Youth justice practitioners’ experiences and perceptions of AssetPlus

Psychologist interviewing depressed patient during therapy, photo by Photographee.eu/Adobe Stock

An evaluation of the Youth Justice Board's AssetPlus programme, including interviews and surveys, found that practitioners liked the ideas underpinning the programme but felt that not all potential benefits were fully being realised.

Areas recommended for improvement include the user interface, information-sharing capabilities throughout the system, and training to develop practitioners’ skills.

Background

Accurate and comprehensive risk assessment is central to addressing re-offending by young people and devising interventions designed to support their desistance from crime. Carrying out risk assessment, however, is a challenging professional task that requires considerable levels of knowledge and skill. AssetPlus is an integrated assessment and planning framework that was designed to assist youth justice practitioners in assessing and planning for children in their care.

Introduced in 2014, AssetPlus is now used by Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) and in secure establishments for youth throughout England and Wales. It is intended to assist practitioners in making high quality assessments of children (aged 10-17) in the youth justice system, and in creating individualised plans which address children’s offending behaviour and help them to move towards living a safe and crime-free life.

Building on previous assessment tools, AssetPlus was designed to have a much stronger focus on strengths, protective factors and pathways to desistance from offending. It was also intended to be used flexibly depending on the complexity of individual cases.

Goals

RAND Europe was commissioned by the Youth Justice Board (YJB) to carry out a research study to explore youth justice practitioners’ experiences and perceptions of AssetPlus.

Methodology

The research team carried out three main data collection activities to explore youth justice practitioners’ experiences and perceptions of AssetPlus. These were:

  • A review of documents and materials about AssetPlus provided by the YJB and identified by the research team in a targeted search.
  • Semi-structured interviews with 57 youth justice practitioners working in a sample of 10 YOTs across England and Wales.
  • An online survey issued to all YOTs and completed by 364 managers and practitioners from 77 YOTs.

Findings

  • In general, practitioners liked the ideas underpinning AssetPlus, such as the focus on strengths, desistance and the use of professional judgement, but felt that not all potential benefits were fully being realised.
  • While the time needed to complete AssetPlus was considered worthwhile when used for more complex and serious cases, practitioners appeared to struggle to adapt AssetPlus for cases where children would have little contact with the YOT.
  • Practitioners identified both positive and negative effects on the quality of their assessments and intervention plans. The framework was felt to encourage the inclusion of detailed, high-quality and relevant information, as well as providing good analysis to aid high quality assessments and intervention plans. However, other features were felt to have negative effects and in particular, its size and length made it a time consuming tool to use.
  • In summary, the key areas identified for improvement in the AssetPlus framework were: the user interface; the ease of information-sharing between youth justice practitioners throughout the system; additional training to develop practitioners’ analysis skills and their understanding of how to avoid duplication and ensure proportionate use of the AssetPlus framework.