What does this project involve?
The DIVERT programme aims to divert 10-14 year olds away from crime and future offending. Young people were recruited to the programme following their arrest and attendance at a youth custody suite. Led by Lambeth Council in partnership with local charity Juvenis, the programme then offered 12 weeks of mentoring, delivered by qualified youth workers, alongside holistic wrap-around support including support for the wider family from a family practitioner and physical and mental health support from a physical health worker or therapist.
Why did YEF fund this project?
Mentoring approaches that match a young person with a mentor and encourages them to meet regularly are associated with a moderate impact on reducing violent crime. We estimate that mentoring interventions are associated with a 21% reduction in violence and a 14% reduction in offending. The research also suggests that mentoring programmes work better when they work with children and young people who have a higher risk of involvement in crime.
Diversion is one of the YEF’s focus areas. We know that sometimes, children need another chance – alternatives to arrest, conviction and custody. Diversion programmes help them do that, whether it’s through mental health support, whole family interventions or mentoring initiatives. They tend to offer support at key turning points. That might be at point of arrest, before court action is taken or when a child sustains a serious injury because they’ve been involved in a violent assault.
We funded a feasibility and pilot study evaluation of the DIVERT programme. The feasibility study aimed to learn:
- whether the DIVERT programme could achieve its intended outputs for its intended target group;
- whether delivery was consistent with design;
- what facilitators and barriers influenced delivery;
- how much of the service was received by young people;
- and explore the quality, responsiveness, and reach achieved by the service.
To explore these questions, the feasibility study (which ran from October 2019 to February 2021) used a mix of methods, including analysing monitoring data on 26 programme participants, interviews with five young people and 12 project staff and partners, and an online survey with nine participants.
The pilot study (delivered from August 2021 to March 2022) then explored:
- whether the DIVERT programme could achieve its intended outcomes,
- whether the numbers of young people in Lambeth who joined the scheme matched the initial projected numbers,
- and establish the nature and extent of the contribution of wrap around support in the project.
To answer these questions, the pilot study used project monitoring data for 28 young people, pre-intervention surveys with 12 young people, post-intervention surveys with six young people, and interviews (six with project and partner staff, and eight with young people). Both the feasibility and pilot studies were undertaken during the Covid-19 pandemic, requiring both the delivery and evaluation teams to adapt to challenging circumstances.
|Limited data availability prevented the feasibility study from establishing whether the DIVERT programme achieved its intended outputs for the intended target group. The feasibility study did find that programme delivery was partially consistent with design, although delays occurred in setting up wrap-around support. The number of sessions (including mentoring, therapy and youth worker sessions) received by young people ranged from 1–36, with a fifth of young people receiving 20 or more sessions.|
|The feasibility study noted that the programme was generally well received by the small number of young people who participated and engaged in the evaluation. The majority of young people engaged in the programme had committed an offence. However, due to the unavailability of data, it was not possible to determine if the young people had been in police custody or if their ages matched the 10-14 age criterion.|
|The pilot study provides inconclusive findings on whether the programme could achieve its intended outcomes for the intended target group. Qualitative reflections from six project and partner staff and eight young people may indicate some improvements in general wellbeing, self-esteem and relationships with family and friends during the programme. However, the samples were very small and unlikely to be representative of all involved.|
|54 young people were engaged in the project, less than the original target of 80. The monitoring data indicate that delivery of wrap-around support sessions, such as family, health and therapeutic support, was limited.|
|Given the inconclusive nature of the findings at this stage, the DIVERT programme is not ready for a randomised controlled trial. Before further evaluation, the programme also needs to further clarify eligibility criteria (particularly the type of offences and contact with police that participants have previously had).|
What will YEF do next?
Given the inconclusive nature of the findings at this stage, the DIVERT programme is not ready for a randomised controlled trial. Before further evaluation, amongst other requirements, the programme also needs to clarify eligibility criteria, particularly the type of offences and contact with police that participants have previously had.