Who can volunteer and why?


We have created a short description of the most common volunteer opportunities across England and Wales. However, you will need to contact the individual YOT or Establishment as they may have individual volunteer opportunities that you may like to be involved in. To volunteer at the majority of opportunities offered by the youth justice, you must be over 18. You can still apply if you have a criminal history (although some offences may mean that it may not be appropriate for you to volunteer now.

Working as a volunteer in the youth justice system is rewarding and worthwhile, enabling you to really make a difference to the lives of young people who have offended or are at risk of doing so.

There are opportunities for people of all ages and with a variety of skills, so if you think you have what it takes, contact your local Youth Offending Team (YOT) now … and get involved!

We would like to thank all of the volunteers that are currently or previously volunteer in the youth justice system for their commitment and tireless energy. We appreciate how every individual contribution makes a significant difference to the lives of young people and their families as well as delivering substantial benefits to the community.



Volunteering overview

 Image02Volunteering provides you with the opportunity to do something useful for your local community. You won’t get paid (apart from pre-agreed expenses) but you will feel the satisfaction of time and effort well spent. You will also meet new people, learn new skills and gain useful experience.


What do I need?

You don’t necessarily need to give a great deal of your time up and there are usually no age limits. However, the following skills and qualities will be useful:

  • good communication skills;
  • good team-working skills;
  • reliability;
  • flexibility;
  • sensitivity;
  • discretion;
  • commitment.


What opportunities are there in youth justice?

Effective youth justice services require the involvement of their local community, so there are various volunteering opportunities within the youth justice system, such as volunteering:

  • as a mentor;
  • as a youth offender panel member;
  • as an appropriate adult;
  • as a magistrate;
  • as an Independent Monitoring Board member;
  • as part of an employer-supported volunteering scheme;
  • as a young volunteer;
  • in other opportunities at YOTs and elsewhere.


Who should I contact if I’m interested?

To volunteer for the majority of roles listed here, you should get in touch with your local YOT. Please note that different YOTs may have local partnerships so they would be best suited to inform you of how to apply and if you need to apply to a specific organisation, whom they work with. Alternative ways of applying for volunteer opportunities would be directly through the organisation that offers the opportunity.


What is the process?

You may need to complete an application form, attend and interview and complete all required training before you will be able to start your volunteering role. The time scales will be in relation to yours and the YOT availability as well as pre-set training dates, which means that there may be times when you have to wait a little while before you are able to start.


What should I expect when I volunteer?

When you volunteer with a YOT you should probably expect the following:

  • To receive training.
  • To complete a criminal records check – you will need to disclose any previous convictions or investigations by the police (Disclosure and Barring Service).
  • To receive reasonable expenses to get to and from your work.
  • To receive information and training about health and safety.



Mentoring Image03

Mentoring is about supporting young people with a variety of personal aspects of their lives – this may including engaging in education, training and employment or more simply being a friendly face in difficult times for that young person. A mentor should be supporting young people to achieve their potential and also can be a positive adult role model.

Being a mentor requires you to take an interest in the young person with whom you work and encourage them to keep working at the areas which put them at risk of offending.

Mentoring provides a one-to-one personal relationship that can act as a protective factor to divert young people away from many forms of failure, and provide them with opportunities for success. It can also support young people away from some of their negative behaviour and address risk factors that young people are exposed to (drugs, poor educational attainment, relationship issues, homelessness and transience).

The young person centred approach of mentoring allows the young person to address their issues as they define and allows them to look at their barriers to success and deal with them, all at their own pace.

Mentoring generally takes place when you are available and when it is suitable for the young person, taking into account that mentoring is person specific and centred, so commitment may be weekly or more intense.


What should I do next?

If you are interested in being a mentor to a young person who has offended or who may be at risk of doing so, contact your local YOT.



Youth Offender Panels Image04

Volunteers are needed to join youth offender panels across the country in the role of volunteer Community Panel Members. If you become a panel member you will be joining the thousands of volunteers who are already seeing their efforts pay off to tackle crime in their area.


What are Youth Offender Panels?

Youth offender panels are led by volunteer Community Panel Member and it is a meeting where young people that have offended and received a Referral Order, their parents/carers, victims of crime and members of the community have the opportunity to come together to discuss the offence that took place, support young people to take responsibility for their own actions and create a tailor made individual contract to support the young people to repair some of the harm caused through the offence/s and reduce their likelihood of offending in the future.

A Youth Offender Panel consists of two trained volunteers from the local community (volunteer Community Panel Members), alongside one member of the YOT. The panel will meet with the young person, and their parents/carers, to talk about what happened and the impact of the actions on the victim/s or community. The CPM are then required to support the young person to create a tailor-made and individual contract aimed at repairing some of the harm caused (through participating in activities such as supporting the work of a community project or writing an apology letter) as well reducing risk of further offending (through participating in victim awareness programmes or substance use work).

The contract is supervised by the YOT but reviewed (generally on a three monthly basis) by the CPM at review panel meetings. In cases where the young person fails to comply, the CPM must evaluate and consider, with the YOT returning young people back to Court, where an extension to their Referral Order or a different sentences may be given.

