The YJB’s statutory functions include a duty to ‘identify, to make known and to promote good practice’. This is a key element of the YJB’s aim to become a ‘Centre of Excellence’ and provide the youth justice sector (practitioners working in all parts of the youth justice system) with a trusted and authoritative source of knowledge and guidance on all youth justice-related matters. Although the statute refers to ‘good practice’, we use the term ‘Effective Practice’. We define this as practice which produces the intended results, and can be evidenced as doing so. Effective Practice does not refer only to programmes or specific interventions; it also covers broader approaches and day-to-day ways of working, including governance and business processes.
There is a current and likely future need to cope with fewer resources. This places even more emphasis on being efficient and effective and not to waste resource on ineffective or, at worst, harmful practice. It is not about a ‘one size fits all’ approach to practice in youth justice; local innovation and adaptation will always be important. But the more we can clarify and then share examples of practice which are proven to work, the better for both practitioners and the young people they work with. We classify and communicate the strength of evidence to help practitioners decide how much confidence to have in the findings and whether, if replicated, the practice is likely to remain effective.
The YJB’s vision for Effective Practice in youth justice is for a system in which:
- practitioners have access to the information, resources and support they require to develop and deliver high-quality services to young people;
- the YJB is a trusted and authoritative voice in providing advice and guidance to the sector about the most effective methods in youth justice practice, based on the latest UK and international evidence;
- practice is based as far as possible on the best-available evidence, which is generated by the sector working in partnership with the academic community and the YJB;
- innovation is encouraged, particularly in a way that builds upon what is already known to be effective;
- the direction and content of the YJB’s work on Effective Practice reflects the needs and priorities of the sector.
The YJB believes Effective Practice is best driven by the sector, for the sector. We will facilitate and encourage this by:
- working with the sector to identify promising examples of Effective Practice, and helping generate high quality evidence to substantiate those examples, including by providing ‘on the ground’ research support to the sector;
- collaborating with the sector, on regular basis, to identify the priorities for Effective Practice work;
- reviewing and summarising the evidence on priority Effective Practice topics;
- promoting the dissemination and implementation of Effective Practice;
- providing the materials to identify, classify, and promote Effective Practice. This includes the Resource Hub, Effective Practice example submission form, and ‘Standards of Evidence’ guidance;
- building the evidence base by strengthening our and the sector’s links to the academic community, and where necessary, commissioning new research;
- ensuring that learning from Effective Practice is built into the YJB’s own internal processes.
We will take a collaborative approach to our Effective Practice role, using our position at the centre to help the YJ sector inform its work with the best-available knowledge and evidence.
At the heart of our Effective Practice function are practitioners and organisations submitting examples of Effective Practice to be shared with YJ sector colleagues. To enable this we will work with:
- our partnership advisors and performance managers to help YOTs and secure establishments identify areas of promising or innovative practice that might be developed into Effective Practice examples (including looking for examples identified for other purposes, like the quarterly performance reporting process);
- practitioners to help them submit their examples to the Effective Practice library, including offering bespoke advice and support on how to develop the evidence to support these examples;
- the academic community, to encourage and support their working with the YJ sector, and continuing to engage with them to provide independent scrutiny of our Effective Practice work (for example via our Effective Practice Classification Panel which is a group comprising academics, practitioner representatives, and YJB staff, which classifies Effective Practice examples in accordance with our Standards of Evidence. The group meets periodically to review recent submitted examples).
- other organisations also working to improve practice in the field of youth justice and related areas, linking and cross-referencing materials and information wherever possible.
The Resource Hub is now the main repository for all our Effective Practice content. Some older materials remain on the Justice.gov.uk website, and the YJB website on Gov.uk holds additional materials such as corporate reports and statistics.
Key Effective Practice content on the Hub include the following:
- the Effective Practice Library. Note that the new version (launched May 2016) is now split between the Library of Effective Approaches, which holds evidenced or evaluated examples, and the Practice Examples section, containing promising but unproven practice. The content of both has been revised and refreshed, and will be regularly reviewed to keep it updated;
- the Youth Justice Research Map shows ongoing academic research projects in the field of youth justice, letting practitioners see research they might be interested in and enabling them to make contact with the researchers directly if they wish;
- Resource for Sharing, Research Community, Custody and Community pages;
- evidence summaries on key topic, along with a regular research bulletin, summarising recent published research in youth justice;
- a ‘Question and Answer’ forum for practitioner communication, including on the sharing and discussing of practice;
- links to the websites of other organisations featuring evidence on aspects of youth justice and related topics.