early contact with the formal youth justice system increases the risk of future re-offending.

Children are not adults

YJLD schemes need to have a clear understanding about the differences between the Criminal Justice System (for adults) and the Youth Justice System (for children). For example, the range of out-of-court disposals for children means that, increasingly, a young person’s first contact with the police occurs at a much earlier stage.

Moreover, in some police regions, children rarely come into police custody now, even when they are likely to be prosecuted. Instead, after an incident, the police officer may decide to bail the young person back home from the street and then do a home visit to complete further investigations prior to official interview. Another change is the option for the police to deliver a restorative justice ruling on the street (Breaking the Cycle).

See also

Think about referrals

As a result of all these changes, YJLD workers have had to engage with the police on ways of getting referrals of young people with the highest needs and the greatest chance of benefitting from early intervention.

The table below shows the three main referral sources:

  • From community prevention work (Level 1)
  • From policy custody work (Level 2)
  • From work around court appearance (Level 3).

YJLD pathfinder and pilot sites might focus initially on one particular aspect of the early youth justice system pathway (for example, picking up referrals from police custody or Triage workers). However, as schemes become more established, it is anticipated that pathfinders will extend their scope and become a single point of access for referrals from the full range of sources set out in the table, as well as being an easy-to-access ‘front door’ for children and families to ask for help themselves.

This might mean that schemes that currently specialise in picking up referrals of first-time entrants with low-level offences (Triage 1) will extend their scope both upstream – to those receiving restorative justice resolutions – and downstream – to those entering with more serious offences and appearing in court for the first time.

For schemes that currently focus on restorative justice referrals, it will mean extending their scope downstream, to engage with those in police custody suites and court for the first time, and who meet the other criteria for the scheme.

YJLD as a single point of access to early health and social screening
– who makes the referrals?
Level 1
Police contact at point of arrest


On the street/pre-police custody
Level 2
Police contact at point of arrest


Police custody pre- and post- disposal
Level 3
Court contact (before sentence, if not known to the YOT)
Post charge and post court
  • Street Restorative Justice, delivered by police teams dedicated to working with young people or trained to do so

  • Children dealt with via street bail systems (where children are bailed back home instead of to custody)

  • Targeted Youth Support working with police (or similar)

  • Referrals from Accident & Emergency health staff, or the police, following an incident/offence suspected of being gang-related
  • Police custody suite staff

  • Police healthcare staff

  • Parents, and others acting as Appropriate Adult for a child or young person

  • Forensic Medical Examiner

  • CPS

  • Duty solicitors

  • YOT Triage worker

  • Adult court liaison Pathfinder workers
  • Court administrative staff

  • Solicitors/barristers

  • Other legal advisers

  • CPS

  • Sentencers

  • Remand workers

  • YOT staff


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