About Us

WIT's mission

Whatever It Takes will break the destructive cycle of children and young people committing crimes so that, instead, they make a positive contribution to our society and build better lives for themselves.

Behind the headlines about gang violence, knife crime or “county lines” drug running, it is becoming clear that the existing system for tackling the rise in such offences is inadequate, expensive and ineffective.

More than two thirds – 69.3% of children released from custody in 2018 went on to reoffend in the following 12 months, a 4.7% increase over the last ten years. The price for this failure is paid not only by these young people themselves and the taxpayer, but by everyone who depends on over-stretched public services, who wants a stronger sense of community, or who suffers the pain, heartbreak, misery and fear of being a victim of crime.

Although there are lots of great professionals within Youth Offending Services, too often the system lacks focus and impact. The solution has to be more than merely expanding current capacity or repeating pleas for the existing piecemeal provision to be more “joined up”.

Whatever It Takes (WIT) has been founded by four of the UK’s leading innovators in social policy, all of whom have an exceptional track record of turning an initial concept into concrete change. It offers a radical blueprint for challenging the way services are designed and delivered that will produce dramatically improved outcomes at significantly lower costs.

In contrast with the £76,000 spent on keeping someone in a Young Offenders’ Institute each year or the annual £210,000 bill for each place in a Secure Children’s Home, participation in  WIT will cost just £16,000 a year.

 

 

Breaking_Cycles_2020.png

WIT will use the Breaking Cycles Model inspired by the success of Pause, a charity where intensive therapeutic relationships with vulnerable women at risk of having multiple children taken into care, not only changed lives for the better but also saved local authorities millions of pounds.

At the heart of WIT’s approach will be the relationship the child or young person has with a “Guide.” Recruited from the very best professionals in teaching, social work, police, health and youth offending, these Guides will neither be limited by shortage of time nor hampered by unnecessary bureaucracy as they do “whatever it takes” to build trust and find a connection that can bring change. 

Often for the first time in their lives, the child or young person taking part in WIT will have the focused, consistent and effective attention of a highly-skilled practitioner. Guides will be there for them in moments of crisis, such as after an arrest, when they are in most need of support and open to being challenged about the decisions that got them into trouble – as well as to celebrate successes, big and small. Day after day, WIT Guides will do whatever it takes to change each child or young person’s life so that, one day, they will no longer be needed. 

Guides will not define the children or young people with whom they work by the criminal offences they have committed but treat each as an individual. To develop the relationship, a Guide will have to be persistent and determined in seeking a “hook” that grabs their attention and begins to open up the chance of leading a more fulfilling life. This hook can be anything from dealing with a past trauma or wanting to be a parent themselves to having the sense of self-worth that comes from learning to swim, drive or dance. Sometimes, it can simply mean giving them the opportunity to be children before they can take a step towards becoming responsible adults.

Participants will typically spend about 18 months with WIT during which time they are expected to have improved literacy, numeracy and communications skills. These are the stable, strengthened foundations on which they can build a future that benefits both them and society.

The current system is failing young people, the taxpayer and society as whole. 

There are lots of dedicated highly skilled professionals within Youth Offending Services, but the system in which they work reduces their impact. Although the numbers of children and young people being arrested continues to fall, the prevalence of certain types of crime has risen sharply in the past 10 years.

Last year the proportion of children and young people being arrested for: 

  • Possession of weapons offences increased from 3% to 16%
  • Drug offences increased by 8% to 12%
  • Violence against the person increased from 5% to 9%

Reoffending rates remain worryingly high. 38.4 % of the 28,400 children and young people sentenced in 2018 committing further crimes within 12 months.

Children and young people who reoffended committed over 44,100 crimes in this period, an average of more than four each.

Last year there were an average of 860 children in custody at any one time. But it must be of deep concern to policy makers, public servants, and everyone in our society, that no less than 69.3% of children and young people released from youth custody in 2018 went on to reoffend, a 4.7% increase in the last ten years. [1]

Youth custody is not only ineffective in preventing reoffending, it is also hugely expensive. It costs £76,000-a-year to keep someone at a Young Offenders’ Institute or £210,000 for each place in a Secure Children’s Home. [2]

The price for these failures is paid not only by these young people themselves and the taxpayer, but by everyone who depends on over-stretched public services, who wants a stronger sense of community, or who suffers the pain, heartbreak, misery and fear of being a victim of crime.

A joint report published in October 2019 by HM Inspectorate of Prison and HM Inspectorate of Probation[3] tracked 50 young people 3 months after their release from custody. At the end of the study:

  • 25 were subject to “release under investigation” where they still faced police questioning for another crime
  • 10 had already been convicted of a further offence
  • 14 were involved in “county lines”
  • 22 were involved in gangs
  • 29 of them had no parent or carers attending meetings with the authorities about what they will do and where they will live when they are released
  • 6 had gone missing

Too often, professionals from existing Youth Offending Services operate in siloes, duplicating efforts and reducing the capacity to form an effective relationship with the young person or child. The problem will not be solved merely simply by adding capacity or repeating calls for piecemeal provision to be more “joined up”. Below is a case study from the Government Justice Inspectorate Report in October 2019.

Keiron was aged 17 and a Looked After Child when he was sentenced to custody and a sexual harm prevention order for sexual offences. He lost his accommodation at that point. He did not attend education in custody and there were no interventions to address his sexual offending, although he was considered to continue to pose a risk to girls and young women.

