Children in the criminal justice system face many challenges that impact their progression through Education, Training and Employment (ETE). This report presents the experiences of twenty-nine children in six Youth Offending Services (YOS) across the UK. The main objectives of the research were to understand the challenges faced by children when trying to access ETE, to identify effective practice and to establish how services can achieve the best outcomes for children.
Overall, the children we spoke to had complex needs and chaotic personal lives, they were living in care, had substance misuse issues or were homeless. They also reported having learning difficulties, neurodivergent disorders and poor mental health. Anxiety was a key barrier preventing a number of the children from attending ETE, even when it was something that they genuinely wanted to do.
The children spoke of a desire to move on, they wanted to get a job or acquire a skill that they could use moving forward. However, many had a mediocre experience of ETE, with very little awareness of the ETE options, little choice in which ETE they did and no ETE plan to speak of.
The biggest issue for them, outside of their personal circumstances, was the lack of relevance or consideration for their skills, interests, abilities and circumstances. Despite a lack of relevance for many, 4 in 5 children we spoke to reported some benefit from engaging with ETE, and with the YOS more generally, particularly around soft skills. Many of the children did mention how ‘nice’ their YOS worker was and some reflected on the lengths they go to support them.
Children who had positive outcomes described not only a good relationship with their YOS worker, but also having a choice and being involved in decision making around ETE. These children had assessments and plans that they felt a part of, and their individual learning and personal needs were understood and catered to. They were developing skills in a number of areas, such as academic, behaviour and life skills, and reported feeling supported to achieve their goals.