SHiFT is different. We are not constrained by artificial barriers such as age limits, service thresholds or Local Authority borders, which means we are able to reach the child, stay with them, wherever they are and wherever they go.

image of two people walking through a tunnel

SHiFT works with children and young people who are caught in the destructive cycle of crime and associated behaviours. Our approach is centred around the relationship between each child and their SHiFT Guide. Our Guides work intensively with a maximum of 5 children over an 18-month period, doing whatever it takes to support and enable them to reach their potential.


SHiFT will break the destructive cycle of children and young people committing crimes, so that instead, they make a positive contribution to our society and build better lives for themselves.

Behind the headlines about gang violence, knife crime or “county lines” drug running, it is becoming clear that the existing system for tackling the rise in such offences is inadequate, expensive and ineffective.
More than two thirds – 69.3% of children released from custody in 2018 went on to reoffend in the following 12 months, a 4.7% increase over the last ten years. The price for this failure is paid not only by these young people themselves and the taxpayer, but by everyone who depends on over-stretched public services, who wants a stronger sense of community, or who suffers the pain, heartbreak, misery and fear of being a victim of crime.

Although there are lots of great professionals within Youth Offending Services, too often the system lacks focus and impact. The solution has to be more than merely expanding current capacity or repeating pleas for the existing piecemeal provision to be more “joined up”.

Infographic showing 38.4% of the 28,400 children sentenced in 2018 committed further crimes within 12 months
Infographic showing more than two thirds of children released from custody go on to reoffend

SHiFT has been founded by four of the UK’s leading innovators in social policy, all of whom have an exceptional track record of turning an initial concept into concrete change. It offers a radical blueprint for challenging the way services are designed and delivered that will produce dramatically improved outcomes at significantly lower costs.

In contrast with the £76,000 spent on keeping someone in a Young Offenders’ Institute each year or the annual £210,000 bill for each place in a Secure Children’s Home, participation in SHiFT will cost just £16,000 a year.



Breaking The Cycle diagram

At the heart of SHiFT’s model is the Breaking Cycles approach, inspired by the success of Pause, a charity where intensive therapeutic relationships with vulnerable women at risk of having multiple children taken into care, not only changed lives for the better but also saved local authorities millions of pounds.

Central to our work is the relationship the child or young person has with their “Guide.” Recruited from the very best professionals in teaching, social work, police, health and youth offending, these Guides will neither be limited by jurisdiction, shortage of time or unnecessary bureaucracy as they do whatever it takes to build trust and find a connection that can bring change.

Often for the first time in their lives, the child or young person taking part in SHiFT will have the focused, consistent and effective attention of a highly-skilled practitioner. Guides will be there for them in moments of crisis, such as after an arrest, when they are in most need of support and open to being challenged about the decisions that got them into trouble – as well as to celebrate successes, big and small. Day after day, SHiFT Guides will do whatever it takes to change each child or young person’s life so that, one day, they will no longer be needed.

Guides will not define the children or young people with whom they work by the criminal offences they have committed or their behaviour, but treat each as an individual. To develop the relationship, a Guide will have to be persistent and determined in seeking a “hook” that grabs their attention and begins to open up the chance of leading a more fulfilling life.This hook can be anything from dealing with a past trauma or wanting to be a parent themselves to having the sense of self-worth that comes from learning to swim, drive or dance. Sometimes, it can simply mean giving them the opportunity to be children before they can take a step towards becoming responsible adults.

Participants will typically spend about 18 months with SHiFT during which time they are expected to have improved literacy, numeracy and communications skills. These are the stable, strengthened foundations on which they can build a future that benefits both them and society.


Our core values centre around ensuring that young people are at the centre of everything we do.

  • We will challenge entrenched ways of thinking, continuously seeking positive change.
  • We will guarantee that diversity and inclusion are fundamental to our approach.
  • We will take intelligent risks.
  • We believe that every life, community and system can change for the better.
  • We understand the strength that comes from working in real partnership.


We believe in a society where all children and young people can be free from the destructive cycle of crime.

Despite the hard work and dedication of many professionals, the system isn’t working. Thousands of children & young people across the country, with disproportionate numbers from black and other ethnic minority communities, are involved in gangs, county lines, drug running, or knife crime. Others are on the fringes but at high risk of getting further caught up in it. This is often exacerbated by exclusion from education and the impact of adverse childhood experiences. Still more are leaving care or custody and trying to navigate complex systems of support at a time when they are particularly vulnerable to recruitment or exploitation.

The impact of the pandemic has been devastating for many young people. Lockdown, constant uncertainty, and crucially the closure of schools, has meant that more disadvantaged young people, are even more susceptible to low self-esteem, poor mental health and criminal exploitation.

Children who were just on the edge of education, are now totally out of it. They have found themselves further entangled in the destructive cycles of crime, displaying increased dangerous and risky behaviour, both in relation to themselves and the public.

At SHiFT, we are unique in our approach. We are not limited by geographical boundaries or local authority service thresholds, which means we are able to reach the child and stay with them, wherever they are and wherever they go.

Crucially, neither are we restricted by age, at SHiFT, there is no cliff edge at 18. If the child continues to need us, we will continue to work with them through the transition of childhood to adulthood. We will be there, to do whatever it takes in order to help them reach their hopes and goals.

We will be alongside them whether they are in or out of education or in or out of custody. We are not limited by service thresholds. We will help them navigate and manage their post pandemic lives. We will be there for them until they are able to break the cycle and move from a place of hopelessness to one of aspiration, enabling them to gain the skills and take the steps needed to reach their potential.

At the heart of the SHiFT approach is the nurturing relationship developed between the practitioner, who we call the SHiFT Guide, and the child, with the time to do whatever it takes to support sustained change. The Guide and the child will work systemically together across all aspects of the child’s life, from relationships with family and friends, to their interaction with statutory professionals, education and employment, whilst shifting perceptions so that children and young people are seen as an asset to society with the potential to succeed, rather than one where they are viewed as a ‘problem’.

People sitting on a bench

SHiFT Guides work with only 4-5 young people at any one time and support them for a significant amount of time, approximately 18 months. SHiFT Guides provide an intense, consistent and flexible programme of support, tailored to individual needs, enabling the child or young person to tackle destructive cycles of behaviour, develop new skills and avoid further trauma and offending.

This is a radical departure from the current model, where practitioners hold caseloads of between 10-20 children and support is often only available for a matter of weeks, as children move in and out of the thresholds of different parts of the system.

A SHiFT team consists of 5 SHiFT Guides and a Team Co-ordinator. SHiFT Guides come from a range of professional backgrounds, including social work, youth offending, education, the probation service & healthcare. This dedicated team will support between 20 to 25 children. They will work alongside and across the statutory system, ensuring duplication is avoided and scarce resources are directed and purposeful. From the outset and long after children finish the programme, SHiFT will result in significant savings to public finances.

We already have the attention and respect of central and local government. Pilots have started with three local authority partners, shaping the programme’s development and embedding the SHiFT approach into their organisations as a long-term and sustainable solution.

We are confident that SHiFT’s approach will be successful and will drive the change that is so desperately needed in the youth justice system. The requirements for that change are in place and have proven track records of success.

If you are interested in working with us and being part of the change that will enable children & young people to break free of the destructive cycle of crime, then we would love to tell you more about our work at SHiFT.

Please get in touch with Jenny Couper at for further information.