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Trauma-Informed Practices in Youth Justice and Serious Violence Prevention


Read our newly developed online toolkit, designed to bring together resources, guidance, and evidence for implementing trauma-informed practices in youth justice. 


In response to our growing understanding of the links between violence and trauma, agencies across the criminal justice sector, health and local government have increasingly adopted trauma-informed practices, aimed at raising awareness of the impacts of trauma, preventing re-traumatisation and reducing violence. While these approaches show promise, there is wide variation in the way they are understood and applied, which in turn hinders our ability to understand what works and drive meaningful change.

Additionally, while overall trends in youth justice appear to be positive, the data suggests that specific areas might require further examination. In particular, violence against the person offences and serious violence offences are decreasing at a slower rate than other types of offences. At a minimum, the figures suggest that youth justice services are faced with a higher proportion of children who have been involved in serious youth violence on their caseload. On this basis, a renewed focus on identifying and sharing what good practice looks and feels like when supporting children involved in serious youth violence is needed to help youth justice services effectively cope with their caseloads going forward.  

This research, funded by the Hadley Trust, therefore aims to gather evidence on how trauma-informed approaches are understood and applied across the different stages of the youth justice system, with a focus on how these approaches are applied with young people who have been involved, or are at risk of involvement, in serious violence offending. 

This will include understanding what makes for effective implementation from the perspective of youth justice practitioners, as well as understanding good practice from the perspective of young people working with youth justice services. 



Working in partnership with youth justice services, we will capture examples of local innovation and best practice, and use this insight to produce a learning project accessible to local areas.

In the first phase of research, over the summer of 2023, we have reviewed existing evidence on ‘what works’ in youth justice, mapping best practice approaches to serious youth violence across the stages of the system.


  • We have undertaken a rapid review of evidence on ‘what works’ in youth justice services across different stages of the youth justice system, with a focus on understanding which approaches are considered “best practice”, especially when working with children involved in serious youth violence

  • We have conducted a mapping exercise of existing youth justice approaches taken in England and Wales, including a review of inspectorate reports and service action plans 

  • We have analysed available data on youth justice outcomes, including reoffending rates and first time entrants.

  • We have held a roundtable discussion with youth justice experts, representing policy, practice and research, focused on “what good looks like” in youth justice today

In the second phase of research, lasting to early 2024, we will conduct deep dives with three partner youth justice services, to understand how trauma-informed approaches to address serious youth violence are embedded, delivered and received. 

We will conduct a mixed methods exploration of trauma-informed approaches to serious youth offending on the caseload of each youth justice service. This will involve: 


  • In depth interviews or focus groups with youth justice practitioners (or practitioners from relevant external agencies)

  • In person in depth interviews with young people who have experience working with youth justice services around serious violence offending. 

  • A document review, including policy and strategy documents, theories of change / evaluations, and training plans where relevant

  • Analysis of local youth justice service data

In the third phase of research we are planning to synthesise the findings from phases 1 and 2 to produce a learning product that can be shared across local areas (this phase is still to be confirmed). 

Project team

Sophie Davis is the former Head of Home Affairs and Justice at the Behavioural Insights Team and previously worked as a Political Advisor to the Shadow Justice Secretary and Shadow Leader of the House of Lords, advising on crime and justice policy. Alongside her role at Crest, Sophie is an elected councillor and previously served as Cabinet Member for Community Safety at Lewisham Council. Sophie is a qualified solicitor, having trained at Hogan Lovells LLP. Sophie leads Crest Insights, Crest’s in-house think-tank.

Jessica Hull joined us after completing an MSc in Gender from the London School of Economics and working with the menstrual health charity Irise International as a Communications Officer. She now manages our policy and governance work, and has drafted instructions for new legislation on public inquiries and developed statutory guidance for the Children and Young People (Jersey) Law 2022, each for the Government of Jersey. Jess co-authored published research on county lines and maternal imprisonment and led the qualitative research for a report into domestic abuse perpetrators for the Home Office. 

Isabella Ross joined Crest as an intern after working with a drug harm reduction think tank, where she delivered policy and communications content. At Crest Isabella is now an analyst, having co-authored two reports on Black perspectives on crime, policing and stop and search and supported work on the Home Office local support offer around the implementation of the Serious Violence Duty. Isabella also volunteered for the Labour Campaign for Drug Policy Reform, assisting on research and communications for the group's official recommendations to the Labour Party.

Fernanda Reynoso-Serna recently completed an M.Phil in Public Policy at the University of Cambridge. Before this, she worked at the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) where she evaluated the implementation of public policies aimed at addressing the root causes of migration in Southern Mexico and Central America. Fernanda has also worked as a protection officer in a migrant shelter in northern Mexico where she provided humanitarian aid to women, men, boys and girls. She holds a second Masters in Conflict Resolution from the University of Essex.

Get Involved

If you work in youth justice and would like to get in touch with our team about this work, please email

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