Volunteers need to be 18 years old or over and may spend about three hours a fortnight working on the panel. Panel meetings generally take place after school/work although where appropriate they can also take place during day time.

If you decide to become a panel member, you’ll receive specific training on, for instance, how panels work and your role in the process; restorative justice and communication.


What is a Referral Order?

A Referral Order is a Court Order which can only be given to young people that are aged (or committed the offence) 10-17 years. A Referral Order can only be considered if the young person pleads guilty to all or at least one of the offences for which they are presented to the Court. The majority of young people that are eligible to be considered for a Referral Order at Court are young people who plead guilty to a first Court conviction. However, the introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, has increased the conditions under which a Referral Order may be suitable for young people.

A Referral Order can be between three to 12 months, depending on the seriousness of the crime and this is decided by the Court and is non-negotiable.

A Youth Offender Panel consists of two trained volunteers from the local community (volunteer Community Panel Members), alongside one member of the YOT. The panel will meet with the young person, and their parents/carers, to talk about what happened and the impact of the actions on the victim/s or community. The CPM are then required to support the young person to create a tailor-made and individual contract aimed at repairing some of the harm caused (through participating in activities such as supporting the work of a community project or writing an apology letter) as well reducing risk of further offending (through participating in victim awareness programmes or substance use work).

The Referral Order process is one which is underpinned by Restorative Justice, highlighted by the fact that young people must plead guilty to the offence, as well as by the process itself where the victim is placed at the centre of the process itself. To this end, victim/s are supported to engage in the Referral Order process or in restorative meetings outside of the Referral Orders. This will be decided by the victim/s themselves.


You can do it!

Being a Youth Offender panel member is a challenging yet rewarding role. It is also a role that can positively impact the lives of young people, their parents/carers and victims of crime. The role can support young people to decrease their involvement in criminal or anti-social behaviour, increase positive relationships with their parents/carers and support victims of crime to be heard.

It makes no difference where you come from or what you do, as long you are over 18 years old and are willing to make a difference in your community. To become a panel member, contact your local YOT.



 Image05Appropriate adults

The Appropriate Adult role was created by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984 to protect vulnerable people in police custody and prevent miscarriages of justice. Appropriate Adults safeguard the interests of children and young people who are detained or interviewed by police as a suspect.

Generally, a parent, carer or other family member will be the Appropriate Adult. Where that is not possible, YOTs provide a trained Appropriate Adult.

The Appropriate Adult is responsible for protecting the rights and welfare of the child or young person. They support, advise and assist them while they are in detention, including during any interview. They observe whether the police are acting properly, fairly and with respect for the rights of the child or young person and tell the police if they are not. Appropriate adults ensure the police meet general welfare needs, such as sufficient food, drink and warm clothing. An important part of the role is assisting with communication, making sure the child understands their rights and can participate effectively in the whole process.

An Appropriate Adult is different to a solicitor and does not give legal advice. Their role begins when a child or young person is detained and ends when they are released. They are also present if a child or young person is interviewed as a suspect voluntarily (without being arrested).

You do not need any prior experience or qualifications to volunteer as an Appropriate Adult. The training you would receive before being able to work as an appropriate adult should cover the following:

  • the role of the Appropriate Adult and YOTs;
  • issues facing children and young people, child protection and safeguarding
  • children and young people’s rights as a suspect;
  • mental health and learning disability issues
  • working with vulnerable people to support communication
  • dealing with challenging behaviour, boundaries and common dilemmas;
  • criminal justice disposals and their implications;
  • police processes and the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984;
  • understanding instructions, custody records and paperwork;
  • who’s who at the police station; and
  • a visit to a custody suite;

Appropriate Adult services are arranged by local YOTs and involve a wide range of providers. In many areas it is a voluntary role.

For further information about volunteering as an appropriate adult and a map of local schemes, visit the National Appropriate Adult Network (NAAN) website. Alternatively, you can contact your local YOT.




Magistrates come from a wide range of backgrounds and occupations. You don’t need a formal qualification or knowledge of the law. The role of the magistrate is to hear cases in a formal setting, namely in a Court. Due to the complex nature of youth offending, magistrates are only able to sit in the youth court once they have practical experience at the adult magistrate court before being able to access further training to become a magistrate in a youth court.

Magistrates usually sit as a panel of three with one acting as the chair with responsibility for addressing the court. A legal adviser supports the magistrates and ensures that all the right procedures are being adhered to.

Magistrates can be appointed from the age of 18 and retire at 70.

Magistrates must sit for a minimum of 26 half days each year, which is the equivalent of just over one day per month. Your employer is legally obliged to give you reasonable time off to complete magistrates’ duties. Although employers don’t have to pay employees on magistrate duty, many do so in recognition of the important contribution magistrates make.



 Image07When a young person has been formally charged by the Police they will generally have to attend a Youth Court. If the case, for whatever reason cannot be dealt with on the day, the Court may bail the young person to attend another day or could remand into custody.

