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Diversion from the criminal justice system

The Youth Endowment Fund exists to prevent children and young people becoming involved in violence. We do this by finding out what works and building a movement to put this knowledge into practice.

We want to make sure the evidence we build improves the way children are supported. But we know we can’t do this alone.

That’s why we’re bringing together people who are passionate about protecting children from harm, to focus their expertise, insight and influence around a common cause.

Our first area of focus will be on diversion from the criminal justice system.

In future years, we’ll widen our focus to other areas where we think there are opportunities to improve how children are protected from becoming involved in crime and violence.

Our focus area: Diversion from the criminal justice system

By focusing on diversion from the criminal justice system, we’re looking to improve support for children and young people who have been arrested, but not charged.

This is typically done through diversion programmes or out-of-court disposals, which offer children support at key turning points, such as at point of arrest or before court action is taken.

We’ve chosen this focus area as evidence shows diversion programmes can be effective at reducing violent crime and reoffending. Importantly, we also think there’s scope to change and improve the practices, policies and systems which influence how, when and why diversion programmes are delivered.

To improve diversion for children and families, we’ll…

1. Build coalitions

We’re bringing together children and families, academic experts and experienced professionals working in diversion, to identify what needs to change to better support young people who have been arrested, but not charged.

We’re working with them to analyse the existing evidence base and review – and challenge – current practice, from how diversion programmes are delivered to how they’re commissioned.

2. Publish a guidance report

We’ll use the insight we generate to produce and publish a guidance report on diversion – this will form the foundations for our work for change on this focus area.

The guidance report will summarise evidence of what works, the experiences of practitioners and young people, and identify the most promising opportunities for reducing youth violence. It will provide a set of recommendations to improve practices, policies and systems.

To guide our thinking around the guidance report, we’ve brought together a Strategic Advisory Board to help ensure its recommendations are actionable, worthwhile and make significant improvements for children who come into contact with the criminal justice system. Please see below for further details.

The guidance report will be published in October 2023.

3. Work for change

Our guidance report will outline opportunities to improve how children are diverted away from the criminal justice system. But nothing will change if the recommendations aren’t put into action.

We’ll bring together members of our advisory groups and other cross-sector supporters to implement improvements in current practice, policies and systems based on the evidence.

Who’s involved

Our Strategic Advisory Board brings together experienced senior leaders with responsibility and concern for the treatment and experience of children who are arrested.

Members of this group help to:

  • Review progress of the guidance report
  • Comment on the emerging research findings and connect with wider or existing research
  • Advise on related policy
  • Connect us with other interested individuals and organisations
  • Identify and recommend opportunities for change

Meet our Strategic Advisory Board

Claire Parmenter
Claire Parmenter
Deputy Chief Constable / Dyfed-Powys Police
Claudia Sturt
CEO / Youth Justice Board
Festus Akinbusoye
Festus Akinbusoye
Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner / Office of the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner
Grace Strong
Grace Strong
Strategic Director / Leicestershire’s Violence Reduction Network (VRN)
Jacqui Belfield-Smith
Jacqui Belfield-Smith
Head of Youth Justice & Targeted Youth Support / Stockport Council
Justin Russell
Justin Russell
Chief Inspector / HM Inspectorate of Probation
Paul Marshall
Paul Marshall
Strategic Director of Children and Education Services / Manchester City Council
Dame Rachel De Souza
Rachel De Souza
Children’s Commissioner for England / Children’s Commission
Serena Kennedy
Serena Kennedy
Chief Constable / Merseyside Police

Get involved

If you’re passionate about improving opportunities for children and young people who come into contact with the criminal justice system and would like to get involved in this work, sign-up below to hear about the latest updates and opportunities.

Related YEF resources

  • Pre-court diversion

    Diverting children who have committed first-time or low level offences away from the formal youth justice system
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    Evidence quality
    1 2 3 4 5
    Estimated impact
    on violent crime