Young adults, aged 18-25, are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system. They make up less than 10% of the general population, but account for more than a third of the probation service's caseload and almost a third of those sentenced to prison each year.
Young adults are also the group most likely to grow out of crime if the right conditions are available. However, young people in the criminal justice system can fall between the gaps in their transition to adulthood and they lose the very support or intervention that might help them.
The right interventions can support desistance from offending, while the wrong response can increase offending and extend the period that a young adult is engaged with criminal justice agencies.
Voluntary organisations working in the criminal justice system have pioneered successful approaches to working with young adults. This knowledge and intelligence has been gathered, alongside academic research, to develop the Transition to Adulthood (T2A) Pathway Approach which, in turn, has supported the development of further good practice amongst voluntary groups.
Between 2008-2017, T2A pilot projects demonstrated the value and benefit of working with local voluntary organisations in the development, design and delivery of services for young adults. Voluntary organisations:
- Have the potential capacity to be led by the needs and aspirations of the service user
- Offer engagement that is flexible in length and intensity
- Have specialist services that respond to, and directly involve, the local communities within which they work
- Give the people they engage with involvement in the design and delivery of services
- Offer support outside traditional office-based appointments, such as meetings in community settings or in the home)
- Provide flexible advocacy, such as accompanying individuals to appointments with other agencies
- Provide successful recruitment, training, management and involvement of volunteers
- Have the potential to access resources not available to the statutory sector.
The pilot projects found that engagement is voluntary, leading to trusting relationships not bound to formal supervision as part of court orders and that is not breachable for non-compliance.