When young people plead ‘not guilty’ a date is set by the Court for a trial date and the magistrate will then need to the decide an appropriate and fair sentence, based on the evidence provided.

When a young person pleads ‘guilty’ the Court will need to hear the evidence provided and consider a variety of circumstances and elements and they decide an appropriate and fair sentence, based on the evidence provided.

In cases where the offence/s committed are deemed very serious the magistrate will need to request that the young person is seen at Crown Court.


Further Links

What do magistrates do?

How do I become a magistrate?




 Image08Independent Monitoring Board member

Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) are made up of volunteers who visit secure establishments and meet with the young people to help monitor aspects of their life in custody, such as living conditions. They monitor to ensure that standards are maintained, identify concerns and issues, and discuss these at board meetings and recommend actions.

It makes no difference where you come from or what you do, as long you are over 18 years old and are willing to make a difference.

Being an IMB member is likely to take up an average of two to three days per month of your time, although this can vary slightly depending on your local board and the size and nature of the establishment it monitors.

Board members also play an important role in dealing with problems inside the establishment. If a prisoner or detainee has an issue that he or she has been unable to resolve through the usual internal channels, he or she can put in a confidential request to see a member of the IMB. Problems might include concerns over lost property, visits from family or friends, special religious or cultural requirements, or even serious allegations such as bullying. For an application pack and further information please visit the Independent Monitoring Board website.



 Image09Employer-supported volunteering

Employers can get involved either by encouraging and helping their staff to volunteer or by offering the services of their organisation. For example, in youth justice, businesses could provide opportunities for reparation work by young people who have offended.

Programmes, known as employer-supported volunteering, are being set up to help businesses and public sector organisations to support volunteer work by their employees, during work hours or in their own time.

Employer-supported volunteering is a three-way partnership between the employer, employee and the receiver of these volunteers (e.g. a youth offending team).

Employers can benefit by contributing to their local communities, developing the skills and morale of their workforce and by improving their image.

Employees get the satisfaction of giving something back to society, develop new skills and enhance their existing ones, while having fun away from the daily work routine.


Further links

Employer Supported Volunteering at Action for Children

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations 



Young volunteersImage10

Young people interested in volunteering, including those under 18, should contact individual volunteer agencies directly, rather than local Youth Offending Teams. As recommended by the Russell Commission (2005) Vinspired offers a range of opportunities for young people aged 14-25 in England to make a difference in their local community through volunteering.


Further Links

Team London 

Volunteer opportunities in Wales

Wales Council for Voluntary Action


Working with Victims

You can also volunteer by supporting victims of crime. This may involve visiting people in their homes and helping them to talk through their feelings about the crime and providing information on practical and personal issues. You could also support people who have to attend court or volunteer to give emotional support and information to victims of crime over the phone.

Visit Victim Support and Volunteering Wales for more information on volunteering with victims.

You should also contact directly your local YOT as they may have specific volunteer opportunities.


Further Links

Various local and national volunteering opportunities within the youth justice field can also be found at:

Volunteer Placements

Restorative Justice Council




Image11Other volunteering opportunities

There are many more opportunities than those listed on this website to make a difference to the lives of young people, and they will vary according to where you live and the skills you have.

Many YOTs have tailor made and specific volunteer opportunities (this could include supporting staff to run intervention groups, reparation groups or maybe supporting young people on a 1:1 basis), therefore you should contact your local team and ask further information.


Further Links

What can I do guide’ by the Prison Reform trust and it has lots of information on various opportunities that are available.

Prisoner Education Trust

Do it




Interactive learning and support

We want to support you in continuing to develop your skills, and to this end we have created an online learning resource called the Youth Justice Interactive Learning Space, or YJILS for short.

YJILS is available to all youth offending teams and secure establishments. You can speak to your volunteer coordinator for details on how you can gain access to YJILS.

YJILS contains a wealth of information in a flexible format. There are learning programmes relating to assessment and interventions, explanations about the youth justice system including legal issues and links to other useful websites.

The Workforce Development Team have created a ‘Skills Matrix’. The Matrix describes the core skills for the Youth Justice workforce (paid and unpaid) and sets out the skills over eight key areas:

  • Assessment and identification of strengths and risks to foster positive outcomes
  • Risk of Reoffending and Risk of Harm
  • Effective communication and engagement with young people, families and carers
  • Child and young person development in the YJ system
  • Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of the child or young person
  • Supporting effective transitions in the YJ systems
  • Multi-agency and sharing information
  • Prepare, deliver, implement, monitor and evaluate interventions and promote reflective practice.


It is relevant to volunteers as it sets out the skills and knowledge that you will be supported to achieve through the volunteer activities as well as through training, support and supervision. Please see below some links that you may find of interest.


Further Links

Workforce Development

Effective Practice Certificate through Unitas

The Unitas Mini-award: Engaging Young People is one of the modules that make up the Youth Justice Effective Practice Certificate.


All YOTs will also be able to support you to apply for internal opportunities once you have started to volunteer with them, this could include attending in house run training as well as council run training.