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Setting out boldly: the Youth Endowment Fund marks its first major milestone


10 Oct 2019

YEF director of evidence & evaluation Jane O'Brien marks the announcement of the Youth Endowment Fund's first round of grant recipients - the start of a 10-year journey to build and share high-quality evidence on interventions to reduce the impact of violence on young lives.

Today, the Youth Endowment Fund (YEF) reached its first major landmark, announcing the first round of successful projects. The fund has committed £16.2 million over the next two years to 22 projects aiming to tackle serious crime and violence among 10 to 14-year-olds. The projects funded in this round will reach over 30,000 children across England and Wales. These range from mentoring programmes in primary schools to intense at home family therapy; from building resilience through sports and outdoor activities to engaging with young people already in trouble in police stations. (You can see a full list here.)

Currently there are a multitude of projects, programmes and activities in the youth space aiming to prevent crime. But there is not enough knowledge about what works, for whom, when or how.

That's why the YEF isn't just about funding programmes. What's different and significant is that every project we fund will also undergo a robust independent evaluation. It’s these evaluations that will fill the gaps in our understanding, build our knowledge, and contribute to the evidence base on what is effective and how it is effective at preventing young people from becoming involved in serious crime. Over time, we'll also want to explore how interventions and services work best together (acknowledging that taking part in a single programme may not be enough by itself to divert an at-risk young person from involvement in serious crime years down the track). 

Across the board, we know that there is a significant economic cost if an intervention comes too late. But in the context of serious crime and violence, the cost for young people themselves (as victims and perpetrators), their families and communities, is immeasurable. It ruins and ends young lives. By focusing on 10 to 14-year-olds (before the peak age for youth offending), our work will seek to identify risk and protective factors, find out what is effective and how different agencies work together, as well as carry out robust evaluations to find which interventions can bring about demonstrable and measurable benefits for children and young people.

As one of the newest What Works centres, we are interested in early intervention and measuring long-term outcomes. Three partners (Impetus, Social Investment Business and the Early Intervention Foundation) have come together to deliver the fund. This blend of organisations brings many strengths, including our experience of generating, disseminating and getting evidence on early interventions used across the multitude of agencies that work with children.

The first round of evaluations of our successful 22 grantees will be carried out by universities and research institutes from our new evaluator panel, who have designed evaluations appropriate to the size of each project and where it is on its evidence journey. The evaluations range from feasibility studies for innovative projects in the early stages of their journey, to pilot studies of more established programmes and efficacy trials of interventions, including a few that have good evidence from North America, which we want to test to find out how well they work here in the UK.

This round of projects and evaluations is only the start. The YEF team is working with other organisations that have expertise in the sector, getting to grips with the evidence base, identifying what we already know to be effective or ineffective based on evidence from the UK and abroad, interrogating large datasets, and working with other data scientists on how to track young people's outcomes over time. Like many of the projects we are funding, we too are at the start of a learning journey. Today marks the beginning of the first substantial investment in early intervention and evidence from the Youth Endowment Fund, with many more rounds to come over the next 10 years.

A decade allows us to take a long-term strategic approach to building the evidence base and engaging with experts and frontline practitioners across many sectors. It allows us to work with projects to test, learn and adapt, and to capacity-build to deliver at scale. It also gives us time to consider more place-based, child- and community-centred approaches, where we can evaluate how a suite of programmes might work together to prevent our young people from getting caught up in crime and serious violence. We boldly go.