Case summary
Inspectors comments
Important learning
Takeaway learning

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This case example illustrates a good understanding of reviewing a child’s desistance. We expect reviewing to:

  • identify and respond to changes in factors linked to desistance
  • build on the child’s strengths and enhance their protective factors
  • consider the child’s motivation and engagement levels and any relevant barriers to engagement
  • ensure that the child and their parents/carers are meaningfully involved in reviewing their progress and engagement, and that their views are considered
  • lead to the necessary adjustments in the ongoing plan of work to support desistance.

Case summary

Theo is a 16-year-old male. He received a 12-month referral order for an offence of robbery.

Theo had no previous offences and lived at home with his parents and his younger siblings. He had just left school, having gained some good exam results, and the offence occurred in the summer before he was due to start sixth-form college. His closest friend had moved away, and Theo had met a new group of boys at his local gym. He had not known them long when, after drinking alcohol at one of their houses, he was pressured by the group to get more drink by stealing from the local shop. The owner of the shop, the victim of the offence, was known to him and his family.

The case manager had completed a good case assessment, which the plan built upon. The interventions included work on peer pressure and building healthy relationships, as well as an awareness programme regarding substance misuse. As the plan progressed and Theo received good feedback on his progress, the case manager recognised that Theo was ready to start the victim work. He met with Theo and his parents to discuss this, as he was aware that Theo was worried about this work because he felt anxiety and shame when he thought about the victim and the impact of his behaviour. However, part of his referral order contract required him to write an explanation and apology letter to the victim.

After discussing this with the case manager, Theo chose to write his letter in the form of a poem. He wrote a thoughtful and insightful account of his offence and the impact he thought this had on the victim. This was sent to the victim and he presented it at his three-monthly referral order panel review. The case manager and Theo then repeated this exercise at his six-monthly referral order panel review, when he produced a reflective poem on his experience of the YOT and the changes he had made, which was also shared with the victim. The case manager recognised that engaging Theo in his own reviews in such a positive way meant that he was able to share the progress he felt he had made, in a style he was comfortable with, and in his own words. There were comprehensive review records, which showed the progress that Theo was making and outlined what he still had to do. These were presented at the three-monthly referral order review panel meetings so that the panel members could monitor the progress being made.

Inspector comments:

The reviews included the views of Theo’s parents and updates from the other agencies involved. Most importantly, Theo was actively involved in the reviews, as the case manager encouraged him to express himself using a method that matched his skills and interests. He had been able to tell the panel about his progress using his own words. His achievements were recognised, and he was congratulated by the panel for the progress he had made.

Important learning:

  • The case manager was creative in enabling the child to be actively involved in his own reviews by using his own words to describe his progress.
  • This child received direct feedback from the panel about how well he was doing. This kept him engaged and motivated to produce further work for the panel to see.

Take-aways – applying the learning

For further information on this subject, please see HM Inspectorate Probation’s Academic Insights publication by leading academics Shadd Maruna and Ruth Mann, Reconciling ‘Desistance’ and ‘What Works’.

See also:

The Scottish Centre for Crime & Justice Research. (2009). Towards effective practice in offender supervision.

  1. What stood out to you in this case illustration, and can you identify similar approaches in your own practice in reviews?
  2. Will you make any changes to your practice when reviewing achievement against the plan’s objectives?
  3. How can you develop further your understanding of reviewing for desistance?

This case summary is intended for training/learning purposes and includes a fictional name.