James is a seventeen year old male living on a council estate in a suburb of Greater Manchester. He lives with his mother and step-father who is the maternal father of his three younger siblings, two of which are under three years old. Mathew’s stepfather is the sole income provider within the home.
James has been unemployed since leaving school where he gained little academic success, as did the majority of his peers who are also unemployed. They spend most of their spare time walking the streets with little or nothing to occupy them.
The reason for my involvement with James was because after a day of binge drinking with his peers, James assaulted another man and his partner causing serious injury. Because of this offence James was eligible for the ISSP Programme through the seriousness route.
ISSP is the most rigorous, non-custodial intervention available for young offenders. As its name suggests it combines ‘unprecedented levels of community based surveillance with a comprehensive and sustained focus on tackling the factors that contribute to the young persons offending behaviour’ states The Youth Justice Board 2002.
James was sentenced to a 12 month Community Rehabilitation Order (CRO) with ISSP conditions. ISSP is usually for 6 months contained within the existing order and divided into two periods of high and low intensity.
* High Intensity; The first 3 months of the order contains a high period of about 25hours of contact with the YOT and partner agencies in order to occupy the young offender’s time. It also contains a night time curfew and a monitoring tag in order to prevent offending. When attached to a CRO the High Intensity phase is for 2 months.
* Low Intensity; the later period of 3 months constitutes a much lower intensity of content, a minimum of 5 hours per week. 4 months if attached to a CRO. At this stage the Tag is removed.
(Youth Justice Board 2002)
There are variances to the scheme and can be adapted for Bail and on release from custody as part of a Detention and Training Order (DTO).
There is no specific legislative order for ISSP but it is contained within the existing framework. For example S41 – 42 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (CDA) created the YOT’s which administer youth justice. YOT’s are multi disciplinary teams created by, consisting of representatives from Probation, Police, Social Work, Education, Health and other specialist agencies in an attempt to redress the fragmented approach to youth justice that existed before hand, (Home Office 1998). ISSP form part of the existing Supervision Order (SO) or a Community Rehabilitation Order which were enacted by s63-64 and s41 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 respectively. The tagging and monitoring powers are constituted under the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000, (Youth Justice Board, 2001).
Having offered a brief snap shot of the legislative framework used in response to James’s offending the second part of this section will seek to understand his actions by linking feminist political theory of youth crime to the broad psycho-social theory of Psycho-dynamics. Firstly when examining James’s situation many of the social democratic welfare based pointers to offending are not present. For example according to Devlin (1995) people are more likely to offend if they come from ‘dysfunctional’ family settings, have poor educational expectations, live in poverty, and truanted from school, these factors are not present in James’s case, so why did he offend? One possible explanation is the way that power is distributed in the family.
According to Siegel (1992) when families operate on a traditional setting of the male sole breadwinner and the mother remains at home she keeps a tight reign on her children and the power is exercised disproportionately with girls. In James’s situation the mother was at home most of the time and exercised greater control over her daughter then her sons. This links with the concept of ‘Splitting’ in Psychodynamic theory. Splitting is derived from Freudian ‘Object relations theory’ and it argues that 2 sides of James’s personality such as his conformity at home and his impetus violent aggression make war on each other, Freud S. (1940/49). For example James is angry with his mother for being strict at home but has more freedom than his sister, therefore displaces the anger with his male peers by becoming violent when drunk.
Having presented the legal framework involved in dealing with James and some of the possible theories to explain why James may have offended, this section will discuss the rational for choosing Task Centred Social Work (TCSW) as an intervention.
Task -centred social work originated in North America and was developed by Reid and Epstein in the late 1960’s. Adams et al 1998 (pg196) suggest that ‘the research project, Brief and Extended Casework, looked at the effectiveness of short term casework’. It was found that interventions that ran a lengthy spell were no less effective than those that were shortened. As James would be on the high intensity phase of the ISSP programme for 8 weeks it seemed the most appropriate method of intervention
It is generally agreed that there are five phases within the task-centred model. Doel (Adams et al 1988) suggest that they are Entry, Exploring problems, agreeing a goal (the written agreement), Planning and implementing tasks and exit.
As the point of entry for me working with James was through the court order I envisaged my first problems, it questions James reason for seeing me, i.e. it is not voluntary but as a court order and he may have been unwelcome to any service I could provide. There is also the problem of motivation and power imbalance. Dominelli (1996) suggests she sees ‘financial constraints, policy imperatives and the practitioner’s value base as setting boundaries which pre-empt the possibility of real power sharing’.
