Still working with “Involuntary clients” in youth justice

Sean Creaney*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
458 Downloads (Pure)


A lack of active participation from children and young people in the design and delivery of youth justice services has culminated in the effectiveness of the Youth Justice System being reduced. There has been little independent scrutiny and to add to that strategic direction on how children’s voices are or should be accessed in practice. In the light of this, the paper explores the various challenges associated with promoting the active participation of young people who have offended. More specifically, the paper explores the difficulties engaging those who are disengaged as such individuals may perceive the support on offer as unnecessary and intrusive. The paper argues that in order to reconcile a lack of engagement and feelings of disempowerment the priority should be throughout the Youth Justice System to involve young people in decision-making processes. Ideas will be put forward with regard to how youth justice practice could become more participatory and engaging particularly with regard to those who are ‘involuntary clients’ or in other words difficult to engage. There is a dearth of ‘hard’ empirical evidence on the effectiveness of participatory approaches in youth justice. However if work with young people who offend is innovative and bespoke to allow for young people’s voices to be heard practice could become more effective. But there needs to be the recognition that the ideas put forward in this paper are not ‘magic bullets’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-54
Number of pages13
JournalBritish Journal of Community Justice
Issue number1
Early online date1 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Involuntary clients
  • Participation
  • Relationship-based practice
  • Young offenders
  • Youth justice


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