New Framework published for Probation Services and Young Adults

Find out what’s in the new framework published for Probation Services and Young Adults. Which sets out the requirements for Probation Practitioners when working with young adults aged between 18 and 25 years old.

A new Probation Service Policy Framework for England and Wales published in February 2022 sets out the requirements for Probation Practitioners when working with young adults aged between 18 and 25 years old, who are in contact with the Probation Service. It also provides supplementary guidance and signposts to other resources that support work with this age group of People on Probation. 

This Policy Framework sets out the mandatory actions and guidance for staff to support working with young adults. It does not replace or supersede existing mandatory actions which apply to the management of all people in their care but instead, is intended to bring together relevant requirements and guidance to enhance the management of young adults to meet the particular needs of this cohort.

Transition from Youth to Adult Services

The transition between youth and adult probation services should be managed in a way that safeguards both the young adult and their community. Good transition is underpinned by the following principles: 

  • Individual needs and safeguarding requirements are recognised and addressed. 
  • Those who are eligible for transfer will be identified and allocated to an adult Probation Practitioner at the earliest point and relevant information shared before transfer. 
  • Every child who could transfer to adult services must have a transition plan that focuses on providing flexible and continuous services tailored to meet individual needs, with both services working together to maintain interventions and progress. 
  • Transition planning considers the individual’s diversity issues; notably protected characteristics included in the Equality Act 2010. 
  • Children and their families or carers will be actively involved in planning for their transition and understand and agree the plans in place. 
  • Each transition will be reviewed, and services will seek continuous improvement, facilitating the journey towards a positive future and desistance from offending, building on skills, strengths and interests.

A number of key actions in the framework focus on the transition to adult services:

  • All Probation staff involved in the transition of individuals to Adult services must familiarise themselves and follow the Joint National Protocol for Transitions (England) and Joint National Protocol for Transitions (Wales). The protocol sets out the principles of good transition and the role of the Probation Service in managing the transition of individuals both in custody and the community. 
  • All Probation staff involved in the transition of individuals to Adult services must follow the Y2A process in Equip and recording instructions contained in CRI025. Practitioners must actively consider whether available tools that support transition are appropriate to the specific needs of the young adult and use them when suitable to do so.
  • Local partnership working with local Youth Justice Services should be aligned with the National Partnership Framework (YOS) and secondee agreement. 
  • Probation Practitioners must refer to the Home Visits Policy Framework and follow the requirements for home visits for individuals who transition from Youth Justice Services.

Court Work

The Court process can be an overwhelming and confusing experience for young adults. 

The Pre-sentence report writer should ensure that the young adult clearly understands the role of Probation in sentencing and that their voice is heard in the assessment process. 

As part of the assessment, report writers should consider: 

  • The extent to which age or maturity has contributed to the young adult’s susceptibility to peer influence and impulsivity, particularly in group offending. 
  • The vulnerability of the young adult and whether there are any adult safeguarding concerns. 
  • The young adult’s pro-social family and social ties. 
  • How likely a young adult is to respond to specific sentence options. 
  • Strengthening the proposal for a specific intervention targeted at developing maturity and supporting engagement. 
  • The extent to which a custodial sentence may impact on the development process for that individual. 
  • Where maturity is not considered relevant, this be clearly stated within the advice to sentencers to demonstrate that the maturity of the individual has been considered.

Sentence Planning, Risk Management and Delivery of the Sentence

Understanding an individual’s level of maturity is an important starting point for practitioners in their work with young adults. Practitioners should use their assessment of the individual’s maturity to inform risk management and sentence planning. Plans should be achievable and where available, draw on those social and family connectors who provide pro-social, protective relationships for the young adult. Practitioners should also recognise and respond to the needs of young adults who have limited family support or (as can be the case with Young LGBT+ Adults) have experienced abandonment or rejection.

The mode and frequency of contact should be in line with National Standards and Blended Supervision guidance. Practitioners should ensure that the balance is struck between engaging the young adult in a manner that suits their individual needs and circumstances with that of providing adequate levels of contact to manage the risk of harm and level of assessed need, utilising the modes of supervision that support delivery of the Sentence and Risk Management Plan.

A holistic approach with the young adult is achieved by working in partnership with other agencies involved in the young adult’s life. This may be in order to fulfil statutory obligations in relation to safeguarding children or vulnerable adults or with police, prisons or third sector organisations, to manage the risk of harm posed and to progress the sentence plan. Practitioners should recognise and respond to the young adult’s intersectionality in delivery of the sentence, in order to work with the young adult in a holistic, effective manner.

Compliance and Enforcement

Recall and breach rates are typically high in the young adult cohort and every effort should be made by practitioners to encourage compliance with the sentence. Every interaction with the young adult is a potential ‘teachable moment’, an opportunity for Practitioners to demonstrate their interest in the young adult’s compliance and successful completion of their sentence, to support their journey to desistance. Practitioners can support the development of important life skills such as time management and prioritisation, encouraging compliance through text and phone call reminders for appointments.

Practitioners should not delay the timetable for the breach or recall process as set out in the Enforcement of Community Orders, Suspended Sentence Orders and Post-Sentence Supervision Policy Framework and Recall, review and re-release of recalled prisoners Policy Framework, guarding against condoning repeated non-compliance and retaining management of risk of serious harm as the priority.

The enforcement process itself can also be used positively by practitioners to help re-engage a young adult and improve consequential thinking skills. Adopting Procedural Justice principles in communicating enforcement decisions will support this and provide further opportunity for the young adult to articulate what additional support they may require to improve engagement.


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