Theory and practice of co-production and co-creation in Youth Justice

Submission closing date: 29th August 2022

Overview of special issue

This special issue focuses on the theory and practice of co-production and co-creation in youth justice settings. This is timely, given the noticeable shift towards a participation culture as part of the Youth Justice Board’s Child First agenda in England and Wales (YJB, 2021) and recommendations for pursuing increased participatory rights-based practices to facilitate children’s meaningful involvement in the design, delivery, and evaluation of youth justice services (Peer Power/YJB 2021). Children’s ‘participatory rights’ are universal and unconditional under international children’s rights legislation (Brown, 2020; Creaney and Case, 2021).

To what extent the Child First agenda is compatible or not with other approaches and paradigms, such as trauma-informed practice, restorative justice, and the desistance model, has been under-researched and under-theorized. This special issue seeks to contribute to this (limited) knowledge base. Crucially, we are seeking manuscripts that provide rich and insightful accounts of the steps required to co-create transformative participation with children to foreground their voices in decision making.

Co-production involves prioritising children’s concerns and needs, while acknowledging their knowledge and capability to participate in shared decision-making processes as equal partners with professionals. Children, as 'experts by experience', do hold expertise on their own lives, often accrued through navigating adverse circumstances. However, the extent to which children’s perspectives are valued in the field of youth justice and whether they are considered worthy of being ‘experts by experience’ has been under explored. Thus, this special issue is seeking manuscripts (theoretical, conceptual and/or empirical contributions, including case study, literature review or viewpoint papers) that connect with these themes, which offers insight into the purpose and key features of co-production initiatives.

Co-production can be a conceptual gateway to transformation, as these relationships between children and professionals become a democratic process of co-learning and co-creation (Percy-Smith 2012). It has been argued that co-production is fundamental to the transformative potential of Child First principles in practice, but unequal power (Burns and Creaney, in press) and inspection frameworks that prioritise risk assessment, risk management and the completion of offence focused work (Day, 2022) are distinct barriers to overcome. Hence, relationships between children and professionals are worthy of exploring, amidst the backdrop of youth justice culture and structures.

We anticipate the articles in this special issue will present evidence and research both nationally and internationally, on how to reverse unequal power dynamics by utilising children’s knowledge and expertise, while also gaining trust and empathy through the sharing of lived experiences. More specifically, this involves discussion on how principles of co-production can be utilised in the field of youth justice with those under supervision.

Essentially, the purpose of this special issue is to offer a critical perspective on the facilitators and barriers to the theory and practice of co-production and co-creation in youth justice.

Potential areas of interest include (but are not limited to):

  • How Child First, restorative, trauma informed, and desistance-based models can be co-produced/co-created. 
  • Typologies, theories and models of participation and co-production.
  • Arts-based programmes and interventions  
  • Experiential peer support and mentorship
  • Co-producing resources to address access problems and to enhance engagement
  • Perspectives from practitioners and those with lived experience
  • Educational development projects and collaborative approaches to curriculum design and delivery


Bateman, T. (2020). The state of youth justice 2020. Report, National Association for Youth Justice, London.

Bond-Taylor, S and Davies, C (2019) Youth Justice Live! Flexible pedagogies in an online/offline community of practice. In: Flexible Pedagogies in Practice: Implementing flexibility in higher education through online learning communities. Sense Publishers, Rotterdam.

Brierley, A. (2021). Connecting with Young People in Trouble: Risk, Relationships and Lived Experience. Hook, UK: Waterside Press.

Brooks-Wilson, S (2020) 'Rethinking youth justice journeys: complex needs, impeded capabilities and criminalisation', Youth Justice, vol. 20, no. 3, pp. 309-327.

Brown, A (2020) A rights-based analysis of youth justice in the United Kingdom. London: Unicef.

Burns, S. (2019) Young People as Co‐producers in Policing across England. An Evaluation of the ‘Youth Commission’ on Police and Crime, Children & Society, 33 (4), 347–362.

Case, S, Creaney, S, Coleman, N, Haines, K, Little, R, Worrall, V (2020) Trusting children to enhance youth justice policy: The importance and value of children’s voices. Youth Voice Journal. 4–26.

Case, S, Browning, A (2021) The child first strategy implementation project: Realising the guiding principle for youth justice. [Full report]. Loughborough University.

Caulfield, L.S., Jolly, A., Simpson, E., and Devi-McGleish, Y. (2020). ‘It’s not just music, it helps you from inside’: Mixing methods to understand the impact of music on young people in contact with the criminal justice system. Youth Justice (Online First).

Children and Young People's Centre for Justice (CYCJ) (2021) ‘A Guide to Youth Justice in Scotland: policy, practice and legislation’.

Creaney, S. and Case, S. (2021). Promoting Social Inclusion: Participatory Rights Alternatives to Risk Discourses in Youth Justice. In: Liamputtong, P, (ed) Handbook of Social Inclusion Research and Practices in Health and Social Sciences. Singapore: Springer.

Day A-M. (2022) ‘It’s a Hard Balance to Find’: The Perspectives of Youth Justice Practitioners in England on the Place of ‘Risk’ in an Emerging ‘Child-First’ World. Youth Justice.

Haines, K, Case, S (2015) Positive Youth Justice: Children First, Offenders Second. Bristol: Policy Press.

Hampson, K (2018) Desistance approaches in youth justice: The next passing fad or a sea-change for the positive? Youth Justice 18(1): 18–33.

Hazel, N, Goodfellow, P, Liddle, M, Bateman, T, Pitts, J (2017) Now all I care about is my future – Supporting the shift: Framework for the effective resettlement of young people leaving custody. Report, Beyond Youth Custody, London.

Peer Power / Youth Justice Board (2021) Co-creation and Participation in Practice Project. Peer Power/ YJB. London.

Percy-Smith B (2012) Participation as Mediation and Social Learning. In: Baraldi C and Iervese V (eds), Participation, Facilitation, and Mediation Children and Young People in their Social Contexts, London: Routledge, pp. 12–29.

Price, J. (2020) The experience of young people transitioning between youth offending services to probation services. Probation Journal, 67(3), 246-263.

Smith, R, Gray, P (2019) The changing shape of youth justice: Models of practice. Criminology and Criminal Justice 19(5): 554–571.

Smithson, H. Gray, P. (2021). Supporting children's meaningful participation in the youth justice system. Academic Insight. Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Probation: London.

Spacey, M and Thompson, N. (2021). Beyond individual trauma: towards a multi-faceted trauma-informed restorative approach to youth justice that connects individual trauma with family reparation and recognition of bias and discrimination. British Journal of Community Justice.

UNICEF (1989). United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989, Geneva: United Nations.

Wigzell, A. (2021) NAYJ Briefing: Explaining desistance: looking forward, not backwards. London: National Association of Youth Justice.

Youth Justice Board (YJB) (2021) Strategic plan 2021–24. Report, YJB, London.

Guest editors

Dr Sean Creaney. Senior Lecturer in Criminology. Edge Hill University.

Dr Samantha Burns. Lecturer in Criminology. Durham University.

Dr Anne-Marie Day. Lecturer in Criminology. Keele University.

Submission details

Submission opening date: 10th March 2022

Submission closing date:  29th August 2022

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