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3.15.1 The Prevention Services Procedure


Leeds Children’s Social Work Services discourages responses that might result in the unnecessary criminalisation of children, particularly children who are looked after.


  1. Introduction
  2. Behaviours Placing a Child at Risk of Offending
  3. Reprimand
  4. Final Warning
  5. Court Ordered Interventions
  6. The Restorative Process

1. Introduction

Once a child or young person becomes involved in the Criminal Justice System they begin to accrue a criminal record and will be subject to the 1974 Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA).

It is worth noting that offences of assault against or between children are exempt from the ROA and must be disclosed on a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) application. This will always have to be declared subsequently and can result in the child or young person being unable to embark on courses or take up work with children or other vulnerable groups.

See Section 6, The Restorative Process.

2. Behaviours Placing a Child at Risk of Offending

It is important to consider the factors which are known to contribute to a risk of offending or anti-social behaviour in a particular child and what actions or interventions might build resilience and thus reduce that risk.


Work on identifying risk factors is based on an understanding that offending is often just one aspect of antisocial activity which begins in childhood and often persists into adulthood. Only a limited understanding exists, however, about the relationship between risk and protective factors and later offending and antisocial behaviour.

The existence per se of one or more risk factors in a child’s life is not a good predictor of outcomes and children vary in terms of how they respond to risk. Risk factors are context dependent and vary over time and with different circumstances. Where multiple risk factors exist, there is increased likelihood of poor outcomes for children. The best predictors of offending differ according to age group. For children aged between 6-11years, committing an offence appears to be the best predictor of future delinquent behaviour; the strongest predictors for children aged 12-14 years are a lack of social ties and associations with antisocial peers.

Risk and protective factors fluctuate over time. Minor changes in either, can have important ripple effects on other factors and thereby substantially change the likelihood of a young person becoming involved in offending or antisocial behaviour.


Protective factors can help children and young people ameliorate risk. They consist of internal assets and external strengths. The more protective factors there are, the greater the likelihood that a child will be resilient to risk. There are four broad types of protective processes, those which:

  • Reduce the impact of, or exposure to risk;
  • Reduce chain reactions to negative experience;
  • Promote self esteem and achievement;
  • Provide positive relationships and new opportunities.

When risk factors in a child’s life are not amenable to change, interventions can work to provide compensatory experiences or to enhance protective factors in one or more of the relevant domains of a child’s life: the community; school; family or within the individual child. Many of the protective factors identified by research relate to the consistency and quality of care and support during childhood.


The majority of children with identifiable risk factors do not engage in crime or antisocial behaviour. Despite challenging circumstances, children can develop resilience depending on the complex interplay between risk and protective factors. There are three primary ways in which children can display resilience:

  • By achieving positive outcomes even though they are at high risk;
  • By adapting successfully to stressful situations;
  • By recovering quickly from a crisis.

Research studies have delineated the characteristics of resilient and non-resilient children. Children and young people with a strong sense of attachment to other people, a more positive outlook on life, more plans for the future and more control over their lives are more likely to demonstrate resilience.

What we know from research:

  • 25% of the prison population have been in care - twelve times the rate for their peer group;
  • 50% of the Young Offenders Institution (YOI) population are Children Looked After or ex-CLA;
  • 42% of school age children who offend are excluded from school;
  • Of those excluded from school 78% commit offences.

2.1 Universal Provision (open to all subject to age, gender etc)

For many children and young people (particularly those living in group care) access to universal services can integrate them into a community and help normalise their peer group.

The Leeds youth service works to engage and support those young people in the most need, living in areas of social deprivation or struggling against discrimination. The service is targeted at areas of the city and groups of young people with the most needs.

The city centre and local area teams provide a core service across the city and a network of specialist and innovative projects covering: quality work, community cohesion, health education, issue-based group-work, individual support work, residential and outdoor activity centres and a huge range of out of school activities.

