The Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice (CYCJ) has published a report commissioned by Glasgow City Council (GCC) to help better understand the shift to digital criminal justice social work provision in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘Understanding Digital Criminal Justice Provision’ shares findings from research commissioned by Glasgow City Council (GCC), who received funding from the Scottish Government to develop and trial digital approaches to criminal justice provision.
The functioning of Scotland’s criminal justice system and the delivery of key justice-based services was particularly affected by the restrictions caused by the pandemic. Criminal justice agencies and stakeholders were forced to quickly adapt and prioritise innovative and creative ways of working to maintain service delivery, and meet the needs of service users.
In response, GCC commissioned CYCJ to conduct research to help it and third sector providers pilot and understand this shift to digital justice social work provision. The aim was to explore the shape of digital provision in the city, as well as help document and understand the contexts, needs, experiences, and outcomes of both service users and providers.
The resulting report focuses exclusively on digital criminal justice provision delivered in Glasgow by three service providers – Street Cones, Nemo Arts and Sacro. Fieldwork took place over a ten-month period (from January to October 2021) and involved interviews with both service providers and service users.
These contributions initially allowed researchers to ‘process map’ the different types of digital criminal justice provision being offered by each provider, but also presented rich and detailed insights into a range of potential impacts or outcomes for service users.
Lynsey Smith, Head of Justice Services, GCCHSCP, said:
“The COVID pandemic and the restrictions put in place to manage its impact, had a significant impact on justice social works’ ability to deliver key services. One area impacted was unpaid work which is a requirement of the Community Payback Order. Responding to this required radical thinking as there was a growing backlog of unpaid work hours accumulating. We made the decision to commission three online based services to work with us to develop unpaid work ‘other activity’. Alongside this we were keen to evaluate the effectiveness of this approach.
“It has been encouraging to hear about the positive impact of these digital programmes such as improved mental health, wellbeing and confidence. It is clear, this approach played a valuable role in meeting the needs of service users during the pandemic. Glasgow Justice Services will use CYCJ’s research to help inform the shape of future digital criminal justice provision in Glasgow”.
“While there were initial challenges in establishing digital criminal justice provision, such as digital exclusion and digital skills for service users, we found that once these had been overcome there were many benefits for service users in the provision of digital orders. The creativity demonstrated by the third sector providers in designing and delivering their digital community justice provision was particularly inspiring, as was the willingness of the individuals engaged in these processes.
“The sessions were perceived as safe spaces that had a positive impact on mental health, wellbeing and connection. Services users enjoyed the sessions so much that they often remained engaged in provision beyond the required amount of hours, and described transformations in their skills, outlook and aspirations.”
“We hope this research will help council and third sector service providers gain a deeper understanding and confidence in using digital methods and find the best way of working together with justice service users going forward.”