- Executive Summary
- Key findings
- Download the full report
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The Youth Crime Prevention Grants (YCPG) program has been independently evaluated to contribute to the evidence base around youth crime prevention.
Projects funded through the YCPG program aim to achieve a reduction in offending behaviour and recidivism among project participants. To do this, these projects work to decrease known crime-related risk factors and increase protective factors such as sustained improvement in engagement in school, training and employment and increased connectedness with the community. The projects also develop or consolidate strong, effective partnerships among community organisations and across government initiatives, to coordinate service provision to best support young people’s needs.
A final evaluation report was completed in March 2022. This focused on the most recent two years of the projects (2020-2022) and outcomes at the end of the program as well as longer term outcomes. This evaluation builds on a previous mid-term evaluation report that considered the findings from the first two years of the program.
In reading the final evaluation report it is important that findings are considered in the context of the different communities and groups of young people that each project provides services to. Projects were developed using a partnership approach and focused on addressing local community needs. As a result, they target different needs, have different approaches to working with participants, and different outcomes.
Key findings include:
- Young people had lower rates of offending and less serious offending after exiting the program.
- There were positive changes in risk and protective factors.
- Partnerships between local agencies delivering the program remained strong and instrumental to the success of delivery.
- Program enablers and challenges were identified.
The executive summary and the full mid-term evaluation report are available below.
The Youth Crime Prevention Grants (YCPG) program is part of the Victorian Government’s response to youth offending, particularly among young recidivist offenders. The YCPG program aims to address this issue by strengthening the ability of communities to intervene early and reduce the likelihood of young people engaging in criminal behaviour.
Projects funded through the YCPG program were developed using a partnership approach and focused on addressing local community needs. As a result, they target different cohorts and have different approaches to working with participants.
The 15 projects currently funded through the YCPG program commenced implementation in August 2017 and operate in the Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Brimbank, Casey-Dandenong, Frankston, Melton, Hume, Wyndham, Ballarat, Bendigo, East Gippsland, Geelong, Horsham, Latrobe, Mildura, and Shepparton. Three additional projects were funded in Cardinia, Darebin and Wodonga between 2016 and 2018.
The Department of Justice and Community Safety (DJCS), Community Crime Prevention Unit (CCPU) engaged Evidence and Insights (E&I) to conduct an evaluation of the YCPG program. An interim evaluation report focussing on early implementation and program processes was delivered in December 2018. A mid-term evaluation report focussing on progress towards program outcomes achieved from the commencement of the YCPG program to the end of June 2019 was delivered in March 2020. This is the final report of the YCPG program and focuses on progress towards end of program and long-term outcomes from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2021.
Overall, there was evidence that young people’s participation in the YCPG program led to positive improvements in end of program and long-term outcomes for young people. However, differences in outcomes were observed across project participants and project sites which are discussed below.
Profile of participants
Of the 526 young people who had exited the YCPG program by 30 June 2021, the majority were males (77 per cent) aged between 15-19 years. Most young people were born in Australia and 11.8 per cent identified as Aboriginal.
The cohort of young people in the YCPG program had a range of identified needs. Over half of the young people (55 per cent) had current or prior substance abuse, 40 per cent (n = 209) had either a physical or mental health issue and almost a third (31 per cent) had been a victim of, or witnessed, violence.
Of the 468 young people included in the offending analysis (who exited prior to 31 March 2021), more than half (57 per cent) had been recorded by police as a victim of crime (at any time pre-, during or post- program). A substantial number had been involved in a police-recorded Family Violence (FV) incident: 48 per cent as the Other party (perpetrator) and 36 per cent as the Affected Family Member (AFM or victim survivor).
Two cohorts of participants were identified based on whether they had a police record of offending prior to entering the program. The Young offender cohort were those participants who had any police-recorded offending prior to entering the YCPG program. The At risk cohort were those participants who had no offending history prior to entering the YCPG program. Sixty-nine per cent of participants were classified as the Young offender cohort, while the remaining 31 per cent were classified as the At risk cohort.
For the purpose of comparing program outcomes in terms of level of program completion, young people were categorised as having either a planned or unplanned exit. Planned exits were those in which young people either achieved agreed goals or outcomes, had favourable court determinations, or had sufficient services in place. Unplanned exits included young people who disengaged from the project without notice, those that moved out of the LGA, and those that were deemed unsuitable for various reasons after entering the program. Forty-seven per cent of young people had a planned exit from the program, 37 per cent had an unplanned exit, and 11 per cent exited because they received a custodial sentence or were referred into a different intensive program outside of the YCPG program. The remaining five per cent of young people exited for unknown reasons.
Progress towards achievement of outcomes
End of program outcomes
Amongst the small number of young people (n = 41) who completed both entry and exit surveys, 95 per cent had a positive change in at least one risk or protective factor, with an average positive change in 4.7 factors (out of a possible 20 factors). The greatest positive changes in risk and protective factors between entry and exit to the YCPG program occurred in the individual and peer domain. Specifically:
- 43.9 per cent (n = 18) of young people reported decreased substance use
- 42.5 per cent (n = 17) of young people moved to a lower ranking on Kessler’s psychological distress scale (a measure of anxiety and depression)
- 32.5 per cent of young people (n = 13) no longer had personal transition and mobility as a risk factor.