Keiron had been advised that he could not return to his previous accommodation due to his offence. He had indicated that he did not want to return to live in the same area, as he felt this would lead to him re-offending. Keiron had no identified accommodation to return to at his pre-release meeting two weeks before release; children’s social care services did not attend that meeting.

The day before he was released, an address was found for him – at his previous placement.

Keiron turned 18 in custody and was transferred to adult services, although it was unclear why this was thought to be in his best interests, as he was entitled to continued support from children’s social care services. He was transferred to the National Probation Service and met his new probation officer for the first time, two weeks before release, in the formal setting of the pre-release meeting. He was also transferred to a different social work team because of his age.

On release, his social worker picked him up but neither of them knew which probation office he needed to report to. He also did not know which police station he was due to report to under his sexual harm prevention order. During his sentence, Keiron had three different NPS officers, two YOT officers and two social workers. He was allocated and reallocated to two probation offices in different towns. A month after release, Keiron was arrested for new sexual offences and was recalled to custody. [4]


[1] Youth Justice Statistics Bulletin, March 2019.

[2] Hansard, written questions. May 15, 2018.

[3] Youth Resettlement – final report into work in the community. Joint Justice Inspectorate, October 2019.

[4] Youth Resettlement – final report into work in the community. Joint Justice Inspectorate, October 2019.



 

Participants will typically spend about 18 months with WIT during which time they are expected to have improved literacy, numeracy and communications skills. These are the stable, strengthened foundations on which they can build a future that benefits both them and society.

Many participants will already have been involved in the gangs, “county lines” drug running, or knife crime that blights our society. Others will be on the fringes of such criminal activity but at high risk of getting further caught up in it, often because of their lack of participation in full-time education. Still more will be leaving care or custody and trying to navigate complex systems of support at a time when they are particularly vulnerable to recruitment or exploitation by organised crime.

WIT will change the short-termism that too often characterises existing provision for young people by being a constant presence in their lives, offering a stable point of focus for expert support through pre-offending behaviours and active periods of offending, custody and release, as well as shifts in policy and political priorities.

Breaking_Cycles_2020.pngThe Breaking Cycles Model drives everything at Whatever It Takes. It was inspired by the work Sophie Humphreys did at Pause, which began with a pilot project in Hackney and swiftly expanded over the next five years into 30 local authority areas across the UK. It has now worked with more than 1,000 women who had previously had more than 3,000 children taken into care. An independent Department for Education evaluation found that for every £1 spent on Pause, local authority children’s services saved £1.38. The evaluation also found estimated net cost savings for local authorities of between £1.2m and £2.1m per year after the 18-month programme.

The founding team have visited Secure Training Centres, Youth Offending Institutes and Adult Prisons across the United Kingdom where they have listened to staff, children and young people. Rebecca Cramer has spent time embedded in Youth Offending Teams understanding the current operating and reporting structures. The team workers and their managers in Youth Offending Teams are very clear: they want to be able to bring about change with the young people they are working with and they want to feel successful in their roles.

Ensuring young people involved in crime have access to education and training is pivotal to the success of WIT. Of 19 children excluded from primary school in Croydon, all went on to receive a criminal conviction.[1] There is also clear evidence young people involved in crime have missed educational opportunities through exclusion or truancy, with half of 15-17 year olds in Youth Offender Institutions having the literacy or numeracy levels expected of a 7-11 year old.[2]

Rebecca Cramer’s experience at Reach Academy Feltham will be a key component in breaking the cycle between lack of access to education and getting caught up in crime. Often WIT Guides will work closely with mainstream schools to support reintegration following a custodial sentence or other crises in the lives of the children and young people. Guides will seek to overcome barriers to learning such as dyslexia and equip participants with the skills they need to make the most of educational opportunities.

 

The cost of a child or young person participating in WIT will be £16,000 a year, or £24,000 over the course of 18 months. By comparison, the annual cost of a place in a Young Offenders’ Institute is £76,000, while a place in Secure Training Centre is £160,000 a year and a Secure Children’s Home is £210,000. [3]

The price of failing to stop the cycle of reoffending is difficult to calculate but for every individual it will run into many tens of thousands of pounds, not only for the police service and justice system, but also for other services and agencies such as health, education and welfare. One study suggested that every child and young person embarking on a lifetime of criminal activity would eventually cost the taxpayer an average of £1.2 million.[4] The final bill for society as a whole - taking into account the pain, heartbreak, misery and fear felt by victims of crime - is, of course, much higher.

Another way of looking at funding for WIT is to ask, how much is spent on our most privileged children and young people? A few years ago, the vice-Chancellor of Oxford University estimated the real cost of educating a student there was £16,000 – the exact same amount that WIT would spend on some of the UK’s least privileged young people.[5] Going to university is rightly regarded as one of the best investments anyone can make. But for local and national government, avoiding future costs - running into seven figures for every child or young person embarking on a lifetime of crime - by doing “whatever it takes” to guide them into a better life may be an even better bet.


[1] Croydon Safeguarding Children Board Vulnerable Adolescents Thematic Review, 2019:

[2] Charlie Taylor, Youth Justice Review, Department of Justice, 2016.

[3] Hansard, written questions, May 15, 2018.

[4] http://campuseducationaltrust.org/public-statement/

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/oct/28/how-much-oxbridge-undergraduate-cost