The youth service offer advice and guidance to young people on a number of topics including drugs, sexual health, education, employment opportunities, cultural diversity and equality.

More information about the Leeds Youth Service can be found here and many of the activities that they provide are promoted through the Breeze website.

The Family Information Service website is an information site for parents and carers of children and young people. The site provides information and links to a wide range of family services and activities for children and young people (including the voluntary sector i.e. scouts / guides).

Leeds Pathways provides information on education, training and career available to young people age 13-25 years who live in Leeds. Leeds Pathways offers practical help choosing the right courses and careers options. This help includes access to broader personal development through positive activities like sport, performing arts, youth work activities, and volunteering. It will also provide help and advice on issues such as drug use and abuse, sexual health, safeguarding issues, etc.

The Youth Information Hub provides information, advice and guidance on a range of topics including housing, travel, mental health, sexual health, physical health and disabilities and money.

Drop-in services for young people

Young people who are 16-17 and not in education, employment or training, can speak to a Pathways Advisor by visiting one of the drop-in services provided by the Pathways Support Team at various Jobshops around Leeds. For more information please see the Drop in Services for Young People website.

And Section 6, The Restorative Process.

2.2 Targeted Provision

Youth Inclusion Project (provided by Barca Leeds) – The Youth Inclusion Project helps vulnerable young people avoid exclusion in all its guises so that they can fulfil their potential and be an asset to their families, the local community and the economy. It provides young people with the opportunity to meet, have fun and engage in their community.

Multisystemic Therapy (MST)
Target Group - Age 11 to 17

MST is an intensive family and community based intervention that targets the multiple causes of serious anti-social behaviour in young people who are at risk of coming into care, are involved with YOS and/or are exhibiting a high level of anti-social behaviour. Typical referral behaviours for the young person will include a number of the following:

  • Serious disrespect and disobedience;
  • Truancy and academic problems;
  • Aggressive behaviour (violence, fighting, property destruction).
  • Criminal behaviour;
  • Drug and alcohol problems;
  • Running away;
  • Other high risk behaviours
    e.g. self harm.
Type of Support

MST works with the individual, family and all the systems in a young person’s ecology such as peers, school and community during the assessment and treatment process and is aimed at preventing out of home placements, anti-social behaviour and can support rehabilitation to home from care. MST is a home-based, goal orientated programme where therapists are available to families 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Therapists are able to work intensively with families (several hours a week) due to low caseloads and length of treatment is typically three to five months. The MST therapist works to engage family members and other key participants in the youth’s environment (e.g. extended family, teachers, peers) assesses the factors contributing to the identified problems and help families to set goals for treatment that target those factors.

Interventions are typically aimed at providing parents with the skills and resources they need to address the factors contributing to the youth’s behavioural problems. For example, interventions are designed to:

  • Improve parent’s discipline practices;
  • Improve parent’s management of disobedience and aggressive behaviour;
  • Enhance family relations;
  • Increase young persons association with pro-social peers;
  • Improve a young persons school or vocational performance;
  • Improve parent’s links with school and other systems involved with the young person;
  • Decrease drug and alcohol use and criminal behaviour.

  • Young people who are living independently;
  • Young people in crisis because of active suicidal or psychotic behaviours Once stable if criteria are met a referral may be appropriate;
  • Adolescent sexual offenders - (where this is the primary issue and other anti-social behaviours are absent);
  • Young people with autism.

Signpost Family Intervention Service
Target Group

Signpost follows a family intervention approach which involves a clear model of assertive family support and enforcement. Most families referred to the service have failed to engage with appropriate services or are too chaotic to effectively access necessary services.

