Child First Justice granted new research funding towards youth justice processes

Child First Justice has received £242,000 in funding towards a new research project exploring children’s participation in youth justice processes.

Child First is the guiding principle for the Youth Justice System of England and Wales. It's evidence-base and development in practice have been strongly influenced by research conducted at Loughborough University by Professor Stephen Case and colleagues.

Child First views individuals who offend as ‘children’ rather than ‘offenders’, promoting the development of pro-social identity, whilst seeks to divert children away from the stigma of system contact. The principle was unveiled as part of the Youth Justice Board Strategic Plan 2021-2024 making a clear commitment to ‘meaningful collaboration with children’.

This two year project funded by the Nuffield Foundation aims to develop greater understanding of children’s perceptions of their capacity for meaningful collaboration in youth justice decision-making processes. It will address four key questions:

  • How do children understand their collaboration in the decision-making process?
  • What do children believe should be the objectives and benefits of the collaborative process, and does this differ from the views of adult professionals?
  • How do children experience effective practice and collaboration, and how do they believe it should be measured?
  • What is the nature of children’s ‘Child First’ experiences and how could they be improved?

The effectiveness of involving children in policy and practice is typically conceptualised by adult professionals, restricting our understanding of what measures children find helpful and effective. This knowledge gap will be addressed through participatory research with children at different stages of the Youth Justice System.

Using a wide range of creative materials and methods (including rap writing and lego-building), children will explore their experiences and perspectives of collaboration across their youth justice journeys. The information about what they believe constitutes ‘effective’ practice in the Youth Justice System will be logged through digital diaries and ‘system journey interviews’. This project will generate child-friendly guidance and resources on collaboration practice/expectations, with training made available to youth justice professionals on embedding children’s views when co-creating collaborative practice. 

For more information on Childfirst click here.