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Marginalised young people

Disadvantaged young people are at risk of becoming ever more marginalised from society. Alongside the growing gap between affluent and less affluent communities, the gap between disadvantaged young people and their more affluent peers is also growing. Many of these young people face multiple challenges – they are disengaged from the labour market and education and many of them suffer from health problems. Marginalised young people are also likely to come from families that have been in debt and they may struggle with debt themselves.

Young people on the margins of society are at risk of falling into the criminal justice system, and those from ethnic minority groups are particularly over-represented in the juvenile justice system. A high rate of re-offending suggests that young people who have entered the criminal justice system find it difficult to leave and the Labour Government 1997-2010 aimed to provide a cross-departmental approach to tackle this problem through its creation of the Youth Crime Action Plan. The Conservative-Liberal Democrat government elected in 2010 appears to be taking a different approach by announcing that the Ministry of Justice will have sole responsibility for youth justice.

This change, alongside the coalition government’s aims to support Voluntary and Community Organisations (VCOs) to have much greater involvement in the delivery of public services, means that there is likely to be expansion in the work of VCOs to reduce reoffending. VCOs working with marginalised young people may be paid by the results of their work to prevent those young people from offending, and some are already beginning to carry out this work, such as educational rehabilitation and drug and alcohol support.

What are the implications?

  • Increasing inequality is likely to lead to a greater number of young people who are homeless, not in education and not accessing other public services. These young people may have increasingly complex needs.
  • The over-representation of young people from ethnic minorities in the juvenile justice issues may grow and may lead to tension between groups.
  • There may be opportunities for youth charities to influence a new government policy agenda around incarceration, community sentencing and rehabilitation, which may be more focused on keeping young people away from the criminal justice system.
  • There is likely to be a reduction in prison places so fewer young offenders will be in custody, but public attitudes towards marginalised young people may get less tolerant if young offenders are thought to be getting off lightly.
  • There will be opportunities for VCOs to be paid for their work rehabilitating young offenders, for which they will need to show evidence of their outcomes. New funding models, such as Social Impact Bonds [link to my driver on financial structures for VCYS] are already being trialled by VCOs aiming to reduce reoffending.
  • Grant funding for VCOs working with young offenders and young people at risk of offending may decline as more services are commissioned to VCOs.

Moving forward

  • How can the VCS continue to support the most vulnerable young people in a funding environment that increasingly demands certain sorts of results and only pays if these are achieved?
  • How can VCOs who work with the most marginalised young people, who are furthest from the jobs market, be recognised for the work they do to bring these young people closer to employment, even if this doesn’t always mean they immediately end up in work?
  • How can the VCS help young people who have been in prison to have a voice and speak about their experiences of the youth prison system?
  • What opportunities will there be available to young people with a criminal record? What can VCOs do to support them?
  • How can the VCS influence the national policy debate and share its knowledge that investment in supporting young people at risk of falling into the youth justice system will lead to significant savings for the state?
  • How will communities react to community sentencing and other alternatives to prison?
  • How can smaller VCOs, working at the neighbourhood level and meeting specialist needs, work within a commissioning environment which favours larger contracts?
  • Will there be changes in the age of criminal responsibility, which is currently 12, and can the VCS influence this agenda?
  • How can the VCS ensure that its work with the most socially excluded and vulnerable young people is recognised and supported?

Want to know more?

The Cost of Exclusion: Counting the cost of youth disadvantage in the UK

Published by: The Prince's Trust

Date: December 2010

What is it? A paper examining the cost of youth disadvantage in the UK.

How useful is it? It provides evidence of the cost to the economy of marginalised young people, through their unemployment and involvement in crime. It could be useful for VCS organisations who want to show why their work is important.

Unlocking Potential: Alternatives to custody for young people

Published by: 4Children

Date: December 2008

What is it? A paper presenting the case for an alternative approach to youth justice.

How useful is it? It documents evidence based on working with young people and their families and suggests a new approach to youth justice focused on developing the skills of young people.

The role of the third sector in work with offenders: the perceptions of criminal justice and third sector stakeholders

Published by: Third Sector Research Centre

Date: April 2010

What is it? A paper examining the position of the VCS and its role in the resettlement of offenders

How useful is it? It is useful evidence of the work the VCS is doing working with the justice system.

Last updated at 18:32 Tue 18/Jan/11.

Recent comments

Kathryn's picture


Third Sector Foresight

Very interesting Dom.

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