  • Families who are perpetrators of persistent anti-social behaviour and at risk of enforcement action or face eviction;
  • Families who are known to CSWS and where there is risk of children being received into care due to safeguarding / child welfare concerns;
  • Households where a member of the family is a prolific offender, with a particular emphasis on targeting households involved in acquisitive crime.
Type of Support

The support provided falls into three key strands; family support, educational support and access to leisure and recreational activities and whilst the primary focus for Signpost is to reduce anti-social behaviour, criminal behaviour and the numbers of children entering the care system, the service delivers a range of interventions that help deliver across a number of strategic priorities relating to domestic violence, alcohols and substance misuse, teenage pregnancies, NEET, homelessness, worklessness and emotional well being.


By phone: 0113 3783313
By Email:


The three referral routes are:

  • The three Children Leeds Panels;
  • Leeds Anti Social Behaviour Service;
  • The three Integrated Offender Management Panels.

3. Reprimand

1st Offence (if fully admitted and not so serious as to warrant prosecution) will usually result in a REPRIMAND which is administered by the police and recorded. A community restorative resolution can also be administered at police discretion and if available in the force area, (see Section 6, The Restorative Process).

A reprimand is just what it says and involves no other intervention which might address the behaviours which led to the offence. Universal services and any of the targeted resources identified above could be available to young people who fulfil the referral criteria but have also been reprimanded, (see Section 2.1 Universal Provision and Section 2.2 Targeted Provision).

4. Final Warning

2nd Offence (if fully admitted and not so serious etc) will be likely to result in a FINAL WARNING, decided by and administered by the police. The decision is recorded and citable in court on future occasions. The child will also be referred to the local Youth Offending Service for assessment and may involve some intervention (maximum three months) relevant to risk of offending.

Universal services and PAYP provision can be available for those fulfilling the referral criteria, (see Section 2.1 Universal Provision and Section 2.2 Targeted Provision).

(see Section 6, The Restorative Process).

5. Court Ordered Intervention(s)

All of the interventions described below are mandated by a youth court order and will be administered by the Youth Offending Service. Such orders whilst subject to National Standards should complement not conflict or override any existing care plans.

3rd Offence will result in PROSECUTION IN COURT. This will lead to one of the following court orders or interventions:

Court Ordered Intervention(s) Details
Referral order Between three and 12 months for first offence in court if admitted and not serious enough to merit custody, can be extended but not repeated unless exceptional circumstances
Reparation order Maximum 24 hours reparation to be completed within three months of sentence.
Fines, discharges, compensation order and deferred sentence For less serious offences

Subsequent offending will result in a:

Court Ordered Intervention(s) Details
Youth Rehabilitation Order

No minimum period and up to 36 months. Can be used more than once and is based on the seriousness of the offence and risk, and which could contain:

  • Reparation;
  • Attendance centre;
  • Supervision;
  • Unpaid work (for 16-17 yr olds only);
  • Mentoring;
  • Education;
  • Family intervention.

Other control elements could include:

  • Prohibited activity;
  • Curfew;
  • Exclusion;
  • Drug testing / treatment;
  • Residence and electronic monitoring;
  • Intensive fostering, intensive supervision and surveillance.

Serious and repeat offending can result in custody:

Court Ordered Intervention(s) Details
Detention and training order Custody for up to two years (for 12-17 yr olds)
Long term custodial sentences (section 90/91) Crown Court custody exceeding two years (but only for the most serious offences)

Post Court Order

When a Court ordered YOS intervention reaches it’s end date (as defined in the Court Order) the YOS closes the case and all intervention ceases.

Youth Offending Teams are not mandated to provide services beyond the end of the Order (or Programme). Social workers, Care workers or Foster carers could consider:

  • Any universal support services;
  • Local networks and resources;
  • Referral to Children Leeds Panels;
  • Referral to Intervention Panels.

Civil Anti-social behaviour measures include:

  • Acceptable Behaviour Contracts;
  • Individual Support Orders;
  • Anti Social Behaviour Injunctions (breach of ASBI's can result in Custody).

Children and young people subject to court ordered interventions are still children albeit they might be displaying offending behaviour and as such should be able to access any universal services available, (see Section 2.1 Universal Provision).

