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Youth Justice

How do we best support arrested children to prevent them becoming involved in violence?

The Youth Endowment Fund is a charity with a mission that matters. We’re here to prevent children and young people becoming involved in violence. We think any credible plan to reduce violence has to recognise that children rely on seven essential sectors to be safe, one of which is youth justice. We plan to work with delivery organisations and system leaders to better understand and deliver on the changes most likely to reduce violence. 

Why are we focusing on youth justice?

There are three key reasons why we are focusing on youth justice: 

  1. Improving the way we support children means less victims and better lives for children 

    At least one in three children who are arrested and then convicted or cautioned go on to commit further offences. There is clear evidence that improving the way we respond to these children can reduce crime – this means less victims, more people feeling safe and better lives for children. 
  1.  Better evidence-based support to children who are diverted means less victims in future 

    Diverting children to effective services is a big opportunity to reduce re-offending. Evidence from many rigorous reviews, summarised in the YEF Toolkit, shows that approaches such as cognitive behavioural therapy, mentoring or sport programmes can reduce offending. Conversely, approaches such as prison awareness programmes are known to be ineffective, or can even increase the chances of re-offending. Faster referrals to more effective services have the potential to improve outcomes for children. 
  1.  Improvements can be made to the way we respond to arrested children. 

    Although the use of diversion has increased over the last 20 years, there is insufficient awareness of what effective diversion looks like. The funding formula for youth justice services does not reflect local levels of need or properly recognise diversionary work. Vulnerabilities such as child sexual exploitation and criminal exploitation are too often missed at the point of arrest. Referrals to support can be slow, particularly for key therapeutic interventions. 

Toolkit evidence

See below evidence from the YEF Toolkit about approaches to reducing violence that are often used in the youth justice sector:

Estimated impact approaches evidence quality
(30%+ less violence)
Sports programmes
1 2 3 4 5
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
1 2 3 4 5
(10%-30% less violence)
Pre-court diversion
1 2 3 4 5
Restorative justice
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
Knife crime education programmes
1 2 3 4 5
Arts Programmes
1 2 3 4 5
Trauma-informed training and service redesign
1 2 3 4 5
(increased violence)
Prison awareness programmes
1 2 3 4 5
Boot camps
1 2 3 4 5

Explore more approaches on YEF’s Toolkit summarising the best available research evidence on preventing children and young people’s involvement in violence.

  • Systems Guidance

    Report:Systems Guidance: Arrested Children

    The Youth Endowment Fund exists to prevent children from becoming involved in violence. One of the ways we seek to achieve this mission is improving support for children when they are arrested. This includes diverting them from formal youth justice processes like appearing at court. This is a critical moment where effective support can change…

Our Strategic Advisory Group for Youth Justice

We brought together a Strategic Advisory Board to help ensure its recommendations are actionable, worthwhile and make significant improvements for children who come into contact with the criminal justice system. Please see below for further details. 

Claire Parmenter
Deputy Chief Constable / Dyfed-Powys Police
Festus Akinbusoye
Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner / Office of the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner
Grace Strong
Strategic Director / Leicestershire’s Violence Reduction Network (VRN)
Jacqui Belfield-Smith
Head of Youth Justice & Targeted Youth Support / Stockport Council
Justin Russell
Chief Inspector / HM Inspectorate of Probation
Paul Marshall
Strategic Director of Children and Education Services / Manchester City Council
Dame Rachel de Souza
Children’s Commissioner for England / Children’s Commission
Serena Kennedy
Chief Constable / Merseyside Police
Steph Roberts-Bibby
CEO / Youth Justice Board

Find out how you can get involved with YEF

You are invited to join our events specifically for the youth justice sector, to see how we can collectively tackle violence prevention for young people.