Youth Justice: Evidence Based Policy in 2017?

This month has seen the publication of Lord Taylor’s Review of the Youth Justice System in England & Wales.

In his comprehensive report, Taylor makes a number of recommendations “to transform the youth justice system in which young people are treated as children first and offenders second, and in which they are held to account for their offending”.

Of particular interest to me was Taylor’s emphasis on diverting children out of the justice system, where possible, and directing the police, local authorities and health authorities to operate these schemes jointly. Taylor identifies such multi-agency leadership as one of the principles of good practice in diversion that includes, proportionality, speed, sensitivity to victims, light touch assessment and access to other services.

If these recommendations are implemented, then there are reasons to be cheerful about the future direction of youth justice in England and Wales. But, have we not been here before? It is nearly 20 years since Tony Blair formed the ‘New Labour’ administration in 1997, with its commitment to ‘evidence-led’ policy. Nowhere was this more evident than in the 1998 youth justice reforms and the creation of multi-agency Youth Offending Teams. “Tough on crime; tough on the causes of crime” was the slogan of the day, and I cut my evaluation teeth in the boom of criminological research and evaluation, and the search for “what works?” in youth justice.

Within a decade, however, the laudable attempt to re-set youth justice by informed policy had become jaded. Traditional law and order politics were reasserting themselves, something that Barry Goldston recognised in his excellent article “The sleep of (criminological) reason: Knowledge–policy rupture and New Labour’s youth justice legacy“. Giving his retrospective, Goldson identified a “trajectory of policy [that] has ultimately moved in a diametrically opposed direction to the route signalled by research-based knowledge and practice-based evidence”. In other words, the knowledge-base was telling policy makers to be doing one thing, but they appeared to be doing just the opposite.

In his article Goldson identified five areas where the rupture between the policy and practice was most evident: research tells us that young people committing crime is relatively ‘normal’ (but the response is to be intolerant of this); the evidence is that rates of youth crime are relatively low (but politicians tend to amplify it and “define it up”); evaluation shows that diversion is effective (but the response is for earlier intervention and ‘net widening’); universal services of welfare, education and health are effective (but punishment becomes ascendant while welfare is in retreat); decarceration is known to be cost-effective (but the use of custody increases).

The publication of the Taylor report provides us an opportunity to reset youth justice and its recommendations seek to repair the “knowledge-practice rupture”. Are we seeing an awakening of criminological reason? I trust we are and look forward to continuing to play my part in providing evidence of what works to policy makers and practitioners.

A Quick Word On Restorative Justice

Restorative Justice and the Restorative Forum

The Restorative Forum is the ‘go-to’ place for anyone interested in restorative justice and has an excellent YouTube series of short interviews on all aspects of RJ. Here I am being interviewed on the value of evaluation, and along the line it is discovered that I am not American but Scottish! https://www.restorativeforum.org.uk/Forum

GtD - Jack Cattell Presenting at PPMRC

GtD’s Jack Cattell – Managing the Data Glut

Last month I had the great pleasure of spending a week in the USA to see for myself how GtD is developing its services in Atlanta, before attending the 9th annual Public Performance Measurement and Reporting Conference at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Americans and the British may be “divided by a common language”, but I was struck by the common challenges that policy makers and practitioners face on both sides of the Atlantic: ensuring that practice is grounded in “what works?”, getting more “bang for your buck” in service delivery and managing “big data” to understand how policy makers and practitioners are responding to complex social problems. Whether they are based in the U.S. or the U.K., all of us at GtD feel privileged to help our clients to meet these challenges by providing definitive social impact analytics that are helping them to monitor their activities; learn quickly how to improve them; and, ultimately to prove their effectiveness – definitively.

It was the theme of “big data” that took Alan and I to Rutgers University where we were delighted to contribute our thoughts and experiences of “managing the data glut” at the PPMR conference. Drawing on over 20 years of experience of research and evaluation in the criminal justice system, we used our work in the development of the DASHBOARD for the CJS as an example of how to manage the data glut. It provided a clear, illustrative example of how we rationalised over 1,500 separate performance indicators to provide a highly visual and user-friendly dashboard of data that provides managers across the criminal justice system a single version of their performance in bringing offenders to justice.

The presentation we gave at the conference is available to view on our LinkedIn page, please do follow us for updates and information relating to social impact analytics.