YIP and PAYP provision are not available to children and young people who have YOS involvement.

(see Section 6, The Restorative Process).

6. The Restorative Process

6.1 Is a Punitive Approach to Wrong Doing the Most Effective Intervention for Children Looked After?

Children’s Services policy discourages responses that might result in the criminalisation of children generally and those in care particularly. Once a child or young person becomes involved in the Criminal Justice System they begin to accrue a criminal record and will be subject to the 1974 Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA). It is worth noting that offences of assault against or between children are exempt from the ROA and must be disclosed on a DBS application. This will always have to be declared subsequently and can result in the child or young person being unable to embark on courses or take up work with children or other vulnerable groups.

Children Looked After and young people are themselves a vulnerable group who:

  • Are likely to have been victimised in the past;
  • Might already feel themselves to be punished and may feel they have nothing to lose;
  • May have distorted boundaries;
  • Lack trusting relationships and struggle to accept responsibility for their actions.

6.2 Background to Restorative Justice

Since the 11th century western legal tradition has increasingly viewed crime as an offence against the public at large and against society rather than against the individual victim. The obvious response resulting from this is state prosecution, punishment and the development of a system of justice, which is both retributive and adversarial. One of the results being that the individual victim is marginalised in the process. A number of western cultures prior to the eleventh century and many non-western cultures today view an offence as a violation of social bonds and responds to it through a process of negotiation, restitution and reconciliation. With a restorative approach the law becomes a mediating process designed to reconcile not a process to allocate blame and punishment.

6.3 Principles of Restoration and Mediation

Unlike retributive or punishment based models of intervention, restorative approaches are based on an inclusive and elective set of principles.

Self determination

A restorative approach will be characterised by being:

Non judgemental
Will have vision

6.4 Evidence Based Benefits of Using a Restorative Approach

A non government assessment of the evidence on restorative justice in the UK and internationally, was carried out by the Jerry Lee Centre of Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania for the Smith Institute in London. The purpose of the review was to examine what constitutes good quality restorative justice practice and to reach conclusions on its effectiveness, with particular reference to re-offending.

The report known as the Sherman report found the following:

  • The most important conclusion was that ‘restorative justice works differently on different kinds of people.’ It can work well as a general policy, if a growing body of evidence on ‘what works well for whom’ can become the basis for specifying when and when not to use it. Rigorous tests of restorative justice in diverse samples have found substantial reductions in repeat offending for both violence and property crimes;
  • In general, restorative justice seems to reduce crime more effectively with more rather than less serious crimes. The results suggested restorative justice works better with crimes involving personal victims than for crimes without them. They also suggest that it works with violent crimes more consistently than with property crimes, the latter having the only evidence of crime increases. These findings run counter to conventional wisdom, and could become the basis for substantial inroads in demarcating when it is in the public interest to seek restorative justice rather than court justice;
  • The evidence consistently suggests that victims benefit, on average, from face to face restorative justice conferences. The evidence is less clear about other forms of restorative justice, with no unbiased estimates of the effects of indirect forms of restorative justice on victims. It can reduce victims’ desire for violent revenge against the offender. Victims also suffer less intense post traumatic stress symptoms after face to face restorative justice (Angel 2005) returning to work and normal life sooner than they do without it - which should in turn, reduce the long term severity and costs of such health problems as coronary heart disease (Kubzansky et al 2007).

The evidence shown in the Sherman report indicates that the use of restorative justice in specific circumstances could reduce the financial costs associated with bringing offenders to justice and victim support. The three main areas that financial benefits could be realised include; prosecution / court costs, custodial costs and health care costs.

6.5 Economic and Social Benefits

Providing early diversionary interventions for a child i.e. One to one mentoring once a week for a year can cost as little as approximately £300 per annum. Provision for the same child for twelve months in a Local Authority Secure Unit can cost approximately £200,000. Early non-criminalising intervention can be more effective and cost effective.