What Does It Take To Work With Young Offenders

There are around 1000 children and young people in custody in the UK and reoffending rates are alarmingly high. Indeed, over two thirds of children re-offend within a year of leaving custody according to latest figures.

These issues make working with young offenders one of the most challenging areas of social work in which to specialise. Dealing with such vulnerable children and young people on a daily basis can be trying and heart breaking, but the need for these professionals is greater than ever. There exists a wide variety of youth offending vacancies available at the moment and choosing to work in this area may be one of the most rewarding things you ever do. You may worry, however, that you don't have what it takes; you may have concerns that you will find it difficult to stay objective or that your emotions may get the better of you. Here we explain what it takes to work with young offenders.

What personal characteristics will I need to have?

Young offenders come from a variety of backgrounds and many will have been in trouble many times before they have a custodial sentence handed to them. You will need to be level-headed and able to make practical decisions and offer support without any prejudice or discrimination. Your ultimate goal in supporting young offenders is to help them achieve successful rehabilitation, in order that they can re-enter society as a fully-rounded adult. In reality, many of these children and young people re-offend within months of leaving the detention centre so you will need to be resilient and understanding in these often frustrating and heart-breaking situations.

What will be my roles and responsibilities?

Your major aim will be to support the young offender and there is great responsibility that comes along with this role. You may be required to help the young person organise housing for when they are released, arrange visits from parents and friends while they are in custody, work with other agencies to provide mental health or behavioural reports and help them to foster a positive attitude for the future. If the young person under your care is a drug user, you may also be required to organise rehabilitation programmes and offer the support and counselling needed for them to stay off drugs. For further details on the responsibilities of working with youth offenders, see the A Career Change website.

What kind of jobs are out there?

Youth offending vacancies will range from jobs in the probation service, to working in a detention centre, social housing or the police. You may be part of a Youth Offending Team, which aims to help rehabilitate and offer advice on education, training and housing. Or you may be working with young offenders in a secure or semi-secure unit, where you will provide support and counselling while they are in custody. All of these jobs require dedication and the ability to offer practical help in a non-judgemental way. Many roles will require qualifications in social work, some to degree level. If you do not have these, however, there are very often youth offending vacancies for support workers that don't require formal qualifications. The National Careers Service gives some more information about how to get started in the profession.

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