Beyond Youth Custody

Five steps to good resettlement

Pippa Goodfellow
Beyond Youth Custody programme manager

For a recent piece in Children and Young People Now, Pippa talks about five key ways the voluntary sector is helping the resettlement of young people.

The report, Lessons from Youth in Focus, highlights the unique and important role that the voluntary sector can play in supporting young people with multiple and complex needs. The research finds effective resettlement is a process that supports a young person to come to terms with their past behaviour and develop a more positive outlook.

The report makes recommendations for practice on the key characteristics that enable this process – it should have engagement and participation as a primary focus, and be individually tailored, continuous and co-ordinated.

Here are five key ways the voluntary sector is helping the resettlement of young people.

1. Processes of change

For resettlement to be truly effective, it needs to be seen as a long-term process that promotes desistance, wellbeing and social inclusion. Crucially, this process may involve episodes of relapse as well as progress.

Many young people grow out of crime and workers can assist them in this process of making changes and then reflecting back. Some individuals identify key turning points which led them to re-examine their life and its trajectory and make a conscious decision to change.

An important part of this can be the ability to imagine a different future self, whether positive or negative, which can provide the young person with the motivation to move away from offending behaviour or change their lifestyle.

 2. Supportive relationships

Having someone believe in them and not giving up can be the catalyst for young people to achieve change in their lives. Many of the YIF projects have managed to work with young people who have not engaged successfully with other services. Project staff were extremely dedicated to working with young people, and were able to establish trusting relationships and to monitor and manage these. They were also appropriately inducted, trained, supported, and managed as part of a professional, collegiate and reflective team.

A key role for workers is to maintain an individual’s motivation to change while they are taking control over their lives – the development of confidence is crucial. Project workers can provide vulnerable young people with resilience, helping to underpin the resettlement process and keep them on track.

3. Involving young people

Participation approaches can improve young people’s outcomes, partly by helping to build trust and respect and developing skills and confidence. Involving young people in the design of a support package is key so that they own their own support and buy into it. Services can also benefit from the improved communication and greater mutual understanding that develops between participants and staff. These approaches can help young people feel valued and have ownership of their service.

On a more strategic level, participatory approaches ensure more effective and efficient long-term service development, and are a resource for practitioners to learn from.

4. Person-centred planning 

The young person should be the central focus of a holistic, wraparound package of support provided by a well co-ordinated partnership. YIF projects were able to tailor highly individualised packages of support through assessing individual needs and circumstances, addressing diversity issues and understanding previous experiences.

Evidence shows that resettlement workers can act as “brokers”, helping different agencies to understand each others’ roles and responsibilities which in turn improves practice. This can also avoid young people having to “tell the same story” on multiple occasions.

5. Continuity of relationships
The scope for establishing positive relationships is broadened if that process can be started while the young person is still in custody. Beyond Youth Custody’s research suggests how vulnerable a young custody leaver can be during the first few weeks after release, and feedback from both practitioners and project participants illustrate how “through-the-gate” support can provide much-needed continuity in the relationship between the young person and a key resettlement worker.

Engagement itself needs to be monitored and assessed over time, and providers need to respond to changes in individual circumstances. Lessons from YIF also highlight the need for voluntary sector organisations to focus on sustainability at a strategic level – maintaining continuity of staff is possible through continuity of funding.

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Resettlement of young offenders: informing practice, improving outcomes