New approaches for care experienced young people given prison sentences
Bridging the Gaps
With Barrow Cadbury, West Midlands
Care experienced young people are more likely to reoffend on release from prison than non-care leavers of a similar age. They often lack family relationships and other support networks and there is a proven correlation between maintenance of family relationships in prevention of reoffending.
The support when it is available to this group of young people is often fragmented and uncoordinated. HMPPS and local authorities use different ways of assessing risk and different practice models for reducing risk
- Care experienced young people are overrepresented in the justice system. Approximately 25% of adult prisoners have experienced care, compared to 1% of the general population
- Care experienced young people are not effectively identified in the justice system so it is hard to target support towards them
- During and after a custodial sentence care experienced young people do not get the right type of support to overcome their specific social and emotional challenges and this is exacerbated as they are already likely to be separated from family or other support networks
- There is poor coordination between HMPPS and local authorities which weakens attempts to provide support aimed at reducing reoffending of care experienced young people
Early in 2019 we completed a scoping exercise funded by the Oak Foundation, grounded in ethnographies of young people who had been in care who were now in prison. We also worked closely with practitioners who know the system inside out from: HM Prison service, the National Probation service, local Community Rehabilitation Companies, Local Authority care leaving services (Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry), National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum (Catch-22), Care Leavers Association, Prison Reform Trust and Barnado’s. This generated deep insights into the challenges the young people face and also shone a light on some existing good practice.
- Care experienced young people are more likely to reoffend on release from prison than non-care leavers of a similar age
- They often lack family relationships and other support networks and there is a proven correlation between maintenance of family relationships in prevention of reoffending
- The support when it is available to this group of young people is often fragmented and uncoordinated
- HMPPS and local authorities use different ways of assessing risk and different practice models for reducing risk
Funded by Barrow Cadbury, we reconvened the stakeholders from our insight gathering phase to co-design and prototype new solutions in phase two
These solutions are:
- A model to develop a sustainable and coordinated support network for young people (aged 18-25, male and female) while in prison and on release. Given that prosocial positive networks are a protective factor against reoffending and our cohort have less access to these, we believe that offering Lifelong Links and Family Group Conference models will provide the necessary support and coordination needed to develop and maintain these networks and reduce likelihood of reoffending. In the Lifelong Links model, a specialist practitioner will agree with the young person which friends, relatives and supportive adults can be invited to a family group conference. They use specialist tools to track down the adults who care about the young person and agree a lifelong support plan at the conference. Interim research findings from the Lifelong Links model being delivered by Family Rights Group to care leavers as part of the DfE Innovation Programme indicate that a young person who has received the service will on average see their networks increase by an additional 21 people. We are excited to further develop this model to support young people through the gates in which their Lifelong Links plan will be incorporated into their Pathway (leaving care) plan, their Sentence plan and their Resettlement plan.
- Integrated planning and assessment between Prison, Probation and Local Authorities. Our second innovation will involve piloting a newly designed protocol of coordinated, person centred assessment and planning of the above mentioned three statutory plans and where applicable, the Lifelong Links plan. Currently, these statutory plans are rarely connected and there is little understanding of which of the practitioners (prison staff, probation staff and staff from the care leaving service) is responsible for each type of support. In this innovation peer mentors will meet 18-25 year olds on entry to prison and encourage them to self identify by sharing with them the benefits that care experienced status brings. Following this, the young person’s Personal Advisor will be identified and invited to all the planning meetings with the young person, the Prison service and the Probation service to ensure information is shared and the plans are integrated.
- Training across all organisations and Lifelong Links networks to raise awareness and identification of care experienced young people. Our final innovation will entail training and support for everyone involved in the young person’s statutory planning and personal support network so they are aware of the strengths, needs and vulnerabilities of care experienced young people leaving prison.
We believe that the direct impact of these activities will be to:
- Reduce reoffending, enable rehabilitation and increase the chances of a positive future for our cohort of young people;
- Facilitate greater alignment of support across the young people’s personal networks and participating organisations;
- Clarify for young people what support they can receive and how they can better access it;
- Provide a protocol for Prison, Probation and Leaving Care support services which outlines a coordinated approach to assessing and planning with young people who have experience of care.
Our indirect impact will be:
- Production of visual, easily accessible protocols, learning materials and tools to help future adopters to understand and adapt the model to their context;
- An ongoing, national programme of engagement with future adopters of the model to generate demand; and
- An external evaluation of impact
Our next steps
We are currently seeking funding for the next stage of the project to pilot these approaches in four prisons in the West Midland Group to all young people (18-25) who have been in care in Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry.
Phases one and two of this work have been successful because we have built a strong partnership around the work. There was already a commitment to improving outcomes and a lot of activity by the various stakeholder organisations, but our work brought them together to codesign the solutions. We have been heartened and encouraged by the energy and excitement in the system for a new and coordinated approach to improving outcomes for care experienced young people in custody.
By the end of phase three we will have:
- an external evaluation that measures the impact of the interventions on young people’s outcomes especially their reoffending
- a tried and tested model implemented in four prisons and then adopted in the remaining prisons across the West Midlands with all care experienced young people (aged 18-25) from any of the West Midland Combined Authorities
- templates, tools and materials, that will enable the model to adopted in other regions within the prison service
- generated interest and demand from other prison regions in England
Read more on our project and the full report.
For more information on Innovation Unit and to get involved in the pilot contact: firstname.lastname@example.org