The majority of project staff and project partners agreed that participation in the YCPG program led to a decrease in crime-related risk factors and an increase in protective factors (81.4 per cent), improved relationships with families (83.7 per cent) and with the community (83.8 per cent), and a reduction in offending behaviour and recidivism (74.5 per cent).
Improvements in risk and protective factors differed according to the following participant and program characteristics:
- Males were observed to have a higher proportion of positive changes than females in all outcomes, except for school engagement.
- Young people aged 15-19 years had the greatest improvement in all outcomes, except for school engagement.
- A greater proportion of positive changes in all outcomes were observed in young people with a planned exit than those with an unplanned or custodial/intensive service support exit.
- Projects that utilised a ‘comprehensive and social competence approach’ or a ‘social competence’ only approach had a higher proportion of young people observed to have positive changes in all except two outcomes (gained employment and improved engagement in school) compared to mentoring projects. The social competence approach is similar to cognitive behavioural approaches and involves teaching new thinking and behavioural skills, such as self-control, perspective-taking, moral reasoning and problem-solving. The comprehensive approach uses a range of techniques and can combine aspects of other program types to address risk factors, such as social competence training, mentoring, counselling, and education and training.
- Although projects focussed on addressing specific risk and protective factors, the data showed that Frankston had the greatest proportion of young people observed with improved engagement in training (69.6 per cent), improved relationships with families or peers (60.9 per cent), and increased connectedness with community (65.2 per cent).
- Latrobe had the greatest proportion of young people observed with improved engagement in school (47.5 per cent).
- Brimbank had the highest proportion of young people observed to have gained employment (37.2 per cent).
Stakeholders reported that projects assisted young people to increase their connection with, and perception of, government services, such as Victoria Police.
There was limited data available to determine whether the YCPG program assisted young people to have a greater understanding of the consequences of their crime or an increase in adaptive coping skills and self-efficacy.
Strong partnerships between community and government organisations were developed through most projects, which resulted in strengthened relationships, improved referrals and referral pathways and shared resources, knowledge, and skills. However, some challenges existed, including a lack of information sharing, staff turnover, different policies and procedures, and a lack of authorising environment within the governance structure.
Overall, there is evidence that young people involved in the YCPG program had lower rates of offending after exiting the program compared with prior to entering the program. However, the evaluation was not able to determine the extent to which these decreases could be directly attributed to program participation, as opposed to other interventions or custodial periods, due to this data being unavailable.
To compare offending pre- and post-program, equal pre- and post-program study periods were created. The post-program study period for each participant is the number of days between exiting the program and 30 June 2021. The pre-program study period is the same number of days prior to entering the program. Therefore, each participant will have an equal number of days in their pre- and post-program study period, however this number of days differs between participants.
For the Young offender cohort, 93 per cent offended in the pre-program study period compared to 64 per cent in the post-program study period. The program did not prevent the At risk cohort from offending entirely – 13 per cent offended post-program - however this was a much lower proportion than the Young offender cohort. Note that it is possible for a participant to be allocated to the Young offender cohort but not record offending in their pre-program study period if their only offending occurred at an earlier date.
Incident rates measured the average number of police-recorded offending incidents per person per 365 days (as a means of controlling for different observational study period lengths). For both the Young offender cohort and the At risk cohort, incident rates were lower post-program, with the At risk cohort having the lowest incident rate.
Pre- and post-program offending was analysed for the Young offender cohort. It showed a reduction in the number of participants who were recorded for offending post-program across different ages, genders, program approaches, exit types, time spent in program, study period lengths, and almost all project sites.
This is a positive finding, although the timing of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions which reduced the opportunities for young people to commit crimes, should be considered when interpreting these results.
Nevertheless, some factors showed greater reductions in post-program offending:
- Participants with a planned exit were less likely to reoffend than those with an unplanned exit. For participants with a planned exit, offending rates dropped from 96 per cent to 58 per cent post-program (down 38 per cent). In comparison, for participants with an unplanned exit, offending rates dropped from 91 per cent to 71 per cent (down 20 per cent).
- Participants who spent six months or longer on the program were less likely to reoffend than those who spent less than six months on the program. For participants who spent approximately six or more months in the program, offending rates dropped by between 31 and 40 per cent post-program. In comparison, for participants who spent less than six months in the program, offending rates dropped between 15 and 24 per cent post-program.
Offending outcomes in the medium/longer term were also positive. There were 223 participants who could be studied for approximately one year or longer pre- and post-program. Seventy-three per cent of these participants had offending recorded in their post-program study period, down from 96 per cent pre-program. This represents 53 young people who had a ‘crime free’ period of approximately one year or longer after exiting the YCPG program.
The nature of offending also changed. There was a reduction in the number of participants who recorded a ‘high seriousness’ offence (down from 71 per cent pre-program to 47 per cent post-program).
