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Tailored support for 12-19 year olds at risk of offending.

Evaluation type

Feasibility study
See project

Organisation name


Funding round

Targeted projects





Activity Type

Psychological therapies




Centre for Evidence and Implementation


October 2021

What does this project involve?

SHiFT Guides provided up to 9 months of an 18-month programme of tailored support to 12 to 19 year olds, identified as being at risk of involvement in destructive cycles of offending. Delivered by SHiFT Organisation Ltd in partnership with local authorities, Guides aimed to develop a therapeutic relationship with a young person and adapted support to meet their specific needs.

Why did YEF fund this project?

From 2020-21, 15,800 children were cautioned or sentenced in the Youth Justice System in England and Wales. Approximately half of these children already had a prior criminal history.

In recent years, a reframing of the approach taken towards these children has begun to shape programmes and policies. Specifically, a ‘Child First’ approach was adopted by the Youth Justice Board in 2019, as the central and guiding principle of a new national youth justice strategy. This mandates a focus on ensuring that services prioritise the best interests of children and recognise their needs, build on their strengths and capabilities, collaborate with children and their parents/carers to encourage children’s active engagement, and promotes prevention, diversion, and minimal intervention. The SHiFT model emerged in this context.

Developed by Sophie Humphreys OBE and a team of social innovators, SHiFT’s model aligns with a ‘Child-First’ approach and focuses on providing tailored support to prevent children from offending and reoffending.

The YEF funded a feasibility study of SHiFT. It aimed to ascertain whether SHiFT was acceptable to key stakeholders, feasible to implement, what barriers to implementation exist, and what adaptations are required to ensure effective delivery. It also aimed to explore how outcomes can be collected and administered to evaluate the programme. To answer these questions the evaluation developed a programme model and used interviews with SHiFT and local authority staff. Initial analysis of programme administrative data was also undertaken. 44 young people from two London local authorities participated in the feasibility study, which took place between January and October 2021.

Key conclusions

SHiFT was perceived to be acceptable to key stakeholders, including the local authority and the SHiFT Practices. Those interviewed praised the long-term approach, the relationship-based nature of support, the engagement with young people’s wider networks and Guide’s small caseloads (which allowed for greater availability of support). SHiFT’s creative and flexible approach was also commended. No interviews were carried out with children to ascertain how acceptable they deemed it to be.
SHiFT was perceived to be feasible to implement by key stakeholders. The recruitment of Guides, local governance and supervision arrangements were all delivered as intended. SHiFT appeared to reach the intended (most vulnerable and at-risk) children, and Guides appeared to deliver the programme as planned. However, the study did not cover the full 18 months of usual delivery, and some barriers to delivery were identified.
Barriers to delivery included the flexibility of SHiFT. It sometimes proved difficult to clearly describe the components of such a flexible programme to other professionals and differentiate it from other services. Insufficient initial pre-implementation planning, staff changes and a lack of clarity surrounding roles also impeded delivery. These challenges were, and can be, addressed by clarification of the model and greater collaboration.
SHiFT Practices piloted the use of outcome surveys (featuring three validated scales). However, the measures used proved difficult for children to understand and use. Data accuracy and access issues impeded other routine data collection.
Several solutions to improve outcome collection, data availability and data accuracy are recommended or in development, such as creating more child-friendly outcome scales, collecting a smaller set of administrative data, piloting online versions of questionnaires and developing a long-term research and evaluation plan.

What will YEF do next?

Due to the limitations outlined in the study, including challenges in outcomes data collection, the YEF has no immediate plans to fund a further evaluation of SHiFT. However, we recognise the perceived acceptability and feasibility of the intervention and look forward to seeing how the SHiFT team address the data and outcome collection recommendations discussed.

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