The SNP Government has committed an extra £1.6m to prevent young people being drawn into crime.
The funding will be allocated to local authorities over the next two years to strengthen youth justice services, including extending some of these up to the age of 21, and up to 26 for young people with experience of the care system.
Young people at risk of becoming drawn into serious offending will receive more co-ordinated support and early intervention using the ‘whole system approach’.
This involves partners from across education, social work, police and the third sector working together to intervene early and prevent offending.
This approach to youth justice has contributed to an 82% reduction in children being referred to the children’s reporter on offence grounds since 2006-7 and a 78% fall in the number of under 18-year-olds being prosecuted during the same period.
The number of young people in custody has declined by 66% over the past decade.
An extra £800,000 per year in 2018/19 and 2019/20 will now be invested in re-energising and extending the whole system approach.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf MSP said:
“Preventing offending is integral to creating safer communities. To achieve that, a range of public services need to work together, targeting tailored support where it is needed most to safeguard the vulnerable and keep Scotland's communities safe.
“I've heard directly from youth justice practitioners how successful early intervention can be, and how organisations coming together can have a huge impact on the lives of young people who are at risk.
"This extra funding will enable local authorities to extend support to young people up to the age of 26 in some cases.”
Kenneth Gibson MSP added:
“I'm very clear that the successes of the past decade, while heartening, leave no room for complacency. Rather, it motivates us all to build on that progress and ensure no individual or community is left behind.
“By enhancing the capacity of local authorities to work with partners, we can safeguard and strengthen the integrated approach to help keep crime down and communities safe."
Councillor Stephen McCabe, COSLA spokesperson for children and young people, commented:
"Local authorities working closely with the SNP Government and local partners have made a very significant impact in reducing youth offending over the last decade.
"This has been shown by the reduction of young people in custody and in the court system, as well as referrals to the children's reporter.
“That said, it is imperative these efforts are maintained and sustained to ensure the best possible outcomes for our young people, and ultimately save resources in the longer term.
"Therefore, I welcome this additional resource from the SNP Government over the next couple of years to build on the progress led by councils locally.”