Youth Offending Services

How can the Prevention Platform’s tools be used by Youth Offending Teams (YOTs)?

For a long time, youth justice professionals have reported high occurrences of family violence, which includes intimate partner violence within teenage relationships, adolescent to parent violence, and also witnessing and being a victim of domestic abuse. This is therefore an extremely complex area of abuse, and any useful resources to work with young people in this difficult area are welcomed. In view of this, the Prevention Platform have developed a number of resources to work with young people in Pupil Referral Units, and the focus is on the prevention of such violence and developing healthy relationships.

Young people in PRUs, as often in YOTs, tend to have behavioural difficulties, speech language and communication needs, and emotional and mental health needs very often struggle to reach their full potential in mainstream education.

Therefore, following completion of risk assessments, a YOT worker may include working on Healthy Relationships in the young person’s intervention plan. This could be because there is an identified risk of domestic abuse occurring within the young person’s immediate relationships, or because you assess that further assistance with understanding healthy relationships would prevent the occurrence of domestic abuse. Should this be the case there are a number of questions that a YOT worker should address:

  • If you suspect that domestic abuse is taking place within the young person’s relationships, pay attention to short term crisis management – is a safety plan in place? If not, you should consult with your line manager about the most appropriate person to complete this with the family, and complete one asap. Are other children at risk in the house? If so, you will need to make a referral to Children’s Services.
  • Has the young person (we do not like the phrase perpetrator for this reason) been a victim of abuse themselves? Have they observed domestic abuse from their parent/carer, and are now exhibiting similar behaviours? When using the resources, this will need to be considered, as often a young person needs to deal with their own feelings of victimisation before they can complete intervention work to prevent further abusive behaviours.
  • If the violence is within a family setting, consider whether there is evidence of adolescent to parent violence. In this situation, family based intervention and mediation may be appropriate, but only where it is safe to do so. The parent will be extremely nervous about reporting this abuse and discussing it with others. Condry and Miles research (2013) indicates that this is because they do not want the child to be removed from the home. Therefore, you will need to focus on family based intervention and mediation, where it is safe and appropriate to do so.
  • There will be occasions where the violence is such that the situation is dangerous and the police must be informed. This is the right thing to do and will need to be reiterated to the young person.

Once these fundamental questions have been considered, the YOT worker should have a look at the available resources online. Consider whether to adapt to a group work setting. Should the group be mixed sex, or single sex? We would always advise that there is at least one man and one woman facilitating all groupwork programmes and discussions, to offer alternative perspectives in a safe environment. If using the resources on a 1:1 basis is more appropriate, consider where you should run the sessions. The young person may feel safer in a more neutral and relaxed location, rather than in the family home/YOT office. Ask them where they would prefer to meet.

      • What programmes are available in your area? Typical domestic abuse/anger management programmes are not appropriate. As already stated, this is a complex area of abuse, where abusers are highly likely to have been victims, or indeed, still be victims. Specialist programmes are available with an emerging evidence base – Respect UK are running a pilot groupwork programme working with parents and young people. Their website address is listed at the back of this document. The Youth Justice Board have also put together a webpage which contains links to further programmes and support for adolescent to parent abuse. The materials are freely available, and include fully manualised programmes. The website is also listed at the back of this document.
      • A parenting order should NOT be used where this abuse is occurring. Condry and Miles (2013) research found evidence that where a parent is subject to a parenting order and is experiencing abuse, the order can become a further form of control and lead to further abuse.  In court where the YP is 16 or under the magistrate will need a good reason not to impose a parenting order.  Detailed explanation of the issue in PSR’s is essential. Close collaboration between parenting/family teams to ensure support must be provided and included in PSR.
      • YOT workers should collaborate closely with the YOT police officer to prevent the young person being arrested wherever possible. Police involvement may be necessary but arrest should be avoided and action should follow the principles of some LAC protocols which seek to minimise the criminalisation of young people.

If a young person is arrested for domestic abuse:

    • If it is a minor assault/criminal damage, consider use of a Conditional Caution. The condition could be to complete a programme of work, using the resources available here, with the young person to address the abusive behaviour.
    • Consider use of a Referral Order, and recommend, where appropriate, that completion of an intervention programme and family based mediation work forms part of the contract.
    • Where a Community Order is the only option – attach a Programme Requirement, and consider using a programme as described above.
    • For a Custodial Sentence, the resources can be used with a young person whilst they are in custody. Where appropriate, consider the use of ROTL to rebuild family relationships, where it is safe for the young person to return home.
    • Involve family/parenting support teams as soon as possible to work with the YP and the parents.  Ensure the issue is fully explained in the PSR to prevent imposition of a parenting order and promote support for the family and YP.

Considerations for YOT Heads of Service, Secure Estate Directors / Managers / Governors:

  • Does your Local Authority/ Secure setting offer an appropriate intervention to address both intimate partner violence and adolescent to parent abuse? If not, consideration should be given to approaching your LSCB and commissioning training staff in an intervention package.
  • Do you have a local protocol for management of teenage domestic abuse? There is strong evidence to indicate that police responses to teenage domestic abuse have been poor, meaning that victims are reluctant to report further incidents. A protocol should include how you want the police to respond to a call out (i.e. when to arrest, whether a safety plan is in place). The YOT police officer should be fully informed of the overarching issue and should be involved before and at arrest. When an arrest is not made, who should the police refer the victim, and the young person using abusive behaviour to for further support? The protocol should also cover information such as how to de-escalate a situation; the use of pre-court disposals, and what you should set up with a YOT to formally manage this (i.e. having a programme/intervention locally available as part of a pre-court disposal). A tiered response similar to protocols for callouts to residential children’s homes.
  • Does a police officer with a local lead for domestic abuse sit on your Health and Wellbeing Board?
  • Is the local PCC aware of teenage domestic abuse, and its prevalence in your area?
  • Do you know how many cases within your YOT/establishment are experiencing intimate partner violence and/or adolescent to parent abuse? Are your staff asking the question and recording it? Where are they recording it, and is it translating into supervision plans?
  • Establish a person within the YOT to lead on the issue where possible to provide specialist advice.

Useful Resources

Information from the Youth Justice Board about domestic abuse interventions and resources: 

www.gov.uk/guidance/domestic-abuse-resources-for-youth-justice-practitioners

The Effective Practice Library is the Youth Justice Board’s online collection of practice resources, materials and information:

http://www.justice.gov.uk/youth-justice/effective-practice-library