Social Work Now, Issue 27, pages 30-36.
Youth justice practitioners are well aware of a tension between practice approaches that elicit strengths and resources of young people and approaches that focus on risks and needs. Despite the public perception of youths ‘out of control’ and unaccountable for their offending, the system works for a majority of young people. The reality of youth justice is that 5–15% of young people commit 40–60% of all offences, and it is these same young people who run the risk of becoming recidivist adult offenders (UNICEF, 2008). The young people who receive the most attention are often those considered “dangerous, delinquent, deviant or disordered”. Each label “velcros” to the young person (Ungar, 2006) and can influence the responses they receive. It is under this pressure that youth justice practice can become problem-saturated and feel like “conveyor-belt practice” (Ferguson, 2004). However, there is increasing literature and practice to endorse the efficacy of strengths based approaches to youth justice work. The aim of this article is to look at a more balanced approach to youth justice, which recognises the importance of actively engaging young people in responses that positively change behaviour.