There were also reductions in the total volume of the most common offences including Theft (down 31 per cent), Burglary/break and enter offences (down 58 per cent), Property damage (down 48 per cent), Assault and related offences (down 23 per cent).
There were some exceptions to these overall positive offending outcomes:
- a 26 per cent increase in the number of Breach of order (Justice procedures) offences (includes breaches of bail conditions and family violence orders)
- an increase in COVID-19 related Breach of public health order offences (from seven to 146 post-program). This increase is due to the timing of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated public health directions rather than necessarily reflecting a ‘true’ increase in offending. As the pandemic was declared in March 2020 and associated restrictions introduced thereafter, in the latter part of the evaluation period, it follows that most restriction breach offences occurred in participants’ post-study rather than pre-study period.
There was a reduction in post-program offending in all project sites except Wyndham (which experienced a small increase from five to six participants offending post-program). Post-program offending was lowest in Ballarat (41 per cent) and Geelong (46 per cent).
There was a reduction in post-program offending for all program approaches. The largest reduction in offending was seen in the mentoring program, down from 83 per cent to 33 per cent, however this was the smallest group with only 12 participants in total.
Facilitators and challenges to program delivery
The evaluation identified the following features that facilitated program delivery:
- Project staff - employing appropriately skilled and highly experienced staff who were able to engage the cohort of young people was critical.
- Flexibility - in the length of time young people could be engaged in the project, in the types of activities project workers could engage in with young people, and in the use of brokerage funds was highly valued.
- Low caseloads - afforded project workers the time to do intensive casework with young people, build trusting relationships with them and gain a greater understanding of the interventions that might best suit their needs and circumstances.
- Working with families - helped keep young people engaged and provided greater knowledge and insight into young people’s background and current environment.
- Support and involvement from DJCS - was highly valued by projects. Community Services General Managers and dedicated Crime Prevention Officer roles acted as the conduit between the projects and DJCS.
While there are many positive aspects of the YCPG program, a number of challenges to program delivery were identified. The evaluation noted:
- Short-term funding cycle - created uncertainty for projects, resulting in some staff leaving. Management had to recruit and train new staff, and some projects stopped taking on new referrals.
- Staff turnover - impacted knowledge transfer and clarity of roles and responsibilities of workers and partners across projects. Young people would oftentimes become disengaged and make slower progress in achieving their goals when transferred to a new worker.
- Complexity of the young people - some projects found the complexity of issues amongst the target cohort was greater than anticipated, which made engagement difficult.
- Systemic barriers - long waitlists for other services, especially housing, mental health and AOD services; limited employment opportunities, which was exacerbated by COVID-19 restrictions; limited alternative education options; lack of public transport, particularly in regional areas; and difficult to navigate service system, for example Centrelink and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
- Administration - the lack of a centralised database was viewed as a limitation by projects who had workers from different agencies delivering the project. The YCPG program contractual reporting requirements and evaluation requirements were described as onerous and an administrative burden for projects.
In addition to the challenges discussed above, COVID-19 restrictions resulted in significant disruptions for agencies and impacted program delivery and the engagement of young people.
Overall, despite challenges posed by COVID-19, the YCPG program has successfully delivered a range of services and supports to improve outcomes for young people and their families who have had contact with or have demonstrated risk of being involved with the criminal justice system. The support provided has helped reduce participants’ crime-related risk factors and developed their protective factors, which has reduced their offending behaviour and recidivism.
A number of government and community agencies have been brought together to work in partnership, which has strengthened and improved the system response to this cohort of young people. The evaluation has highlighted some operational challenges which could be addressed to improve the operation of the YCPG program. The evaluation has also provided insight into how particular participant, program and partnership characteristics impact on outcomes achieved. These insights should be taken into consideration when making decisions around the future funding of the YCPG program.
The recommendations below should be assessed and actioned as appropriate.
- It is recommended that DJCS supports lead agencies to facilitate information sharing between government and community organisations where required and encourage appropriate agency representation and engagement in each project.
- It is recommended that DJCS supports projects to maintain partnerships by providing them with resources outlining the elements of successful partnerships.
- It is recommended that DJCS assists projects to improve data collection related to outcomes to inform any future evaluations of the YCPG program. The current data collection tool could be streamlined by excluding data that projects find difficult to access, such as dosage data.
- It is recommended that options for longer-term resourcing for the program are considered to support projects to achieve longer-term outcomes, and to support the recruitment and retention of skilled staff.
- It is recommended that DJCS explores the possibility of access to a shared information platform for case management purposes for all project partners/workers, particularly for projects that employ workers across different organisations.
- It is recommended that DJCS reviews YCPG projects that are delivered in the same LGAs as the Youth Justice Community Support Service, particularly where organisations deliver both programs, to ensure that there is no duplication of service offering.
- It is recommended that additional sustainability planning, such as the development of partnerships with other local service providers, be built into the delivery of projects to maximise opportunities for projects to continue in the longer term.
- It is recommended that DJCS share evaluation findings with individual projects and identify opportunities to continue to improve service delivery.
Download the full report
The executive summary and full report are available for download below.