7. Links between Decision Makers and Service Providers
Why create and maintain good links?
Relationships between service providers and decision makers are vital to making diversion a success, including the sharing of relevant and appropriate information. Evidence 7 demonstrates that the ability of the Procurator Fiscal and the Diversion Programme Co-coordinator/contact (see below) to discuss the suitability of a case and the available option is fundamental to the process. If possible, this should be formalised to one or more of the following:
- Weekly/fortnightly meetings between relevant organisations and the Procurator Fiscal;
- The use of a 'prompt system' to confirm whether diversion has been considered;
- Regular phone calls; and
- Visits/awareness raising events.
A central co-ordinator role is preferable to link up information from the police, social work, education, health and others involved with the child. A single point of contact within the local Procurator Fiscal Office will also assist in stream lining the process. These two things combined will make it easier to:
- help ensure consistency and continuity or the referral process;
- keep to agreed timescales;
- ensure that young people referred to the process are kept informed;
- ensure that victims of offending behaviour are updated on outcomes; and
- feed back to the Procurator Fiscal on the outcome of the case.
The central co-ordinator role could be from any agency or service involved, for example, police or social work. It is essential that the Central Coordinator has access to all relevant information.
An understanding of services that can be provided and the priorities of partner agencies will greatly assist decision makers. As diversion programmes will vary, a list of the risks and needs that can be addressed by each programme within each local authority area should be available to the Procurator Fiscal. The Procurator Fiscal can only divert cases where they know that the appropriate services are in place.
In some areas of Scotland the important links and relationships between agencies and services will already exist through multi agency Youth Justice Groups or the implementation of GIRFEC and these should be capitalised upon. Where these exist for under 16s only, consideration should be given as to whether they can be adapted to accommodate 16 and 17 year olds. This may provide savings in staff time, for example, where multi agency meetings already exist there may be a possibility of using this forum to discuss cases for diversion.
A model of possible links and process is given at Annex F. Ultimately it is understood that each local area will have varying degrees of agency input and services but building the links should create a wider appreciation of how we can work together in reducing offending behaviour and appropriately diverting 16 and 17 year olds. Evidence suggests that good local relationships can have a direct impact on the success of a diversion programme 8 .
A young person may be reported for an offence committed outwith the local authority where they live and their case may therefore be reported to a procurator fiscal office that does not have links with a social work office or service in the young person's area. This in itself should not preclude that young person from being diverted if they meet the tests set out at page 5. Every effort should be made to contact the young person's local Social Work Office to ascertain whether a service can be provided. This can be done either by the Procurator Fiscal or the local co-ordinator.
The police should also consider whether they have a role to play in flagging cases on the SPR2 as suitable for diversion. The police, during their investigations, may become aware of information that leads them to believe that the case may be suitable for diversion. The decision on this matter will remain with the Procurator Fiscal; however, it may be helpful for the Procurator Fiscal to know the police view on this matter.