Contact my colleague Alan or myself if you would like more information about any of our projects or how our social impact analytics could benefit your organisation. If you believe you are ready to embark on your own social impact journey, you might be interested in our free Strategic Impact Assessment. Please do get in touch if we can be of assistance by emailing us at:

Jack Cattell jack.cattell@getthedata.co.uk

Alan Mackie alan.mackie@gethedata.co.uk

Juvenile justice

Preparing Tomorrow’s Juvenile Justice Leaders for Success

Preparing Tomorrow’s Leaders for Success. In delivering evidence of “what works?” GtD is working with juvenile justice leaders on both sides of the Atlantic. Recently, Alan Mackie demonstrated the ‘value of evaluation’ to a new generation of leaders at Georgia Gwinnett College. Using GtD’s evaluation of the Youth Restorative Intervention as a case study, Alan showed how evaluation provides definitive evidence of what works in reducing both reoffending and costs to the tax payer. Contact Alan via alan.mackie@getthedata.co.uk to learn how GtD can help your juvenile justice project.

Youth Justice Awareness Month

GtD: Supporting Youth Justice Awareness Month

October is Youth Justice Awareness Month in the United States. In asking “all Americans to observe this month by taking action to support our youth”, President Obama called on more to be done to give children and young people a “second chance”.  In emphasising the importance of education, particularly early-years education, the President said, “When we invest in our children and redirect young people who have made misguided decisions, we can reduce our over-reliance on the juvenile and criminal justice systems and build stronger pathways to opportunity”.

As I have observed before, policy makers on both sides of the Atlantic are currently working to divert young people out of custody – or from even entering the justice system at all. Undoubtedly this new policy direction is driven by the need to cut expenditure as keeping large numbers of young people in prison is simply no longer affordable. However, it’s clear that the policy shift is also motivated by the evidence that the most effective and least damaging forms of intervention are universal services that don’t “criminalise” young people, but seek to address their needs particularly their lack of attainment in education.

Over the past four years GtD has been proud to work with a range of organisations that have delivered better outcomes for young people, whether or not they were involved in the justice system. One of our first evaluation projects was to identify how an education and training project for disadvantaged youth could become more efficient and effective. Since then we have developed our CV of youth work to include: proving the effectiveness of a youth restorative justice intervention and, more recently, helping an organisation to learn “what works?” with developing resilience, independence and maturity in young people. And now we are looking forward to starting a new evaluation of an education, training and employment project for young refugees arriving in the U.S. Youth justice in the U.S. and U.K. is undergoing substantial reform, but there is much more to be done to help young people build, in the President’s words, “stronger pathways to opportunity”.

As a company GtD believes that we can support young people by working with policy makers and practitioners to determine what works best, and for whom. And as our CV demonstrates, successful interventions are delivered when our social impact analytics are integrated into the policy and planning processes. In doing so, GtD is helping our clients to learn how to improve their services and demonstrate their effectiveness.

In this Youth Justice Awareness Month, GtD is inviting youth organisations to contact us for a free 1-hour Strategic Impact Assessment where we’ll take the time to evaluate your current impact management success and identify key areas to develop in order to help your organisation maximise its support for young people. For more details, please contact me at alan.mackie@getthedata.co.uk. On behalf of GtD, thank you for your work with young people and I look forward to hearing from you.

GtD welcomes Jay Hughes to the team

GtD is delighted to welcome Jay Hughes

GtD is delighted to welcome Jay Hughes to our Social Impact Analytics team based in our London office. Jay has a very strong background in mathematics and also management, and he is currently completing a BSc in Mathematics and Statistics at the Open University. He is a Member of the Royal Statistical Society and looks forward to developing our cutting-edge SIA practice. Jay is currently leading on our analytic work with a number of police forces in England & Wales, and when not working he enjoys rock climbing, weight training and motorcycling.

