Call for Evidence

  • Many children and young people who get in to trouble with the law grow up in high-risk families with high levels of addiction, poor mental health, domestic and community violence and neglect.
  • Most have had poor educational experiences and have been outside the school system for years; not attending school, excluded or marginalised with very poor communication and critical thinking skills.
  • Many have poor mental health, often alongside poor physical health and special educational needs.
  • Half have been in the care of the state and transition to adulthood is a particular challenge.
  • Many have been influenced or groomed by criminal gangs, experience extreme levels of intimidation and violence and are victims themselves.
  • Most are boys and half in custody are Black and minority ethnic children.


We want to hear from those on the frontline, service and system leaders and commissioners, and those with lived experience.

Your contribution will help us to ensure that we are able to identify trends, new practice models and gather ideas for practice and policy solutions.

The following categories are by no means exhaustive, and we would welcome additional areas you think we should be considering.


What leads to vulnerability and crisis and why aren’t services as effective as young people and families need them to be?

Suggested areas of focus:
  • The range of drivers of risk and key transitions including
    • Care experience and disrupted family life
    • Children and young people’s mental health
    • Criminalisation of children and young people
    • Education, exclusions and special needs
    • National and local integration and funding
    • Parental wellbeing, family support needs and intergenerational stresses
    • The impact of Covid-19
    • The role of drugs and alcohol
    • The role of poverty, discrimination, homelessness/poor housing
    • The role of technology and social media

How vulnerable families and communities living in high-risk situations can be supported to strengthen their home and support environment, providing strong support for parents who are struggling and building family resilience that gives teenagers more stability, guidance, and protection.

Suggested areas of focus:
  • What does effective support for parents from early years onwards look like?
  • How should the Start for Life system and Family Hubs work for these vulnerable children and their families?
  • How we do we reduce the harms of parental imprisonment?
  • How can we reduce the number of children and young people who are homeless or in unfit housing?
  • What kinds of specific support are needed for teenage parents and parents/carers of teenagers, including post-16?

What support young people need to ensure good mental health and wellbeing and the services and support that are needed to deliver it.

Suggested areas of focus:
  • How can substance misuse services be more accessible and effective for vulnerable teenagers?
  • What needs to change in relation the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) provision for these children and young people?
  • What needs to change in relation to education of early years professionals on parent and child mental health?
  • What preventative measures can be taken in relation to the use of social media to prevent poor mental health for vulnerable teenagers?
  • What role do schools and colleges have in relation to supporting vulnerable young people’s mental health and what skills and additional services may be needed?
  • How do we respond to the impact of Covid-19 on vulnerable young people’s mental health?

How schools and colleges can be inclusive, can identify and can respond positively and proactively to young people who are at risk, and how they can support these children to progress and achieve in school, including those children with poor communication skills and/or special educational needs.

Suggested areas of focus:
  • How can vulnerable young people be supported to get the education and support they need to progress and flourish?
  • How can diversity, inclusion and equality approaches be improved within learning settings?
  • What works and what needs to change in relation to ESFA and post-16s provision and funding for these young people?
  • How can schools and colleges identify risk, safeguard and intervene appropriately and who needs to be involved?
  • What role could the national curriculum, standards and measures play in supporting life skills, inclusion and reducing exclusions?
  • What role should SEN support play in assessing the needs of children, provision and funding of appropriate support and how can we make the process more accessible to all parents/carers?
  • What is the appropriate role of PRUs, Aps and vocational colleges and how does this need to be supported?

Why a disproportionate number of children in care are getting into trouble with the law and what needs to change to prevent this and help them flourish.

Suggested areas of focus:
  • What is driving the rise in numbers of teenagers entering the care system in recent years and what other proactive and preventative approaches are or should be available?
  • How effective is the DfE protocol for local authority children’s services, local care providers, police forces, criminal justice agencies and local health services (including mental health services) on reducing criminalisation of looked after children and care leavers?
  • What are the care needs of these vulnerable teenagers and are they currently being met?
  • The NICE quality standard on the health and wellbeing of looked after children and young peopleand what measures can be taken to embed an emphasis on emotional wellbeing throughout the system? 
  • How do we give looked after children and young people voice and influence in the services that impact on their lives?
  • How can we better support and sustain children’s relationships, including where appropriate their birth family?
  • Local authorities across the UK have a duty to assess and meet care leavers’ individual needs and to develop a pathway plan, setting out the support that will be provided to the care leaver once they have left care. This should include making sure the care leaver has somewhere suitable to live.
  • How can placement instability and disrupted relationships with caregivers be reduced?
  • What provision is there for young people who are missing from care?
  • How can young people be protected from peer violence and abuse?
  • What is the role of unregulated care and how does this need to change?
  • What support to children in need require to protect them from violence, harm and exploitation?

Who should be protecting vulnerable young people from exploitation and violence? What do young people at risk need and how can this be delivered at scale?

Suggested areas of focus:
  • To what extent is the guidance on risk factors being used, reducing risk and preventing harm?
  • How well do government departments work together on these issues and what would improve this, including the role of political leadership?
  • How could the local statutory agencies protect young people more effectively?
  • How effective is partnership working and information-sharing to safeguarding young people at risk of gang-related harm?
  • How are VRUs working and what seem to the best models and why?
  • How can agencies across sector work together in an integrated way?
  • What models of commissioning and delivery work and how can these be scaled?
  • What issues should the Youth Endowment Foundation prioritise for funding and evaluation.

How can the criminal justice system work more effectively to improve outcomes for vulnerable young people?

Suggested areas of focus:
  • What would help Youth Offending Teams improve outcomes for young people?
  • How could the court process protect and support young people better?
  • Are there models of remand that would improve outcomes for young people?
  • How can young people be effectively supported in resettlement after custody and what needs to change to make this happen?

The Commission on Young Lives will design a national strategy to prevent crisis and help young people to succeed. We want to learn more about the systemic issues that drive risk and what you think can be done to reform the system nationally and locally.

Suggested areas of focus:
Please share your ideas of what such a coordinated action plan should include and the practical steps that can be taken to deliver this.

The Commission aims to address both costs and value for money. We want to bring together work that has been done on how prevention and early intervention be valued in terms of a sustainable outcome, as well as make compelling arguments for where additional investment is most needed and possible routes to that investment.

Suggested areas of focus:

Please share any examples of ‘invest to save’ evidence you are aware as well as your views on where funding is most needed and how this should be delivered.


Please add any additional questions that you think the Commission should be addressing or additional information that you think will help us in our deliberations.

We welcome your submission.  Please submit as a Word document and email it to with the subject title ‘Call for Evidence submission’, including your organisation and contact details. We would be grateful if your submission was no longer than four sides of A4. The closing date for submissions is 30th November.

Thank you for taking the time to complete this call for evidence. This will be analysed and used to inform the Commission’s work as it develops, as well the final report.

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