What does this project involve?
Pause 4 Thought (P4T) delivered 11 group and one individual session to 10 to 14 year olds at risk of involvement in crime and violence. Delivered by the Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council and the Pennine Lancashire Community Safety Partnership, the sessions aimed to use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to develop self-awareness, self-responsibility and change behaviour.
Why did YEF fund this project?
There are several factors in a child or young person’s life that might mean they are more likely to become involved in crime or violence. One factor is the presence of behavioural or emotional difficulties. Having these difficulties at a young age does not mean that a child will certainly go on to offend. However, identifying those children who do demonstrate behavioural or emotional challenges may enable interventions to support them and reduce their risk.
An intervention that has shown promise in reducing violent crime, which explicitly looks to address behaviour and emotions, is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT is a talking therapy that helps people recognise and manage negative thoughts and behaviours, and is associated with a high level of impact on reducing violent crime in the YEF’s Toolkit.
Pause 4 Thought was a new programme, designed by Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council and the Pennine Lancashire Community Safety Partnership, that aims to use CBT techniques to improve the ability of young children to manage their behaviour and emotions.
The YEF funded a feasibility study of P4T to learn:
- whether the programme successfully selected the target children;
- whether sessions were delivered as expected;
- whether young people participated as expected;
- what factors influenced the implementation of the programme; and,
- how acceptable P4T was to young people and facilitators.
To answer these questions, the evaluation used activity logs, feedback surveys, semi-structured interviews and group discussions. 140 young people from 18 P4T groups across five East Lancashire locations (Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Rossendale and Pendle) participated in the feasibility study, that took place between November 2019 and December 2021. Both delivery and evaluation therefore took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring both the evaluators and delivery team to adapt.
|The children who participated in the programme were not the expected target population. While most children were aged 10 to 14, there was a disproportionate number of children selected from one of the five East Lancashire areas (Blackburn with Darwen). The children selected also appeared to have had a higher level of need than intended, with more children than anticipated having severe behavioural and emotional difficulties. This posed challenges for the programme, and the cognitive behavioural therapy techniques and group-based approach may not have been suitable to support these children.|
|72% of P4T groups delivered the expected number of sessions (with 13 holding the minimum of nine out of 11 sessions). Groups that delivered sessions solely online were more likely to achieve the minimum, and this may have been due to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.|
|Young people did not participate in the programme at the rate intended. 76% attended the first session (below the 80% target). Among the young people who attended their first session, 63% returned to complete at least 10 sessions (also below the 80% target).|
|The assessment and selection process posed several challenges. For example, surveys used to select children were perceived to be time consuming and potentially inaccurate. Several elements of training were commended by facilitators, including the theoretical knowledge provided, the coaching approach and the opportunity to discuss sessions in ‘pre-briefs’ and ‘de-briefs’. However, facilitators also reported that more practical knowledge on how to deliver sessions would be useful.|
|The topics covered by P4T sessions were perceived to be acceptable by both surveyed young people and interviewed facilitators. However, the homework was perceived to be burdensome by the children interviewed, while the timing and setting of sessions sometimes hampered participation.|
What will YEF do next?
Due to the challenges outlined in the study (such as the limitations of the referral process and need to amend the selection processes to ensure target children are recruited), the YEF has no plans at this stage to fund a further evaluation of P4T. However, we recognise the perceived acceptability of the programme and commend the delivery team for delivering in such challenging circumstances during the COVID-19 pandemic.