Are you OK with cookies?

We use small files called ‘cookies’ on PPJ.STAGING.WP.DSD.IO to give you the best experience on our site. Some are essential to make the site work, and some help us understand how people use the site so that we can improve your experience. You can choose to turn off the non-essential cookies. Which cookies are you happy for us to use?

Believe children and young people can change

You will help to create a secure and positive environment for children and young people.

You will manage day-to-day activities, offer one-to-one support and form positive relationships. You will help to build routines through education, social interactions and family relationships.

Children and young people in custody can be difficult and challenging, but have enormous potential for change.

38% of children and young people in custody come from a care environment
1/3 have mental health issues
50% of 15-17 year olds have numeracy and literacy levels of a 7-11 year old
(according to the Charlie Taylor review of the youth justice system in 2016)

Will children and young people listen to you?

Daily life

There is no such thing as a typical day. Life can depend on where you work and the children and young people you are working with.


You will usually follow a changing shift pattern of 39 hours a week. This can include some nights, weekends and public holidays (these days are added to your holiday allowance).

Shifts follow regular hours although the start and finish time may vary. An example shift pattern is shown below.

Start Finish Total working hours
Shift (A) 07:15 20:15 11.5
Late (L) 11:45 21:00 8.75
Main (M) 07:15 18:00 9.75
Early (E) 07:15 13:00 5.75
Night (N) 20:30 09:30 11
Rest (R) N/A N/A 0

See an example of a changing weekly shift pattern

Week Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Total weekly hours
1 R R N N N N N 55
2 N N R R R R R 22
3 R L M E R L M 38.75
4 M A R M L R R 38.75
5 R M E R E L A 39
6 M R L L M R R 36
7 R R A E R A M 36.5
8 M M L R L E R 36.75
9 R R L M R A E 35
10 L E R L L M R 38.25
11 R R L A M R M 36.75
12 E L E R A M R 37.75
13 R L M E R L M 38.75
14 M A R A E R R 36.5
15 R A E R L E L 36
16 E M R A A R R 37.5

"It’s about being positive"
Simon, HM YOI Feltham

Simon has worked with thousands of children and young people in custody. He now mentors and develops new youth justice workers.

Children and young people in custody come with complex needs and issues.

They have been through a lot and left to fend for themselves, often with no positive role model in their lives.

You can’t always change the external factors but you can change their mind-set.

You need to find out their interests and build from there

All you need is one little thing. I remember a boy who was always fighting. He said he wanted to learn Spanish.

He started off reading and listening to books in his cell. From there he moved onto anti-aggression books and courses on advanced thinking.

If you say ‘no’, a young person’s reaction will show if you’re doing the job right

We try to be positive and find ways to break away from their current behaviours.

We involve youth groups and local colleges to offer opportunities for things like music.

In many ways, working in youth custody is more collaborative than working in an adult prison.

Where you can work

12 to 18 year olds who have been remanded or sentenced to detention are held in specialist locations.

They follow a different routine to prisons holding adults and young offenders aged over 18.

You will create secure conditions but also focus on behaviour management and education, and supporting emotional, mental and physical needs.

  • Specialist young offender institutes (YOIs)
    Youth custody YOIs focus on helping 15-18 year old boys with education and learning vocational skills.
  • Secure training centre (STC)
    There is currently one STC in Kent. It helps 12-18 year old boys and girls to follow a usual school week. In March 2020 it will be turning into a secure school.

The 5 youth custody locations in England

Youth custody locations

Be part of the Youth Custody Service

The Youth Custody Service (YCS) is a specialist service within Her Majesty’s Prison & Probation Service (HMPPS).

We focus on the care and rehabilitation of children and young people aged 12 to 18 in custody.

Reduced numbers of young people and children are now kept in youth custody so the children and young people you are working with will be among the most challenging and vulnerable in our society.

We are changing the way we work

We’re at the start of our journey, and this is your chance to be a part of that change.

From March 2019, all staff must undertake specialist training to gain qualifications for working with young people and children. This is part of supporting the further professionalisation of our staff within our service.

We have increased staff levels, introduced new job descriptions to acknowledge the different challenges and approaches needed to support children and young people.

All Band 3 youth justice workers must complete modules 1 & 2 to progress to Band 4 youth justice worker specialist.

There is an expectation that everyone working in a youth custody location will be a Band 4 youth justice worker specialist.

As a youth justice worker, you will:

  • support children and young people in custody to live positive and crime-free lives
  • reduce the numbers of young people released from our care who reoffend
  • create an environment that is educational, safe and decent
  • improve safety and maximise opportunities for personal growth