Throughcare with young people – what next?

In this blog post CYCJ’s Debbie Nolan shares some of the learnings from the SOLD Network event on 21 October 2015 and poses the question, “Throughcare with Young People – we know what the research tells us, so what next?”

On 21 October 2015 I had the pleasure of facilitating a workshop, titled “Throughcare with young people-what the research tells us”, at the Supporting Offenders with Learning Disability (SOLD) Network event on voluntary throughcare. I was at a double disadvantage: not only did I have the end of the day graveyard shift, but I also had to follow great presentations from members of the SOLD User Group, Colin McConnell (Chief Executive of the Scottish Prison Service) and Joe Bryers (Moving On Scotland, Action for Children). Luckily, having 60 enthusiastic participants from a range of professions spanning third sector organisations, the SPS, health, and social work made my job all the more easy!

What struck me, having heard the earlier presentations and my own, was the consistency of key themes: the importance of relationships, and timely and long-term support that utilises the “windows of opportunity” requiring a holistic and individualised approach; the detrimental impact of stigma and trauma of transitions; and necessity for effective partnership working. A number of areas of positive progress were repeatedly identified including Public Social Partnerships and the role of the third sector; changes to the language used regarding people involved in offending; developments within the SPS; the current consultation on proposals to strengthen the presumption against short periods of imprisonment; and implementation of protected convictions (and further changes that will hopefully follow in the near future to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974).

Likewise the same challenges to effective throughcare were repeatedly identified: funding and resources; the changing landscape of services; information sharing; willingness of public bodies to employ people with convictions; identification of and understanding often coexisting needs including learning disabilities and mental health issues; and professional understanding of the youth and criminal justice system. So the next question and one raised in the workshop was quite simply “if we know and agree on this, then what next?”

This was where I utilised the potential of having so many great minds in one place! Although we all agreed there were no easy solutions, suggestions included:

  • Ensuring there is a single point of contact for each young person, their family and the professionals surrounding that young person, who can coordinate information, assessments, supports and develop one plan. While this should be addressed with the introduction of Named Person/Lead Professional, the importance of ensuring fulfilment of these roles and responsibilities and the availability of such a central, named individual for those aged over 18 was highlighted;
  • Updating Whole System Approach Guidance and attempting to bring greater consistency to processes, protocols and recording templates (such as recording of minutes from reviews, child’s plans and assessments) across local authorities, which could be as basic as increased sharing of good practice examples and resources;
  • The need for greater accountability and monitoring of practice to ensure guidance is being implemented and responsibilities fulfilled on both a local and national basis;
  • Ensuring information is appropriately shared on a case-by-case basis and utilising more consistently and building upon the knowledge and data that is already available to us (e.g. statistical data, research information about effective interventions, good practice, and lived experience). This should also help to identify what information we do not have and how systems could be improved to address this;
  • Addressing issues of duplication and lack of awareness of services through mapping work and better promotion of available services, as well as addressing identified gaps in service provision including independent advocacy, mediation and family group conferencing and restorative justice;
  • The need to engage families effectively in interventions and ensure sufficient attention is devoted to supporting families in their own right;
  • Bringing the outside (communities, employers, housing providers etc) increasingly inside to custody;
  • Ensuring that everyone has free, available and accessible information about what and when they need to disclose about their convictions for the purpose of employment.

A number of measures to achieve the above are underway, including policy, legislative and practice changes, but it is crucial this opportunity is utilised if we are to make “what next?” a reality.

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