Young Offenders

The issue

Despite falling numbers of children and young people in youth custody, outcomes for those sent to Young Offender Institutions and 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 and the reoffending rate for young offenders is higher than that for adults and only starts to drop once offenders reach their late 30’s.

It is vitally important therefore to address low level criminal behaviour in young people before the consequences of being caught, arrested, and convicted are felt. This can go on to affect future education and employment opportunities and rather than acting as a deterrent make children and young people more likely to offend.

Evidence shows that there are clear patterns of offending linked to levels of maturity and that most children and young people grow out of crime. Offending behaviour tends to peak in the mid-teens before steeply dropping at the point of reaching young adulthood. This ‘age-crime curve’ shows that the vast majority of young people who offend are temporarily drawn into this behaviour due to pushing boundaries, not thinking about the consequences of their actions, or copying or wanting to impress peers. Some may also have been victims of exploitation. However, self-control improves once a young person’s developmental maturity increases leading to law abiding behaviour.

If a young person is prosecuted though, international data has shown that this does not have a crime control effect and in fact makes them more likely to reoffend.

Image credit: abandofbrothers
Image credit: Trailblazers


We want to fund projects that use a Sport 4 Development approach to work with young people (11-25) who are already in contact with the police and who are at risk of being, or who have been, arrested for a crime. The aim of the funding is to help them avoid a future conviction by supporting them to change their offending behaviour. This links to our strategic goal of first offences/convictions for high-risk young people on the edge of the criminal justice system being avoided.

It is likely that these young people will also be part of wider schemes such as Youth Offending Team Prevention Programmes, Out of Court Disposal Orders, Point of Arrest Diversionary Programmes etc. nb – this funding is not intended to replace these schemes but to complement support that is being offered through them.

Image credit: abandofbrothers

Sport for Development interventions have proved to be effective in engaging with hard to reach and vulnerable young people and helping them to achieve specific social development objectives. These projects differ from those that play sport for fun as learning is built into the project activity.

For the purpose of explaining the kind of projects we are looking to support we think that the definition below developed by InFocus is really useful.

A Sport 4 Development intervention is one that is intentional in its use of sport and physical activity to attain specific social development objectives.

A S4D intervention aims to effect a series of changes for an intended target audience (outcomes) and employs a particular approach to the design and delivery of a sport and physical activity intervention that helps leverage the positive attributes of sport to optimise the social objectives achieved.

We welcome applications that:

Have specific outcomes and targets linked to the following key social impact areas; individual development, health and well-being, employability, education, and social cohesion. The proposed project has to work with young people who are already in contact with the police and be able to demonstrate how it will reduce the chances of the young person not receiving a criminal conviction.

Demonstrate that they understand the wide range of challenges and issues that will need to be addressed to help a young person succeed in being able to move away from offending behaviour.

Show a track record of either current or previous work that has used a Sport 4 Development approach.

Show existing work with young people who have been in and on the edge of the criminal justice system is already taking place and can evidence a track record of helping them to achieve positive outcomes. Clear referral pathways from key partners (such as Police and Youth Offending Teams) should be highlighted as part of this.

Funding can only be used to work with young people who are already in or on the edge of the criminal justice system, even if your organisation works with vulnerable young people more broadly. We cannot accept applications where our target group only make up some of the cohort of young people on your project.

We won’t fund prevention or diversionary activities that are focused on keeping children and young people ‘at risk of criminality’ away from the justice system in the first place. We are not able to consider applications wanting to work with children and young people who have not been arrested or who are not at reasonable risk of arrest.

We recognise that some young people in or on the edge of the criminal justice system 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 minoritized/racialised communities (often referred to as Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities),

> Young women and girls, and

> Young people who have experienced the care system

If you already work with adults with criminal records 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.

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Young Offenders Strategy