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Research Questions

  1. How, if at all, has the delivery of AssetPlus changed working practices in YOTs, roles and responsibilities of practitioners?
  2. How, if at all, has AssetPlus affected operational efficiencies?
  3. How, if at all, has AssetPlus affected the quality of assessment?
  4. How, if at all, has AssetPlus affected the quality of intervention plans?
  5. How has AssetPlus been used in Pre-Sentence Reports?
  6. How has the implementation and delivery of AssetPlus impacted transitions from the SE to the community?
  7. How has AssetPlus affected first-time entrants (FTE), re/offending, remands in custody, and other outcomes for children?

Accurate risk assessment is central to addressing re-offending by young people and developing interventions designed to support their desistance from crime. AssetPlus is an assessment and planning framework introduced in 2014 that is now used by youth offending teams throughout England and Wales. RAND Europe was commissioned by the Youth Justice Board to explore the experiences and perceptions of youth justice practitioners using AssetPlus. Drawing upon interviews with practitioners and a survey disseminated nationally, the study found that practitioners strongly supported the ideas underpinning the assessment tool — in particular, its focus on a young person's strengths and the protective factors, in addition to risks. However, challenges related to the user interface and information-sharing capabilities throughout the system limited the extent to which the potential benefits of AssetPlus were realised. The study identified considerable variations in the way AssetPlus was used in different YOTs. Providing additional training for YOT practitioners was identified as an initial step to drive improvement.

Key Findings

  • In general, practitioners liked the ideas underpinning AssetPlus, but felt that the potential benefits were not being fully realised at present. Practitioners were positive about the focus on strengths, desistance and the use of professional judgement in AssetPlus. However, they identified a range of factors that prevented the full potential of benefits being realised across all areas.
  • In terms of operational efficiencies, the time needed to complete AssetPlus was not always proportionate to the risk and need of a case. Some practitioners encountered difficulties navigating AssetPlus, which they reported were due to the non-linear nature of the tool, the language used in the tool and the way in which the framework appeared on different case management systems.
  • Practitioners also identified both positive and negative effects on the quality of their assessments and intervention plans. While the framework prompted and encouraged the use of detailed and relevant information, a focus on the child's strength and good analysis regarding risks and pathways to desistance, features such as the tool's length, size, layout and lack of user-friendliness were felt to make the framework less useful in some regards.
  • Considerable variation remains in how and when AssetPlus is used to develop pre-sentence reports, while the joint working on assessment and planning between YOTs and the secure estate also remains problematic.
  • In summary, across all research questions, key areas for improvement remain in order to ensure that the potential benefits of the strengths-based holistic assessment and intervention planning tool are realised.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was prepared for the Youth Justice Board (YJB) and conducted by RAND Europe.

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