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As the ink dries on Clinks’ guide for probation practitioners on approaching young adults, we take a look at some of the proposed methods and highlight the tools that are worth making a note of.


It’s been a busy couple of weeks with the release of various strategies on how young adult offenders should be treated. The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) has been bold in recommending police take a more holistic view of the young people they encounter, up to and including the age of 24, with the Children’s Commissioner for England in full support. 

What we are witnessing is an appreciation for the varying maturity, backgrounds and needs of young adults that come into contact with the criminal justice system (CJS). But, how does this resonate with what Clinks recommends National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Company probation officers follow?

It’s without question that young offenders (18-24) need to be further supported. After all, and as Clinks note, they account for less than 10% of the general population but make up a third of offenders. 

Clinks appear to be on the same page as NPCC, in the sense that they recognise the difficult backgrounds that many young adult offenders have and that it’s important the right intervention is used at the right time. 

The research for the Clinks guide is based on findings from the Transition to Adulthood Alliance (T2A) and it involves direct feedback from probation officers, managers and service users themselves. 
As we would expect from Clinks, which is a keen advocate from external partnership work, there’s a great deal of emphasis placed on practitioners being more creative with external resources as well as internal ones. 

There are some very specific considerations the guide delves into, which are likely to be of value to probation officers working directly with young adult offenders. We’ve briefly summarised these below: 

Establishing maturity

Maturity of an adult offender is often referred to within pre-sentence reports, but the guide suggests that having an understanding of maturity and how to use this to establish the right type of intervention is key. 

There’s a significant amount of information on this, but a specific tool worth taking a look at is the T2A ‘Taking account of maturity guide’ which was co-developed by the University of Birmingham. 

Emphasis on care leavers

The guide makes it clear that trauma-informed practice can help and that ‘the quality of the relationship between the practitioner and the young adult is particularly important’. Another useful external resource referred to is Beyond Youth Custody’s ‘Developing trauma-informed resettlement for young custody leavers’. It focuses on the key features of trauma-informed approaches to working with custody leavers. It also outlines some of the implications that trauma and its effects might have on resettlement. 

Considering health needs

Probation officers will already understand that mental health, in particular addiction, can contribute to offending behaviour. As substance misuse professionals working in the criminal justice system will understand, alcohol is a factor in the criminal activity of nearly 50% of 18-24 year olds and 69% have taken illicit drugs in the year previous to conviction. Clinks reviews what is needed to address the impact substance misuse has and makes some practical recommendations. 

There’s no need for us to go over all the recommendations here, but there’s an impactful case-study from the Drug and Alcohol Transitions project in Derby that would definitely be worth a read. 

Brain injuries

Clinks state that ‘brain injuries are often overlooked in a criminal justice context’, yet 60% of children in custody report experiencing a traumatic brain injury. This, they emphasise, has an impact on conduct disorder, attention problems and aggression that contribute to offender behaviour. 

Another tool probation officers might find useful to help assess the presence and extent of a young person’s brain injury is The Comprehensive Health Assessment Tool (CHAT) frequently used in YOIs. 

Taking account of diversity

The guide addresses how young adult offenders often have specific needs. It openly talks about the challenges facing various groups and that some may have multiple characteristics. For example, they could be from a minority ethnic community and have a learning disability. It’s here that the complexity of an individual’s needs proves a challenge, as Clinks points out. 

There are a number of screening tools that can help, especially in regards to learning difficulties and disabilities. For example, the LDD Navigator website could be useful for probation officers needing more information on assessing a person’s learning disability needs and requirements. 
Email a friend
michael bolger, 19 September 2015, 02:20 PM
Having worked in the criminal justice system as a Magistrate and Nurse I see the need for probation support.

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