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Creative project transforming lives of troubled young people, research finds


A West Midlands youth offending service is transforming the lives of troubled young people by engaging them in arts and creative projects, researchers have found.

University of Wolverhampton experts have been analysing the impact of introducing a range of arts and creative activities across Sandwell Youth Offending Service.

Sandwell YOS works with young people who may have committed very serious offences but are also often highly vulnerable to exploitation and have experienced significant trauma.

In January 2019, the service was awarded funding from the Youth Justice Board’s Serious Youth Violence Grant to help increase the use of arts.


The University’s Institute for Community Research and Development was commissioned to assess if any change was happening as a result of this programme, and how this was taking place by listening to the young people involved.

The key findings of the researchers were:

  • a reduction in breach of order by young people when taking part in creative arts activities.
  • an increase in the percentage of contacts attended by young people when taking part in creative arts activities.

Professor Laura Caulfield, Founding Chair, Institute for Community Research and Development, led the research. She said: “But following the introduction of the new creative programme, our research found improvements in young people’s engagement, confidence, well-being, and aspirations. Young people and staff at Sandwell YOS have developed new skills, and relationships between young people and staff have become more open.

“The introduction of a new, creative approach to working with young people is already showing evidence of success, but more statistical data is needed to fully assess the impact.”

Mike Botham, Sandwell Youth Offending Service Manager, said: “The experiences of the young people can lead to mistrust or suspicion of those in authority and in turn, for practitioners, sometimes the challenge of engagement can seem insurmountable.  Young people had told us that they found some of our approach to be uninspiring and removed from their reality. 

“Based on their feedback, we began thinking about how we could improve our offer to and wanted to develop ways of working which were more creative.   We recognised that the use of arts could have wide ranging benefits, and were keen to work with an academic partner to help us understand what works, and to contribute to learning about the impacts of arts on young people in the youth justice system.


“Although we are early in our journey, all the signs are very positive and we are keen to develop our work and make strong community links.  We recently became the first Youth Offending Service to receive an Arts Mark award from the Arts Council, which is a fantastic confirmation of our efforts so far.   

The research team have made a series of recommendations on the basis of the findings, including sharing evidence of the value of the project with staff and partners and identifying progression routes for the young people.

For further information about the ICRD, visit:

Further information

Picture credit: Sandwell Children's Trust

Date Issued: Thursday, 23 January 2020

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