‘Child First’ has now officially been embedded within youth justice policy in England and Wales, but how does this impact the delivery of youth justice services on the ground? This chapter identifies the barriers to, challenges with and enablers of implementing Child First policy into practice, looking at the day-to-day realities for youth justice practitioners, which ultimately affect the experiences of the children they reach. Youth justice is delivered by multi-agency Youth Offending Teams (YOT), comprising a range of statutory and non-statutory agencies, but all used to working within the narrow framework of risk-led practice since their inception, which sees children as risky rather than children at risk. After over twenty years of risk-driven practice, changing to a more child-friendly, strengths-based way of working—helping children develop pro-socially, rather than focusing on previous offending behaviour, is challenging. A risk-focus is still evident, requiring more than just re-branding to overturn. Assessment procedures, whilst placing more weight on positive factors, still frequently utilise risk parlance, underlined by increasing professionalisation in the sector through a qualification structure which hard-schooled a generation of workers in the risk approach. Managers used to being held to account for their gate-keeping of risk above all else find it challenging to move away from this mindset towards a more positive youth justice model, seeing this as a risky step, leaving practitioners unclear as to their expectations, and how these fit with the new Youth Justice Board edicts. Add into this mix the challenges of adjusting to a COVID-19 world, there is much scope for confusion and retrenchment to previous understandings. However, this new dawn of youth justice also offers opportunities for the sector to truly change its focus towards positively changing young people’s lives by leaving behind outdated models and turning towards a more positive youth justice.
|Title of host publication||Child First|
|Subtitle of host publication||Developing a New Youth Justice System|
|Editors||Stephen Case, Neal Hazel|
|Number of pages||31|
|Publication status||Published - 01 Jan 2023|