The Youth Justice Board (YJB), which has overseen the criminal justice system for children and young people under 18 in England and Wales for almost two decades, was last week stripped of its responsibilities for locking up young offenders. The move, announced by the justice secretary, Liz Truss, follows a review into youth custody after more than 300 deaths across the country since 1990 and an abuse scandal at a secure training centre.
Mary was 15 when she was first assigned to “enhanced case management” by Carmarthenshire youth offending team (YOT). Whereas conventional YOTs look only at a child’s situation when they get into trouble with the law (and the most troubled youngsters may have seen up to 50 different professionals in their short lives), the enhanced case management approach aims to build trust with a single YOT worker.
The programme begins with a meeting led by a senior clinical psychologist that creates a timeline of key events in the child’s life. This often reveals patterns of offending and links to life events that prompt hypotheses about the reasons for their behaviour. Armed with this background information, the YOT worker starts to develop a one-to-one relationship with the young person. For Mary (not her real name), this meant that her case manager, Louisa Jones, tried to find out more about the angry, explosive girl she had met a year earlier after her first conviction for assault.
“Louisa found out what I liked. She’d let me do makeup and we listened to Eminem,” Mary recalls. “It helped chill me out so I wouldn’t get so angry. Eminem lost his little brother to social services when he was young. I lost my sister to social services. He talks about how sorry he is for how he treated his mum and I treated my mum badly, too. So I understood his words. I taught Louisa about Eminem’s life.”