Scottish pilot to fast-track youth offenders fails to prove its worth

Scotland’s controversial pilot scheme to fast-track
persistent young offenders through the children’s hearing
system has been scrapped after proving to be less successful at
cutting reoffending than non-pilot areas, writes Derren

A Scottish executive evaluation showed that, on average, the six
fast-track pilots cut reoffending by persistent young offenders by
32 per cent, but non-pilot areas of similar size reduced it by 55
per cent.

Analysis of the costs of running services compared to the savings
created from reduced reoffending showed fast-tracking cost
£4,000 a case while non-pilot sites produced savings of
£11,000 a case.

Under the system, young people who commit five offences are
referred to the children’s hearing system and their cases
prioritised so they get services to address their behaviour

Since being set up in February 2003 in Dundee, East Lothian, East
Ayrshire, North Ayrshire, South Ayrshire and Scottish Borders, 300
children have been fast-tracked and it was expected to play a key
role in reforms to the hearing system.

But following the disappointing findings, Scottish justice minister
Cathy Jamieson announced pilots would finish in September and the
extra £4.5m earmarked for them to run for another year would
be redistributed to all 32 local authorities.

She told pilots: “I realise this will be a disappointing
outcome for you, but am sure you will understand that the
evaluation results, which we have explored at some length, do not
offer the evidence I need to recommend continuation or

However, fast-track did achieve some targets: it processed cases
quicker, speeded up decision making, and was well received by
professionals and young people.

Ruth Stark, professional officer for the British Association of
Social Workers in Scotland, said the findings proved speeding up
the system didn’t necessarily improve outcomes.

“It reinforces the fact you need time and all the information
to make measured decisions,” she said. “I hope the
money will now go into developing preventative measures and early
intervention to minimise children coming into the hearing

Bernadette Docherty, chair of the Association of Directors of
Social Work’s children and family committee, said she was
disappointed with the u-turn and called for more detailed analysis
of the findings.

*Figures from the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration
reveal the number of persistent young offenders has grown by five
per cent in the past year.

Fast-track evaluation from

Young offender figures from

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