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Divert Plus

Targeted support for children who have been arrested.

Evaluation type

Pilot study
See project

Organisation name

Violence Reduction Unit, Nottinghamshire Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner

Funding round

Another chance – Diversion from the criminal justice system




East Midlands

Activity Type

Pre-court diversion




Cordis Bright, University of Greenwich

What does this project involve?

The Divert Plus programme aims to prevent 10-17 year olds who have been arrested for violence (or offences with risk factors for future involvement in violence) from offending and reoffending. Delivered by Nottingham City and Nottinghamshire Violence Reduction Partnership, it aims to provide an initial conversation to young people at the key moment after arrest, before offering a range of interventions including speech and language therapy, mentoring, and discussion of Out of Court Disposal options.

Why did YEF fund this project?

Diversion is an approach to preventing reoffending by finding alternatives to formal criminal justice proceedings. It can happen at the point of arrest, and may offer children a range of support services. As the YEF Toolkit explains, it is likely to have a moderate impact on reducing violent crime (reducing re-offending by 13%). While our confidence in this estimate of impact is high, most of the research comes from the USA, and very few studies have been conducted in England and Wales.

The YEF, therefore, funded a pilot trial evaluation of Divert Plus. The evaluation aimed to test potential trial recruitment, randomisation, retention and data collection processes. It also aimed to establish the sample size that would be required for a future, larger trial, and explore whether Divert Plus could effectively recruit to a larger trial, and the acceptability of an RCT design to Divert Plus stakeholders. How the programme was delivered was also analysed.

Young people were allocated to a treatment (Divert Plus) or a control group (signposting). Those in the treatment group received Divert Plus and those in the control group received signposting to other services and safeguarding support. 24 young people (and their parents/carers) provided and maintained full written consent to take part in the evaluation and are included in the analysis of background characteristics data in the report; 16 were randomised to the Divert Plus group, and 8 to the control. 75% (18) of young people involved were of White British ethnic background.

Quantitative data was compiled from monitoring data on background characteristics, activity and dosage, and outcomes measures were collected at baseline and 9 months. Outcomes measures included the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) and the Self-Reported Delinquency Scale (SRDS). Qualitative methods included interviews with 10 project staff and 12 professionals from various stakeholders. The trial was conducted from January 2022- July 2023.

Key conclusions

It proved very challenging to recruit young people for the trial. Of the 202 potentially eligible young people, only 33 (16%) provided initial consent to participate. Retention of young people in the control group also proved difficult; only 38% completed questionnaires after nine months (5 out of 13 who gave initial consent and were randomised), compared to 80% in the treatment group (16 out of 20).
The outcomes measures used appeared to be reliable, valid and practical. Power calculations suggest that a future efficacy study of Divert Plus would require 338 young people. This suggests that 528 young people would need to be recruited to obtain a sufficient sample size for an efficacy study, accounting for the overall attrition of 36% experienced by the programme so far.
Several elements of the Divert Plus theory of change require clearer definition before a larger trial. When initial conversations take place, the role of case managers, the role of mentors, the speech and language offer and the part played by Restorative Justice all require clarification and greater consistency. A future efficacy study would also require a better process for collecting delivery monitoring and dosage data.
Divert Plus staff members reported that the programme was effectively diverting children away from the criminal justice system via OOCDs. They also perceived that the speech and language provision offered to children was helping to better meet their needs. There was not sufficient quantitative data to confirm these outcomes.
Divert Plus is not yet ready to move to a larger efficacy RCT. It requires a clearer definition of the theory of change and further consideration of how to recruit enough young people.

What will YEF do next?

YEF is not proceeding with further evaluation at this stage as Divert Plus is not yet ready to move to a larger efficacy randomised controlled trial.

Download the report