The Youth Justice Board for England and Wales has recently published a working guide offering advice on the setting up a university/youth offending team (YOT) partnership.
The document draws on findings from research with universities and YOTs about their experiences of joining forces. It covers the key ingredients and principles of a successful partnership, offers a sort of "how to" guide regarding setting up partnership working arrangements, and includes useful advice on resource requirements/implications. There are also case studies of existing YOT/academic partnerships.
In terms of the benefits of joining forces, universities can bring academic research and theory to those working in youth justice services and allow practitioners access to expert advice and training. This might be with lectures on emerging issues in youth justice such as the application of desistance theory, which moves towards building an offender plan based on the existing positives in an offender's life rather than just using offence-focused activities.
For example, Greater Manchester Youth Justice University Partnership (GMYJUP) recently ran a series of desistance workshops, designed to coincide with the implementation of AssetPlus, which have aimed to develop practitioner knowledge and skills in this area. GMYJUP have since turned their attention to the development of further workshops that will focus on enhancing participation.
Setting up such a partnership of this type can provide students with placement opportunities and access to data, researching issues affecting the needs of the service, tackling topics such as the impact of legal highs on children's wellbeing.
Building on the success of the GMYJUP, a recent partnership between Edge Hill University and pan-Cheshire Youth Justice Services has formed, committed to the transferring of skills and knowledge, the "testing out" of new and mutually beneficial areas of interest and research.
Ultimately, such youth justice communities of practice can enhance the application of theory across a range of topics and specialist areas.
Sean Creaney is an advisor at social justice charity Peer Power