Youth offending


Children and young people at risk of offending or within the youth justice system often have more unmet health and social care needs than other children.

For example, the 2013 Young Minds report states that 95% of imprisoned young offenders had a mental health disorder. In addition, 80% had between 1 and 5 vulnerabilities including mental health issues, behavioural issues and social problems.

It is therefore important that the needs of vulnerable children and young people (aged 10-17) at risk of offending are included in mainstream planning and commissioning.  This also applies to those young people already in the criminal justice system “so they do not have to experience the bleak outlook of becoming engulfed in a life of crime which will dictate their futures because they did not receive the help, support and intervention they needed during adolescence.” (Young Minds, 2013).

Key inequalities and risk factors

Mapping relevant risk factors associated with youth crime can help inform local authority and health commissioning of evidence based early intervention, therefore maximising the life chances of vulnerable children and improving outcomes for them.

The 2014/15 Youth Justice Report states that he average age of FTE increased from 14.6 to 15.2 years between the years ending March 2005 and March 2015

  • Ethnicity – In general, FTEs from black and minority ethnic communities had a higher average age than those who were white. The 2014/15 Youth Justice Report  states that since the year ending March 2010, the number of black and minority ethnic young people entering the YJS has fallen by 61% compared with 70% for White young people but the proportion of BME young people among FTEs is increasing
  • Gender – The number of young females entering the YJS is falling at a greater rate than that for young males and Ministry of Justice statistics from 2005-2015 show young males aged 10-20 are more likely to receive cautions and convictions than girls with rates being higher for males aged 15-17 and females aged 18-20
  • Mental health – In 2013, there was a significant increase in young people at risk of offending being referred to YOS who have either a diagnosis of ASD or are presenting with symptoms of undiagnosed ASD

In addition, the Young Minds report (2013) sets out a number of additional vulnerable young people:

  • Looked after status – Up to half of the young people held in Young Offender Institutions are, or have previously been in care
  • Learning disability – 23-32% of young people in customdy have a genealised learning disability compared with 2-4% of the general population
  • Educational attainment – nearly 90% of young people in Young Offender Institutions had been excluded from school (Berelowitz, 2011), 46% were rated as underachieving at school
  • Abuse or neglect – 41% reported witnessing violence in their home as a child and 29% reported emotional, sexual or physical abuse as a child (Williams, et al., 2012)

Facts, figures and trends

First time entrants

The Public Health Outcomes Framework records first time entrants into the criminal justice system.  The rate reflects the number of 10-17 years olds receiving their first reprimand, warning or conviction in 2013 per 100,000 population. Figures are based on where the child or young person lives, rather than the place of conviction.

In every 100,000 10-17 year olds living in Bracknell Forest, 231 entered the YJS in 2015. This is significantly better than the regional and national averages. This figure is comparable to the average of local authorities with similar levels of deprivation to Bracknell Forest excepting the urban areas of Slough and Reading which are significantly higher than the England average:

First time entrants into the criminal justice system, 10-17 year olds, 2015

The trend for first entrants into the YJS between 2010 and 2014 shows rates have been decreasing since 2011.

The number of first time entrants to the criminal justice system has continued to fall since its peak in 2006/07. This decline has been much sharper for juveniles (70%) than for adults (12%); the rate of decline for juvenile FTEs has halved since 2013 compared to 2015 figures.  Figures for Bracknell Forest are significantly better than the England rates:

First time entrants into the criminal justice system, 10-17 year olds, 2010-2015

Local data

Local level data for 2014/15 published by the Ministry of Justice reported that at the end of March 2015 (accessed 3 January 2017), of the 116 young people who received a ‘substantive outcome’ (found to be culpable of a specific offence):

  • 36 committed violence against the person, 28 committed theft and handling stolen goods and 15 committed criminal damage.
  • 82% were male and 18% were female, the same as figures for the South East although the figure for females was % higher than the England figure
  • 11% were from a non-white ethnic background (an increase of 3% on the previous year), however the figure is lower than the South East figure (13%) and the national figure (21%)

Looked after children

Department of Education statistics for looked after children (local authority tables SFR41) show that in 2014/15, the percentage of children in care aged 10 and above convicted or subject to a final warning or reprimand during the year in Bracknell Forest was 11% (5 out of 55 LAC in the age group) compared to the 6% England figure.  This number fell to below 5 out of 55 in 2015/16 (the actual figure cannot be reported in order to protect confidentiality.)

Prevention, care and support

Youth Offending Service

Services for young offenders and those at risk of offending are provided by the Youth Offending Service (YOS). The YOS is made up of professionals from a variety of agencies, including a Social Worker, Police Officer, Health Worker, Education, Training and Employment Worker, Substance Misuse Worker, Case Managers and a Restorative Justice Co-ordinator.

YOS provide services for young people aged 10-17 who have offended and are sentenced by the Youth or Crown Court, to be supervised under a range of Youth Justice Court Orders. The YOS also has a prevention service for those young people who are at risk of offending and entering the YJS for the first time.

Following assessment of a range of criminogenic factors, an individual support plan is agreed with the young person and his/her parent/carer, which addresses the risk factors to offending in each case. At the end of the young person’s involvement with the Prevention Service an exit strategy is put in place.  The service is provided with due regard for the victims of these offences.

Services provided by YOS:

  • Help to deter young people away from offending
  • Help for parents to manage their children’s behaviour
  • Help for persistent offenders to change their behaviour and to not reoffend
  • Allowing young people to make reparation to the victims of their offences

Following a spike in referrals to the service from young people with diagnosed or suspected Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in 2013, it was recognised caseworkers lacked expertise in this area.  YOS practitioners received basic training in working with young people presenting with ASD, but a lack of specialist support available in this area for young people and parents may be problematic.

Commissioning focus

Innovative application of the Social Value Act 2012 in commissioning and procurement may also lead to additional opportunities in employment and training to build self-esteem, confidence and resilience in young people in this group.

The Public Health Outcomes Framework states that a lack of focus in youth offending could result in greater unmet health needs, increased health inequalities and potentially an increase in offending and re-offending rates, including new entrants to the system.The impact of incorporating these vulnerable children into mainstream commissioning also has the potential benefit of impacting on a young person’s wider family now and in the future, particularly when they may already be parents themselves.

The Youth Offending Service (YOS) has been successful at achieving a significant reduction in the number of first time entrants (FTE) into the Youth Justice System (YJS), and has undergone a change of structure and reorganisation of resources to focus on prevention and early intervention. Since 2009 numbers of young people entering the YJS for the first time has reduced considerably. This demonstrates the effectiveness of a coordinated approach amongst all agencies to provide early intervention and preventative services to those young people at risk of offending.

Want to know more?

Crime and Disorder Act 1998 – requires local authorities to have a Youth Justice Plan which is annually updated to set out how Youth Justice Services will be delivered locally within the available resources. The Youth Justice Plan sets out a delivery plan to keep the numbers of young people who offend in Bracknell Forest to a minimum.

Same Old… the experiences of young offenders with mental health needs (YoungMinds, 2013) –  a report, written from the perspective of young people involved in the youth offending system, their support workers and health clinicians into the provision of mental health services for young people and the relationship to offending behaviour.

This page was created on 10 March 2014 and updated on 3 January 2017. Next review: annually.

Cite this page:

Bracknell Forest Council. (2016). JSNA – Youth Offending. Available at: (Accessed: dd Mmmm yyyy)

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