Vulnerable young people’s lives are being transformed
Amy was excluded from school, had a history of violence, and was coming to terms with the recent death of her mother.
Subject to a Community Order and under the supervision of a Youth Offending Service, she was referred to a pioneering new Manchester Metropolitan University project striving to turn around the lives of vulnerable girls in Greater Manchester.
Funded by Comic Relief, Getting Out For Good is a grassroots intervention for teenagers across the city at risk of exploitation, youth violence or crime.
It supports young people to take part in confidence-boosting activities which help develop their self-esteem and provide positive influences. Amy was enrolled into boxing and drama classes led by expert tutors and given her own personal mentor.
The impact on her attitude and behaviour was profound.
“Getting Out For Good is definitely a positive influence on me,” Amy said.
“It fits with my life and where I am at and as long as I like going and I like my mentor and if I feel happy with it, then I will keep going. It helps me speak to people properly.”
Several of the dozens of participants have gone on to achieve AQA qualifications.
Getting Out For Good is one of several ground-breaking projects led by the University’s Manchester Centre for Youth Studies (MCYS), delivered through a collaboration with local service providers, that has made Greater Manchester a beacon for innovative and effective approaches to youth justice.
The MCYS’s ethos is to enable and create youth-informed and youth-led research.
They are guided by the principles that young people should be listened to, their often complex family and lifestyle situations understood, and solutions co-designed with their input.
Dr Deborah Jump, Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Head of Youth Justice at MCYS, who established Getting Out For Good, said: “This is about raising aspirations and increasing young people’s social capital. As much as you have an open sports session, some of the girls may not be able to afford the bus fare, or feel too nervous or too vulnerable to go alone and so can turn up with a mentor, or might not be attending school and so with the programme have the opportunity to accrue the qualifications that some other young people might be getting.
“We’ve created this wraparound service where we embed them in open, local provision and they benefit from additional support from the Getting Out For Good project.”
As well as providing positive activities for young people, MCYS is also the catalyst for changing policy and practice in Greater Manchester.
The Centre established a unique partnership with Youth Justice Services in Greater Manchester. Launched in 2014, the Greater Manchester Youth Justice University Partnership (GMYJUP) involves the Youth Justice Board and the ten Youth Justice Services across Greater Manchester.
“We talk about it being a bi-directional transfer of knowledge,” explained Hannah Smithson, Professor of Criminology and Youth Justice and Head of MCYS.
“It is an innovative model linking effective practice, research capabilities, and collaborative approaches to delivering effective practice in youth justice.”
The great thing about the partnership between the Greater Manchester Youth Justice Services and Manchester Metropolitan University is that it is a living example of how research shapes practice and how practice influences research.
Youth Justice Services need to be dynamic in order to respond effectively to the changing needs of those children and young people. New trends in criminal activity are a constant and the opportunity for practitioners to discuss these challenges with academics means that our joint approach to practice and research is informed, fresh and evidencebased. I would recommend this approach to all Youth Justice Services.
Marie McLaughlin, Head of Service at Manchester Youth Justice Services
A two-year AHRC and ESRC funded Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), the first of its kind in the field of youth justice was established with Positive Steps Oldham, one of the partnering Youth Justice Services.
The purpose of the KTP was to engage young people in the development of creative approaches to manage their behaviour, giving them a voice in the dialogue around how youth justice services should operate and pioneering the application of a Youth Participatory Action Research (or YPAR) approach to youth justice service redevelopment.
The KTP has enabled us to take a ‘gold standard’ approach to participation through the triangulation of service user, service provider and academic partner contributions to the development of the Youth Participation Action Research framework.
Overall the project has strengthened the strategic commitment across Greater Manchester to deliver a youth justice system based on principles of inclusion, participation and desistance
Paul Axon, Director at Positive Steps Oldham
GMYJUP’s KTP developed the Participatory Youth Practice (PYP) framework which was rolled out across Greater Manchester youth justice services in 2017; a transformative model of working with young people in the criminal justice system developed in collaboration with young people based on their experiences.
A series of boxing, grime and urban art workshops were co-produced with young people allowing them to share experiences.
An engaging animated video was produced to illustrate the model in the young people’s own words, using the medium of grime. Eight principles were established to underpin an effective youth justice system – including the likes of ‘let them participate’, ‘acknowledge limited life chances’ and ‘develop their ambitions’.
Researchers at Manchester Metropolitan wrote educational resources for professionals on each of the eight principles, which can be used by practitioners to put the model into practice when working closely with young people.
The model is already having an impact in Greater Manchester – each youth justice team has a participation champion who has been trained in PYP.
The organisations are also in the process of writing their own participation strategy directly influenced by the University’s approach to co-created research.
MCYS researchers will be working closely with youth justice services to monitor their impact.
But GMYJUP is already being heralded as the model to be replicated and Professor Smithson is working with colleagues from the University of New South Wales in Sydney around a similar model to be implemented there.
MCYS researchers are also advising the Ministry of Justice on how to adopt PYP within the new framework of youth custody. Other projects led by MCYS are also having an impact on practice in Greater Manchester.
Manchester Metropolitan linguist Dr Rob Drummond, Senior Lecturer in Linguistics and Head of Youth Language at MCYS, developed a resource to be used with young people and staff in Greater Manchester’s Pupil Referral Units that is based on communication and language issues that arose during a research project he conducted.
Professor Smithson is cleareyed about the reason that Greater Manchester has been able to set the pace in youth justice innovation.
She said: “The beauty of the KTP is how you transfer the academic expertise and knowledge [at Manchester Metropolitan] and be guided and informed by youth offending service practitioners to apply it in the best way in practice.
“There is no point us doing something that is great from an academic point of view if practitioners think it will have absolutely no bearing on the work that they do.
“This wouldn’t have worked if we didn’t already have GMYJUP. The heads of service that we work with are very supportive of the notion that academia can inform practice and practice can inform academia.
“So the fact that we’d already got that partnership was absolutely crucial in youth offending services signing up for this.”
And the motivation for continuing to develop to blaze a trail in youth justice in Greater Manchester is apparent.
“The majority [of those in the youth justice system] tend to be young people who have already been marginalised,” explained Professor Smithson.
“A great many of them will have been excluded from school, may have been out of education for some time, been victims of crime themselves and been through the care system. They are, a population of young people who often get overlooked.”