Pathfinder programmes for racially minoritised children and young people

Pathfinder programmes for racially minoritised children and young people

Process and impact evaluation. Criminal justice. Adverse childhood experiences. Racially minoritised groups. Covid-19. Youth Justice Board, Brent Council and Newham Council

The Youth Justice Board (YJB) funded the Brent and Newham Pathfinders as a response to the disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on racially minoritised communities. Covid-19 was understood to be exacerbating adverse childhood experiences for some racially minoritised children. Difficult experiences in childhood can put young people at greater risk of exploitation and involvement in the criminal justice system [1].

The YJB is committed to reducing disproportionality in the criminal justice system, which is a significant challenge in the UK. Despite making up just 14% of the population, men and women from racially minoritised groups make up 25% of prisoners, while over 40% of children in custody are from racially minoritised backgrounds [2].

The Pathfinders, therefore, sought to identify and provide early support to racially minoritised children who needed it, with the aim of improving their outcomes and mitigating any negative impact of the pandemic.

About the programme

The Brent and Newham Pathfinders were funded by the YJB and implemented from October 2020 to March 2023. Brent and Newham Councils led development and delivery of the programme, working closely with voluntary and community sector (VCS) delivery partners.

The core activity delivered by the Pathfinders focused on engaging and supporting children and families. This provision consisted of:

  • One-to-one intensive support, including mentoring and wellbeing support.
  • Group-based and open-access support, including support in schools with a focus on wellbeing and transition to secondary school in Newham, and activities such as podcast recording sessions to promote children’s voices in Brent.

The Pathfinders also sought to effect change at a system level, improving services and tackling unconscious bias by delivering trauma-informed staff training in Brent and cultural humility and sensitivity staff training in Newham.




    The evaluation found the following about the core elements of the Pathfinders:

    • One-to-one support helped some children to better manage their behaviours, improve their wellbeing, engage more positively in education, and get on better with their family. Aspects of the support could potentially contribute to a reduced offending, but it was not specifically targeted at or tailored to at-risk children.
    • School-based support was a particular strength in Newham and highlighted the importance of schools in supporting children’s wellbeing and as places to embed support networks.
    • Youth participation was a particular strength in Brent and highlighted the need to amplify the voices of racially minoritised children and enable their views to inform service delivery.
    • At a system level, the Pathfinders achieved a strengthened focus on racially minoritised children, bringing together partners to support them. Joint working between the local authority, the VCS and schools showed promise of enabling effective identification and engagement.

    The evaluation findings highlighted the following learning for similar programmes:

    • When seeking to create systems change, programmes should develop a targeted programme of systems change activity, measure the longer-term impact of any training, and continue to promote children’s voices and views.
    • When commissioning and implementing programme activity, programmes should seek to deliver a focused set of activity that links to outcomes, with a clearly defined cohort of children for whom they have specific strategies in place to identify and engage.
    • In seeking to deliver a programme through partnership working, programmes must ensure meaningful involvement of the VCS, and should make use of schools as routes to identify and engage children needing support.
    • In supporting children and families, programmes should continue the work of the Pathfinders in working creatively to engage children who have not previously engaged with services, and by including parents and families in support where needed.


    The final evaluation outputs included:

    Overarching report 

    Evaluation report for Brent

    Evaluation report for Newham

    Alongside these written outputs, we contributed to a webinar hosted by the Youth Justice Board to share learning from the Pathfinder programmes. We highlighted key evaluation findings on reach and impact, as well as recommendations for future similar programmes. You can watch the webinar on the YJB’s YouTube channel.


    [1] See, for example: Liddle, M., Boswell, G., Wright, S. and Francis, V. (2016). Trauma and young offenders: A review of the research and practice literature. London: Beyond Youth Custody.
    [2] Source

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