During our initial sessions when we discussed what James perceived to be factors contributing to his offending I employed many elements of the Exchange Model of assessment. The ‘exchange model’ takes the premises that the client is expert rather then the ‘Questioning Model’ which identifies the professional as expert. Through extensive use of James’s narration it empowers him to take greater control underpinning the voluntary nature of the process (Beresford & Turner1997).
It became clear early on that James’s criminogenic factors were his excessive use of alcohol, an absence of any form of structure in his life, the peers he was associating and his inability to make his own decisions when in the group, lack of victim empathy and general self esteem issues.
I came to these conclusions after visiting James’s family and consulting with them on what they perceived as the reasons for his offending, James also agreed that these were the most probable reasons. James family gave me the consent to refer him to the relevant agencies.
Agreeing the Goals/Implementing the Tasks
I referred James to Early Break (the adolescent alcohol and drugs service). On his initial appointment I introduced him to the worker and with James’s consent gave a brief overview of why he was being referred.
Absence of structure
Through my initial sessions with James he explained that he wanted employment/training within the building industry. I was able to arrange an interview with one of our partner agencies. I accompanied James to the interview careful not to appear too dominant, but speaking when I thought it was appropriate to convey his skills. As James as with many other young people would minimise his qualities or even worse failed to recognise he had any. James secured a training placement with the agency.
A referral was made to Connexions and appointments made to assist James finding full-time employment.
Self esteem/Decision making
I would meet with James twice weekly. During one of these sessions I would use cognitive behavioural theory in an attempt to allow James to make his own decisions without being under pressure from his peers. ‘Cognitive behavioural therapy is now recognised as an effective way of eliciting positive change in anti-social or offending behaviour’ NACRO Briefing 2000.
I attempted to enhance James’s ability to resist peer group pressure by teaching alternative responses to aggression and assertiveness training. Moral reasoning was used in sessions; here I attempted to show James the ability to see situations from the viewpoint of others, here self-centred reasoning may be reduced.
During the other session I would conduct a weekly review. Here I would discuss the programme and its content with James. Any potential problems would be discussed and hopefully resolved at this point.
I referred James to the Victim Liaison Officer to explore James’s view of the damage he had inflicted on his victim and their family. I also assisted him in compiling a letter of apology to the victim; this was never sent because when the victim was contacted and refused any form of contact from James.
I would visit James’s family on a weekly basis and discuss his progress; I would also consult with them on ways I could assist both James and his family in anyway.
As the reason for my involvement was through a court order the exit was planned by the nature of the programme ending. This was after a period of 6 months. However due to my placement I was able to continue working with James as his case manager. Due to his continued good progress I made the decision to write to the courts and ask for James’s order to be revoked.
Having established the interventions this paper will conclude my reflections on the outcome and what I may have done differently.
When working with James I was always conscious that the programme had to be designed to match his learning abilities. Sessions were taught creatively combining active and reflective components, these included role-playing, alternative thinking exercises, problem solving, scenarios setting and exchanges of life experiences. Each session had to be attainable for then to have any positive impact for change.
During the intervention James’s training placement broke down. When I questioned James why this happened he explained that one of the teachers had insulted him by asking him if he had learning difficulties, this was said in a derogatory manner. James reacted in an aggressive manner and was eventually asked to leave the placement. Although I did not condone James’s behaviour I gave him the opportunity, in fact I encouraged him to make an official complaint against the member of staff involved. As James declined I felt as though I could have done something more than do nothing. I passed this information onto both my manager and Connexions.
I feel that with this intervention James has matured and the risk of him re-offending has been reduced dramatically. His alcohol consumption has reduced dramatically and the relationship with his peers has altered with him choosing not to become involved with their anti-social behaviour. This is expressed by both James and his family. Unfortunately James continues to look for full-time employment; he tells me this will get a lot easier when he turns 18 and he is able to sign up with the employment agencies.
Having, in consultation with my manager, took the decision to ask for the Order to be revoked, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a letter from the judge saying that he was pleased with James’s progress and was willing to revoke the order but would like to review this in September. This, I am told is a significant move from the Judge. A copy of this letter can be seen within this Portfolio.