Overarching themes

Youth justice is practiced within the wider context of child and adult support and protection. Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) and the youth justice strategy ‘Preventing Offending Getting it right for children and young people’ provide the overarching policy framework while Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements and equality are also relevant.

Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) and Preventing Offending Getting it right for children and young people


GIRFEC provides a consistent way for people to work with children and young people and their families. The National Practice Model provides practitioners with a process for assessment, analysis, action and review, and a way to identify wellbeing outcomes and solutions for individual children or young people.

Key components of GIRFEC – enshrined in the Children and Young Person (Scotland) Act 2014 – include:

Preventing Offending Getting it right for children and young people

Over recent years considerable progress has been made in reducing the number of young people involved in offending behaviour and where offending does take place, in providing effective, timely, and proportionate interventions to address such behaviour and its causes (see Preventing Offending Getting it right for children and young people and Youth Justice in Scotland: Fixed in the past or fit for the future?). To sustain and develop on this progress, priority themes for 2015-2020 identified in Preventing Offending Getting it right for children and young people are:

Whole System Approach (WSA)

The WSA has made a significant contribution to the progress made in dealing effectively with youth offending and is an integral part of the youth justice strategy. The purpose of WSA is to discover as early as possible when a young person might be in trouble so that the children’s hearings and adult criminal justice systems are able to meet the young person’s needs and address risks and concerns. The main elements of the WSA are:

Moreover, every young person referred to a children’s hearing or court should have a Child’s Plan (CYCJ, 2013). The Child’s Plan remains with the young person, even in secure care or custody.

The young person is also likely to have a Lead Professional. The roles of the Lead Professional are detailed in Reintegration and Transitions – Guidance for Local Authorities, Community Planning Partnerships and Service Providers.

Guidance on the provisions of the 2014 Act is being developed by the Scottish Government.

Child protection

As detailed in the Framework for Risk Assessment Management and Evaluation (FRAME) (Scottish Government, 2014a, p.2) ‘work with children and young people who offend needs to consider and prioritise their protection as well as tackling behaviours that have an impact on others’.

Experiences of young people

‘A young person involved in offending behaviour is often a young person in need of care and protection.’
(Scottish Government, 2014b, p.113)

Young people involved in offending behaviour are more likely than the general population to:

Roles and responsibilities

Professionals must:

The National Risk Framework to Support the Assessment of Children and Young People provides guidance on risk identification, assessment, analysis and management.

Young people who present a risk of serious harm to others

For the few young people in this category the immediate consideration is whether to take action under child protection procedures or whether other action is necessary.

The Framework for Risk Assessment Management and Evaluation (FRAME) aims to bring consistency and proportionality to the way agencies assess, manage and evaluate risks presented by offending behaviour. FRAME includes Care and Risk Management (CARM) planning for children and young people. Practitioners should know how and when to implement local CARM processes.

Young people as parents

Where young people are also parents, their offending and other behaviours may result in their children being deemed at risk of significant harm. The policy framework outlined above may be relevant in such cases.

Adult support and protection

The Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007 may be relevant to young people involved in offending behaviour, either if they are defined as an adult at risk and are at risk of harm, or because their behaviours are placing an adult at risk at risk of harm.


Under section three, adults at risk are adults who:

“are unable to safeguard their own well-being, property, rights or other interests, are at risk of harm, and because they are affected by disability, mental disorder, illness or physical or mental infirmity, are more vulnerable to being harmed than adults who are not so affected.”

An adult is at risk of harm if:

“another person’s conduct is causing (or is likely to cause) the adult to be harmed”


“the adult is engaging (or is likely to engage) in conduct which causes (or is likely to cause) self-harm.”

Under section 53 an adult is defined as a person aged 16 or over.

Roles and responsibilities

Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA)

Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements were introduced in Scotland under sections 10 and 11 of the Management of Offenders etc. (Scotland) Act 2005.


‘Responsible authorities’ (as defined in the Act) have a duty to jointly establish arrangements for assessing and managing the risk posed by three categories of offender:

  1. Registered sex offenders
    1. Convicted of an offence under Schedule 3 Sexual Offences Act 2003
    2. Subject to a Sexual Offences Prevention Order
    3. Convicted of breaching a Risk of Sexual Harm Order
    The notification periods of 10, 7, and 5 years are halved for those under 18 when convicted (under section 82(2) Sexual Offences Act 2003), and the court can direct a person with parental responsibilities for a young person under 16 to comply with the notification requirements on their child’s behalf (section 89)
  2. Violent offenders
  3. Other offenders

Work to further develop the scope of MAPPA to include other offenders is on-going.

Young people and MAPPA

The majority of young people displaying harmful sexual behaviour do not require to be registered for MAPPA (Rigby, Whyte and Schinkel, 2014). Research by Rigby et al. (2014) found in 2011, 21 children and young people in Scotland were being supervised under MAPPA arrangements, less than 1% of all people on MAPPA.

Roles and responsibilities

Individuals subject to MAPPA are assessed on the short-to-medium-term risk of serious harm and the manageability of the risk. There are three risk management levels:

  1. Level 1: Routine risk management
  2. Level 2: Multi-agency risk management
  3. Level 3: Multi Agency Public Protection Panels (MAPPP)

The Multi Agency Public Protection (MAPPA) National Guidance 2014 sets out the responsibilities of agencies charged with implementing MAPPA.

The Management of Offenders etc. (Scotland) Act 2005 (Specification of Persons) Order 2007 specifies the persons or bodies with duty to cooperate.

A number of third sector organisations are involved in MAPPA, through supporting risk assessment, risk management, and via the provision of intensive support packages.

Involvement of families

The families of people subject to MAPPA are not automatically informed. While it may not be appropriate for family members to attend MAPPA case conferences, they can provide valuable support and information about a young person’s history.

The Good Practice Guidance for the Support of Families Affected by Imprisonment suggests that families should be:

Equality and stigma

Young people who offend are not a homogenous group. As each person will have different needs, it is essential to take into account factors such as ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, and disability or other support needs.


Young people may have already experienced discrimination, compounded by labels such as ‘young offender’ or ‘ex-prisoner’. Practitioners must be aware of the impact of such labelling and discrimination and ensure they practice in an anti-discriminatory manner.


Different young people require different approaches: support must be tailored to each young person’s needs, taking into account their experiences and the impact of such experiences. Consideration should always be given to using services that specialise in specific needs.

Third sector organisations have a clear role in addressing equality barriers and in providing services to address stigma and discrimination.

Resources for this page


Child protection

Adult support and protection

Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA)

Equality and stigma