Are you OK with cookies?

We use small files called ‘cookies’ on Some are essential to make the site work, some help us to understand how we can improve your experience, and some are set by third parties. You can choose to turn off the non-essential cookies. Which cookies are you happy for us to use?

Skip to content

Life as a youth justice worker

As a youth justice worker, you will:

  • become part of a close-knit team helping children and young people choose to get on the right path to a better future 
  • support children and young people to manage their behaviour and attend education, training and activities 
  • help them build routines and relationships through social interactions, and help to resolve conflict when needed 

You’ll play multiple different roles in a day, acting as a mentor and also as a figure of authority. You could be offering one-to-one support and advice or supervising groups during their free time.

Children and young people in custody can be challenging, but have enormous potential for change. You will have to manage conflict, but you’ll get the training and support to do so.

Young Offender Institutions (YOIs) follow a different routine to prisons holding adults and young offenders aged over 18.

Youth justice workers improve safety and create secure conditions in YOIs. But they also focus on behaviour management and education, and support the emotional, mental and physical needs of the children and young people.

You’ll work with children and young people to address their individual needs so they are better able to lead rewarding, constructive lives in the future.

What’s it like working as a youth justice worker?

Try our interactive activity

Working pattern

After you have completed your initial training, you can choose to work either a 37, 39 or 41 hour week.

YOIs need 24/7 coverage and most work on a rolling shift pattern of 39 hours. Your shift patterns will include some nights, weekends and public and bank holidays (any public or bank holidays you work will be added to your annual leave allowance).

Shifts follow regular hours although the start and finish time may vary. An example shift pattern is shown below.

StartFinishTotal working hours

You’ll get rest days in between.

Your salary will reflect the number of hours you work. You can work overtime in certain circumstances, when available.

Where you can work

15 to 18 year olds who have been remanded or sentenced to detention are held in specialist locations.

YOIs are secure settings, which provide a safe, decent and nurturing environment for children and young people in custody. The focus is on providing outstanding levels of care and support for 15 to 18 year olds, helping them engage with education and to learn vocational skills.

There are 3 public sector youth custody establishments in England.

What’s it like working as a youth justice worker?

Simon, HM YOI Feltham

Simon has worked with thousands of children and young people in custody. He now mentors and develops new youth justice workers:

“Children and young people in custody come with complex needs and issues. They have been through a lot and left to fend for themselves, often with no positive role model in their lives.

You can’t always change the external factors but you can change their mindset.”

All you need is one little thing

“I remember a boy who was always fighting. He said he wanted to learn Spanish. He started off reading and listening to books in his cell. From there he moved onto anti-aggression books and courses on advanced thinking.

We try to be positive and find ways to break away from their current behaviours. We involve youth groups and local colleges to offer opportunities for things like music.

In many ways, working in youth custody is more collaborative than working in an adult prison.”