GtD's Social Impact Analytics are Helping Street Soccer Academy

Our Social Impact Analytics Are Helping Street Soccer Academy

Our social impact analytics are being used to prove the impact of Street Soccer Academy’s custody to community programme. We demonstrated that the academy was working with the nation’s hardest to reach individuals, and that 75% of this group completed the programme and showed strong engagement upon release. Importantly the programme’s impact on reoffending translates to a £3.8m saving to the prison service. For more information on how GtD can prove your organisation’s impact, contact jack.cattell@getthedata.co.uk

http://www.streetsocceracademy.co.uk/impact-report/

Jack Cattell - Director, Get the Data

Jack Cattell presenting at the PPMRNC at Rutgers

Jack Cattell will be presenting at the Public Performance and Management Reporting Network Conference at Rutgers University later this month. Addressing the theme “Data Driven Decision Making: Navigating the Data Glut”, Jack will focus on GtD’s work in rationalising an organisation’s data to provide clear performance indicators. The conference has attracted speakers from across North America, Europe and Asia and takes place on the 22nd and 23rd September.

Social Impact Analytics: Putting the Value into Evaluation

Evaluation is often divorced from an organisation’s day-to-day operation, seen simply as a retrospective assessment of the impact of an intervention or the measurement of a client group’s outcomes. While there remains a place for that traditional approach, my colleagues and I at GtD believe that evaluation should be integral to shaping an organisation’s operations, by both looking back over past performance as well as predicting how to achieve real impact in the future.

In developing cutting edge social impact analytics, GtD’s novel approach to evaluation is being delivered to governments, non-profits and commercial organisations in the U.K. and the U.S. Typically, our clients are working to reduce reoffending, resettle refugees, provide shelter to the homeless and help disengaged young people achieve improved education outcomes. By providing definitive analyses we are enabling our clients to monitor what they are now doing; learn how they can improve their future performance and – ultimately – prove that they had an impact on a client group or wider society.

So, what are our social impact analytics, and what’s the value in our approach to evaluation?

First our Impact Management is helping managers and board members think about what they are seeking to achieve and how they will do that with the resources at their disposal. In our experience, managers, board members and funders should be concerned that their service is well run. By monitoring resources, inputs and outputs, our Impact Management can produce measures of a service’s economy and efficiency.

Second, our Predictive Analyses are helping organisations to deliver more effective services. Our analyses are helping practitioners to identify what will work best for their clients, and managers are using the information to improve interventions and predict future impact, and in the case of social impact bonds, future income.

Finally, organisations that commission GtD are working with some of the most vulnerable people in society. We value their work and are committed to using quantitative methods of evaluation to determine their impact. We are proud that our Impact Evaluations are not only delivering definitive reports on the impact of their work, but can also be used to provide a highly persuasive case to funders or a press-release as part of a media or funding campaign.

To find out how your GtD’s Social Impact Analytics can help your organisation make a difference contact me at alan.mackie@getthedata.co.uk

Prison Reform and Outcome Measurement

Pomp and pageantry came to Westminster this week, with the Queen’s Speech setting out the British government’s legislative agenda for the coming Parliamentary session. But amid the ermine and jewels was a call for hard, empirical data.

The centre piece of the ‘Gracious Address’ was a major shake-up of the prison system in England. Legislation will be brought forward to give governors of six “reform prisons” unprecedented autonomy over education and work in prisons, family visits, and rehabilitation services. With this autonomy will come accountability and the publication of comparable statistics on reoffending, employment rates on release, and violence and self-harm for each prison.

Further details of the government’s prison reforms were contained “Unlocking Potential”, Dame Sally Coates’ review of prison education in England that was published this week. The review includes recommendations to improve basic skills and the quality of vocational training and employability, and also greater personal social development.  Echoing the government’s move to devolve greater autonomy to prison governors, Dame Sally’s review also endorsed the need for governors to be held to account for the educational progress of all prisoners in their jails, and for the outcomes achieved by their commissioning decisions for education.

Improved education outcomes for individual prisoners will be supported by improved assessment of prisoners’ needs and the creation of Personal Learning Plans. However, Dame Sally’s review also made a call for greater performance measurement not only for the sake of accountability, but also for the planning and prioritisation of education services.

As noted before, this is an exciting time for prison reform on both sides of the Atlantic. However, reform must be made on evidence and supported by the hard data. Devolving decision making to those who know best is a bold move but with autonomy comes accountability and transparency. As Dame Sally’s report recommends, accountability and transparency are well served by,

Developing a suite of outcome measures to enable meaningful comparisons to be made between prisons (particularly between those with similar cohorts of offenders) is vital to drive improved performance”.

As the pace of reform continues, GtD looks forward to supporting those reforms with our expertise of outcome measurement and social impact analytics.