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Transforming youth justice services in Greater Manchester

New best practice guidelines for working with children and young people in the youth justice system have been launched across Greater Manchester.

Teenage boy sitting on wall

Guidelines give young people a voice in decisions made about them

New best practice guidelines for working with children and young people in the youth justice system have been launched across Greater Manchester.

Called the Participatory Youth Framework, the guidelines come at the end of a two-year pioneering collaborative research project.

Based around eight principles, the guidelines aim to change practice and improve outcomes for children and young people by making sure their voices are heard in decisions that affect them.

New guidelines place young people first

The guidelines are unique as they were co-developed by young people who are within the youth justice system.

“The participatory approach – where young people actually take part in the development of the youth justice framework – is what sets this research apart,” said Professor Hannah Smithson, Professor of Criminology & Youth Justice, and Head of the Manchester Centre for Youth Studies (MCYS) at Manchester Metropolitan University.

“Children and young people in conflict with the law tend to be some of the most vulnerable and marginalised in society and are very rarely given a voice in the decisions made about them.       

“Our pioneering new Participatory Youth Justice Framework means young people’s voices will be heard in the youth justice system in Greater Manchester.

“It is a positive new approach which takes account of the difficult circumstances in which a lot of young people find themselves in, believes in their ability to change, and supports them into breaking free of the cycle of offending and re-offending.”

Innovative ways of engaging with children and young people

The guidelines follow a two-year Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) that was secured by Greater Manchester Youth Justice University Partnership.

Anna-Christina Jones, Senior Research Assistant for MCYS, led the KTP. She also feels that the project’s emphasis on participation with young people is what sets it apart.

“By including young people in the project we got them to engage with youth justice. This helped enhance our understanding of their issues, and ultimately led to a user-led framework of youth justice practice.

“We asked practitioners to nominate young people with experiences of cycling repeatedly through the system. Together, we developed a series of creative day-workshops. These allowed the young people to guide the process and develop content relevant for them – expressing their experiences, identities and culture.

“They did this in innovative ways such as meeting boxing role models to discuss their experiences, expressing their feelings through lyric writing with a local grime MC, and producing graffiti art.”

Warning: this video contains strong language that may offend

Project is first of its kind in arts and humanities

The KTP was worth almost £120,000, and was the first of its kind in arts and humanities. It was hosted by Positive Steps, a charitable organisation that delivers a range of integrated services to communities in Oldham, Rochdale and Tameside.

Paul Axon, Director of Targeted Services at Positive Steps, said: “One of the project’s aims was to ensure that the university’s had demonstrable impact on practice. We also hoped to develop a model for best practice that is underpinned by a strong evidence base and the most current research.

“It is to the Anna and the team’s credit that they have achieved all of these aims.”

A model for research and innovation in any field

Professor Richard Greene, Pro Vice Chancellor of the Research and Knowledge Exchange at Manchester Metropolitan, said: “A project on a scale such as this is undoubtedly challenging, so I warmly thank all the ten teams involved for their support, enthusiasm, and hard work in helping to deliver this.

“At the heart of this achievement is a KTP project that presents a model for how research and innovation can work. Importantly, this model can be transferred to other disciplines.”

Thursday, 9th November 2017