January 31, 2022

Transitioning Young Adults in the Criminal Justice System

Clare Wilson & Jemma Waterworth
Probation Reform Programme & Young Adults National Team

HMPPS Young Adult Awareness Week takes place 7th - 13th February, in this blog Clare and Jemma explain the work that has been progressed to improve how young adults transition between youth and adult custody, and between youth offending and adult probation services. 

The transition from the youth to adult justice system is a challenging time for young adults. By blowing out the candles on the birthday cake at 18, individuals are suddenly perceived and treated as adults, with the child-friendly ethos and services available to them as adolescents, often abruptly coming to an end.

Community Transition

The unification of Probation Services created an opportunity to improve young adults’ experience of the transition between Youth Offending Services (YOS) and adult Probation Services.  In response, the Probation Reform Programme has been exploring how we can better address the particular needs of those who move between the two services.

In September 2021, London Probation region won The Butler Trust’s Kathy Biggar trophy for its locally developed ‘Transition Programme’ as an example of excellent local innovation.  With the support of the Probation Reform Programme, it has now been developed for national roll out, and is being treated to a design refresh to align it with other resources that support Probation Practitioners in their work. 

The programme will be renamed ‘Next Steps’ and will be used by secondees in the YOS and receiving probation practitioners to ensure that young adults understand and engage with transition, alongside the support of families, carers and other key professionals. Delivered through a series of modules, it demystifies probation supervision for the young adult and ensures that timely information is exchanged between the two services so that the sentence plan is delivered uninterrupted.  It encourages practitioners to move away from treating transition as a purely procedural task and provides practical exercises that support relationship-building and engagement. 


The transition of a young person from the Youth Custody Service (YCS) into the adult prison estate can be a critical period in the young person’s journey through custody. It is imperative that this is carefully planned, is focused on the young person, meets their needs and takes place in a collaborative and multi-disciplinary way with the young person at the centre of it.

Through enhanced partnership work, a centrally managed model has been developed to improve the process for placing children into the adult estate with a person-centred and consistently applied approach, to ensure that the specific needs of the individuals are met.

The new process will improve the sharing of information between the youth and adult estate to ensure more streamlined and comprehensive sentence and care planning, thereby providing a more smooth transition.

It aims to improve the experience of all young people who will be in custody beyond the age of 18 and create a consistent and transparent process that will meet the specific needs required for each individual. The new process will include the views of the child and their family/support person in decisions that are made about their future and increase awareness for staff involved in all stages of transition, of the specific needs of this age group.

The transitions guidance along with the National Probation Service Management of Young Adults Policy Framework will be available from 7th February 2022.

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