Making a Difference With Data – Evaluating Outcomes

A New View Of Youth Justice

Evaluation is a powerful tool for ensuring that your organisation makes the right changes for the right reasons. Jack Cattell writes about changes to the UK’s approach to youth justice over the last 15 years and his experience of measuring and evaluating those changes.

For nearly 15 years, I have evaluated innovations in the youth justice system in England & Wales. Over that time, official approaches to reducing reoffending have shifted from a “what works” approach to a more nuanced desistance-orientated approach to tackling offending behaviour. Desistance theory emphasises an approach that encourages a child to stop offending rather than focussing on the factors that made them start offending in the first place. While improving quality of life outcomes for individual offenders, this approach also positively impacts wider society by reducing offending rates over time. I’m proud that my work over the last fifteen years has contributed to that change.

In September 2015, the Ministry of Justice commissioned the then chair of the Youth Justice Board, Charlie Taylor, to lead a review of the youth justice system in England and Wales. The Taylor Review was published in 2016 and made a series of recommendations for the reform of various aspects of the youth justice system, including the devolution of powers, the operation of youth courts, sentencing policy, and the youth custodial estate.

Notably, the Taylor Review made numerous recommendations to move youth justice in England and Wales towards a desistance-orientated approach. The review recommended a shift from seeing youth justice as separate from other social services, such as mental health support and education, and towards a multi-sector approach, which the previous Labour government had referred to as “joined-up government”.

To facilitate this shift, the review made recommendations about changes to the statutory duties of local authorities regarding youth justice and the removal of ring-fenced funding so that the authorities could spend money on improving support services. These recommendations ultimately allow local authorities to take a more individualised approach to youth justice, rather than the UK government setting a “one size fits all” approach.

In 2021 Get the Data was asked to evaluate AssetPlus, the assessment and planning interventions framework introduced in England and Wales. Both the tool and the evaluation were key elements of the move to a desistance-orientated approach to youth justice. AssetPlus replaced an older assessment framework, allowing practitioners to identify multiple risk factors for young offenders and provide adequate support across a range of agencies. Get the Data collected data from Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) across England and Wales, and I then analysed these data to find out how effective AssetPlus was and to make recommendations as to how it could be improved.

The analysis found that the use of AssetPlus by YOTs was linked with positive changes in offending behaviour and positive outcomes for children within the youth justice system. The evaluation showed that AssetPlus was working in a way that would be expected for a desistance-orientated approach.

Good data and sound analysis are essential to making good policies. Get the Data helps clients to look at outcomes and see what needs to be measured. Our analyses help clients know what’s working and what can be improved.

At Get the Data, we’re passionate about helping you to collect the right data and to get the most from that data. If you would like to learn more about how we can help your organisation to measure impact and improve outcomes, or if you want to know more about the services that Get the Data offers, please get in touch with either Alan or Jack or visit