Greater Manchester: Using police data to support 'invisible' children at risk of offending

A police-led pilot initially run in Tameside and Bury and now operating across Greater Manchester seeks to use police data in collaboration with youth justice services and local authority children’s services in order to make ‘invisible’ children in need of support, visible.

View allChildren and young people articles

The challenge

It was identified that a significant cohort of young people were coming to the attention of Greater Manchester Police and an opportunity for intervention was being missed. Between June 2021 and July 2022, more than 24,000 crimes were recorded in Greater Manchester where under 18s were named as suspects. More than 60 per cent of the crimes were closed as being ‘not in the public interest’ or where the victim did not support a prosecution and therefore there was little or no intervention with the young people concerned. 

A deep dive into data surrounding children involved in serious youth violence identified missed opportunities from birth, including where young people had come into contact with the police. Children from this dataset had generally been involved in numerous crimes where formal police outcomes had not been pursued for a number of reasons. 

Other children remained ‘invisible’ to other services whilst awaiting a police outcome, for example when released under investigation, on police bail. These periods of ‘invisibility’ could last a long time as charging decisions or a decision to take no further action were made. 

It was recognised that this could lead to patterns of escalating risk and repeat offending, which signalled an unmet need in a child, not being addressed. This gave rise to the possibility of young people’s offending escalating in frequency and/or severity without a commensurate response until risk had become high.

The solution

The PIED (Prevention, Intervention, Engagement, Diversion) project is a joint initiative between Greater Manchester Police and the Violence Reduction Unit which runs in partnership with local authorities and a wider multiagency group.

Initial PIED pilots occurred in Tameside and Bury to improve the identification of and response to young people repeatedly involved with the police and to create single referral pathways into youth justice/early help or a commissioned service prevention model. However PIED, or a similar approach known as 'Engage' in Manchester now operates in all Greater Manchester areas. 

The PIED approach works on the principle of using police data to make ‘invisible’ children who need support visible to wider services, by identifying children who have come to the attention of Greater Manchester Police but have either not yet been arrested or have not yet been charged with an offence, for example they may have been released under investigation, on bail or the police may have chosen to take no further action.

Police systems are checked every 24 hours for children under the age of 18 years old identified as named suspects in a crime. Identified children are then triaged based on a number of factors and discussed at a weekly meeting with partner agencies.

Once a child has been identified by police, consent is sought for them to participate in PIED. Each district holds a weekly multi-agency meeting at which the circumstances of young people who have consented are discussed. These meetings bring together a wide partnership which includes Greater Manchester Police, Youth Justice Services (YJS), early help, enhanced nursing, sexual health services, substance misuse support and the Community Safety Partnership. 

The partnership cross-references the police data against their own systems to identify if the child is already known to services and receiving interventions. If this is the case then the PIED process ensures that their allocated worker is informed of the arrest and takes the lead on addressing the causes of their arrest and any identified unmet needs as part of their ongoing intervention. This ensures that all agencies working with a young person know when they come into contact with the police. 

For those children not currently known to services, a decision is made about possible appropriate voluntary interventions that can be offered to ensure that young people who come to the attention of Greater Manchester Police get the support they need. 

Each area has a different approach to the implementation of PIED, for example in Tameside, the Community Safety Partnership funds a youth engagement worker to support the initiative. This worker can provide a light touch, strengths-based assessment and deliver a focussed intervention that seeks to address the causes of offending as well as diverting the young person to universal services for onward support.

The impact

Between July 2020 and March 2021, in one area of the pilot (Tameside) 274 young people had been discussed at the weekly meeting and 105 had been offered direct diversionary support. For the remaining children, information regarding their contact with the police had been shared with other agencies for them to receive the appropriate support.

The pilot recently began in North Manchester and young people have been tracked through the use of the PIED and Engage approach. In October 2022 , five out of seven young people referred to PIED/Engage had not re-offended; in November, six out of eight young people did not re-offend after identification and working with restorative interventions. 

The PIED approach is also facilitating a more data-driven approach to wider early intervention, for example using PIED data to identify schools that could benefit from a greater presence of school police officers or work around community safety.

When a PIED intervention has been successful with a young person who is awaiting a charge for an outstanding police matter, PIED workers now work with YJS teams to ensure that this positive engagement is included in pre-sentence reports and helps to inform appropriate decision-making at sentencing for young people.

How the approach is being sustained

Whilst some areas have dedicated staff to address the needs of young people identified through PIED, the PIED approach does not necessarily require additional resources and instead makes use of already available police data to ‘make visible’ children that are not currently visible to services but who may require some support to prevent escalations in their offending. 

Thinking is now moving towards how the PIED approach could be expanded to support young people even earlier in their interactions with police, for example when children are identified by police as being in the company of adults who offend or who have been identified by police in high crime areas late at night.

Local areas are also mindful of integrating the approach with local community services and other existing provisions such as mentoring to ensure that young people have onward support when their PIED intervention comes to an end.

Lessons learned

The PIED approach is consent-based. The pilot has found that acknowledging the sensitivity of conversations around offending with young people and their families is crucial in establishing engagement and buy-in. Where young people have already been identified on the systems of a Youth Justice Service (YJS) due to their arrest, the police work with the YJS to identify if they are better placed to gain consent from the young person and their family, particularly in recognition of the negative experiences that some families and communities may have had with the police previously. 

The youth engagement work model of PIED allows the support to be flexible and focussed on the needs of the child, however areas have learned the importance of recognising that despite this universal youth work approach, staff will at times be supporting young people with very complex needs and who are awaiting outcomes for serious offences.

Capacity is an ongoing issue for those supporting young people through PIED and some areas are looking at how to refine the approach to tackle the potential issue of an ever-growing caseload as timelines for police investigations are uncertain. For example, considering supporting young people with multiple police contacts which have resulted in no further action (rather than all young people with a contact resulting in no further action).


[email protected], youth justice service operational manager.