Young Offenders

The issue

Despite falling numbers of children and young people in youth custody, outcomes for those sent to prison have got worse. Young people with criminal convictions can struggle to access the support they need to rebuild their lives in a positive way. Over two thirds of young people released from secure institutions reoffend within 12 months of release.

Support services are stretched but organisations working with social purposes can play a vital role in working with young people to forge a positive future. Employment is recognised as being a key pathway to reducing reoffending as it offers independence, status, earning power, a structured routine, social contact and a sense of purpose and direction. Yet many young people who have been convicted of criminal offences struggle to get a job – they often lack workplace skills and experience and the stigma associated with a criminal record can have a profound impact on employment opportunities.

This is now even harder at a time when Covid-19 has had a huge impact on employment opportunities for young people.

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Many young people in the criminal justice system have experienced trauma, violence and inequality dating back to early childhood and are navigating complex and unstable lives. But they can thrive and rebuild if they have in-depth support, training and holistic help.


We want to fund projects that work with young people with criminal convictions (up to the age of 25) to find meaningful and secure employment. We understand that the path to employment can be complex and that building strong relationships of trust is a vital part of supporting someone on their journey . Therefore we will not fund projects that are solely recruitment services for young people.

We welcome applications that:

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Have specific outcomes and targets related to securing employment for young people with criminal convictions. General employability and training programmes that are solely focused on being ‘employment ready’ or ‘better skilled’ will not be considered.

Show that they will also work with employers and provide post placement support to both employee and employer.

Demonstrate that they understand the wide range of challenges and issues that will need to be addressed to help a young person succeed on their employment journey.

Show existing work with young people who have been in the criminal justice system is already taking place and can evidence a track record of helping them to achieve positive outcomes. You might already provide employment support or want to add this focus to the current support you offer young people.

Funding can only be used to work with young people who have been in the criminal justice system, even if your organisation works with young people more broadly. We recognise that some young people with criminal records are particularly disadvantaged by intersecting inequality related to their race, gender and experiences of the care system. As such we will prioritise proposals that provide specialist support to target:

• Young people who are from Black or minoritised/racialised communities (often referred to as Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities),
• Young women and girls, and
• Young people who have been looked after

If you already work specifically with adults who have criminal convictions around employment you will need to show us in your application that you understand the unique challenges faced by young people and that your project will offer support that is appropriate and effective for their needs. This might be through working with another organisation who have this specific expertise of working with young people.

Check Eligibility and Apply  

Young Offenders Strategy