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 the Whole System Approach (WSA) provide the overarching policy framework for youth justice practice.

Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC)

GIRFEC is the national approach in Scotland to improve outcomes and to support the wellbeing of our children and young people by offering the right help at the right time from the right people. GIRFEC puts the rights and wellbeing of children and young people at the heart of the policies and services that support them and their families - such as early years services, schools and the NHS. It provides a common language and framework that helps people working with children, young people and families to think about wellbeing in the same way and tailor the help they offer to an individual’s needs in a way that suits them and their family.

Whole System Approach (WSA)

The WSA has made a significant contribution to the progress made in dealing effectively with children and young people who offend and is an integral part of the youth justice strategy. The purpose of WSA is to support children and young people, at risk of or involved in offending, at the earliest opportunity by utilising voluntary supports and where necessary within formal systems to meet identified needs and risks. The main elements of the WSA are:

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

The child is also likely to have a Lead Professional, often a social worker. The roles of the Lead Professional are detailed in Reintegration and Transitions – Guidance for Local Authorities, Community Planning Partnerships and Service Providers and A Guide to Youth Justice in Scotland: Background, Policy and Legislation.

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)

There is a growing body of evidence which shows that children involved in a pattern of offending, or who are involved in more serious offences, are almost always our most vulnerable, victimised and traumatised young people (CYCJ, 2016a). The link between vulnerability and offending is retrospective not predictive, in that most children who experience adverse childhood experiences and trauma do not go on to seriously offend, but children who are involved in serious offending or frequent offending almost always have experienced trauma (CYCJ, 2016a).

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 children and young people in this category the immediate consideration is whether to take action under child protection procedures or whether other action that promotes positive risk practice 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. This aims to promote child centred practice in the risk assessment and risk management of the critical few children and young people who present a risk of serious harm to others within the context of GIRFEC and the Whole System Approach. Practitioners should know how and when to implement local CARM processes.

Young people as parents

Where children and 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 children and 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 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. Mentally Disordered Restricted Patients
  3. Other Risk of Serious Harm Offenders who do not fit into the above categories; who by reason of their conviction are subject to supervision in the community by any enactment, order or license; are assessed by the responsible authorities as posing a high or very high risk of serious harm to the public, which requires active multi-agency management at MAPPA level 2 or 3.

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 2016 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.

Children, young people and MAPPA

The majority of children and young people displaying harmful 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. If this is the case, appropriate risk assessment tools, which take account of the child’s age and stage of development, should be used - it is not appropriate to use adult tools for children. Where the child or young person had previously been managed under Care and Risk Management (CARM) procedures the CARM chair and MAPPA Coordinator should liase to agree on the most appropriate local arrangements and how this transition will be managed (Scottish Government, 2014). The child or young person should also have a Child’s Plan and within MAPPA meetings, where possible, there should be representatives from childcare/youth justice agencies present to ensure that processes adopted are suited to young people in terms of managing their risk and meeting their needs (CYCJ, 2017).

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” and system involvement. Practitioners must be aware of the impact of such labelling and discrimination and ensure they practice in an anti-discriminatory manner. It is also particularly important that these young people are recognised as children first and that the rights they have as children are promoted and upheld (Case and Haines, 2014).


Different young people require different approaches: support must be tailored to each young person’s needs, taking into account their experiences, the impact of such experiences and developmental stage.

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