Desistance and the Working Relationship: The Perceptions of Practitioners and Young People

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Whilst the number of first-time entrants to the youth justice system has reduced by 85% since 2009, the reoffending rate remains high, currently standing at 38% (Youth Justice Board, 2020). Those young people that remain in the youth justice system often have complex needs (House of Commons Committees, 2020). In 2016, a desistance-based approach was introduced into youth justice practice, with the introduction of the AssetPlus assessment, which coincided with the publication of an Inspectorate report (HMIP,2016) that recommended that youth justice practice should become desistance based.

Whilst existing literature has highlighted the importance of having a ‘good quality’ working relationship in desistance, there is a lack of information regarding what constitutes such a relationship, and why this might be important for desistance. Furthermore, with much of desistance research being conducted with either adults or youth justice practitioners, there is a lack of research that focuses on desistance from the perspectives of young people themselves.

With this in mind, the aim of the study was to explore desistance further, focusing on the working relationship, from the perspective of practitioners and young people. In particular, the study sought to answer two research questions: (1) From the perspectives of practitioners and young people, what are the characteristics of a ‘good quality’ working relationship? (2) From the perspectives of practitioners and young people, why is a ‘good quality’ working relationship important for desistance?

A qualitative data collection approach was used, and the analysis revealed discrepancies exist between the perceptions of practitioners and young people, in terms of what constitutes a ‘good quality’ relationship and why it is important for desistance. The findings of this study have theoretical implications, particularly for desistance theory and the Trauma Recovery Model; in addition to having implications for youth justice policy and practice, in terms of the way practitioners work with young people, both during supervision meetings and more generally.
Date of Award2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJonathan Evans (Supervisor), John Deering (Supervisor) & Rachel Taylor (Supervisor)

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