Valuing Youth Diversion: A toolkit for practitioners

Ben Estep

Youth diversion schemes offer a way of addressing low-level criminal behaviour without escalating use of the formal justice system. Formal justice system processing, either prosecution in court or out of court disposals, can result in a criminal conviction, a record, and can actually increase the likelihood of future offending. Evidence strongly suggests that diversion generates better outcomes for both young people and their communities. However, youth diversion schemes in England and Wales need support to continue: because they fall outside any agency’s statutory responsibilities, they are particularly prone to disinvestment.

In response, last year we published a toolkit for practitioners involved in, or considering creating point-of-arrest diversion schemes for young people. This outlined the research case for youth diversion, offered messaging support for approaching new and existing commissioners, and provided guidance on a method of demonstrating the cost effectiveness of diversion through its local impact on justice system stakeholders.

The response has been strong. We have directly supported approximately 16 projects at Youth Offending Teams across the country, and have had informal conversations with many more. This has ranged from simple technical help, to assistance with messaging and funding bids, to presenting findings to management boards and potential funders.

As we worked with areas, a common request arose: practitioners wanted more detailed guidance on the particulars of how schemes should operate to maximise their efficacy. Many people told us that while the evidence-based case for youth diversion was convincing, they were also interested in what the research says about more granular aspects of practice: which young people does the evidence suggest should be eligible for diversion? How should the referral process operate? What sort of programming is effective?

Today, we are publishing a revised and expanded toolkit intended to help address some of these questions. We are aware that there are many ways to design and run a diversion scheme. The research base does not allow us to make prescriptive recommendations, but we hope that this publication will help practitioners decide how to develop practice in their schemes.

In addition, we are pleased to say that our offer of free development support continues. If you are an interested practitioner, we can work with you to:

  • Talk you through how to use the toolkit;
  • Help facilitate conversations with key partners;
  • Help you think through aspects of your scheme’s design;
  • Estimate your scheme’s cost effectiveness; and
  • Develop messaging for commissioners and other audiences.


If any of this might be useful to you, please do get in touch.