Triage - Diversion Scheme

Summary: Triage is a process to support diverting children out of the criminal justice system.


  • The aim of Triage is to prevent inappropriate criminalisation of children for low level offences, and instead deliver restorative interventions.


Triage is the process of determining the priority of a service user's needs based on a range of conditions. In youth justice terms it is a process of assessing intervention for first time entrants into the youth justice system. In 2008 Triage workers were introduced in 69 areas across the country to screen young people at the point of arrest. In 2011 the Department for Education reported that there were 55 Triage schemes[1]. A number of youth justice services have since incorporated the practice in their area.

When a child is arrested, a Triage worker (usually a member of a youth justice service) and the police meet with the child to decide whether to divert them from the youth justice system. This will depend on the level of offense the child has committed - the lower the gravity of offence the more likely they are to receive a diversionary intervention. This will depend on their level of need and their perceived risk of reoffending. Triage is then recorded by the police as No Further Action.

More about the use of Triage can be found here.


A report by the Institute for Criminal Policy Research Birkbeck (2012) assessed the impact of Triage schemes on the numbers of young people entering the youth justice system and rates of re-offending. The study examined the operation of seven case study Triage areas. The data did not allow for any robust comparisons, but indicative results were positive - first time entrants into the youth justice system, in the case study areas, decreased by 28.5% over the period of the scheme, compared to 23% nationally. Re-offending rates for young people in three of the areas where data was available were also lower than the national average1.

In 2010, Newcastle Youth Offending Team commissioned Northumbria University to carry out an evaluation of the delivery and impact of Triage in the area. Findings showed that re-offending rates for young people receiving Triage were lower compared to other types of intervention (8.9% compared to 29.5%). Further to this the evaluation undertook a Social Return on Investment analysis (to measure the social and financial impact of the scheme). Results found that the Triage intervention offered “substantial” savings on costs to the individual, the community and the youth justice system as a whole. The authors concluded that “Re-offending data suggested that Triage is more effective in reducing re-offending than conventional justice practices, due to the restorative nature of the scheme” [2].

Please see the Enhanced Triage service case study by Suffolk Youth Offending Service an examole of how Triage is being implemented.

[1] Institute for Criminal Policy Research Birkbeck, University of London (2012) Assessing young people in police custody: An examination of the operation of Triage schemes. Occasional Paper 106. Home Office. ICPR, London.

[2] Soppitt S and Irving A (2011) An Evaluation into the Effectiveness of the Early Diversion Intervention ‘Triage’ as a Mechanism for Tackling Youth Offending in Newcastle Upon Tyne.