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?

The application process

How long will the process take?

The time it takes to complete your application can vary depending on how quickly an assessment date is secured, and how long your background checks take. The application form and online tests can be done quickly.

On average, you can expect the application process to take 6-8 months in total from when you start your application to day one on the job.

We will do our best to ensure it is as quick as possible and you will be kept updated and informed at every stage of your application journey.

1. Apply online

Enter important personal details, such as your nationality and right to work in the UK. We use these to check you’re eligible to be a youth justice worker.

What you will need:

  • National Insurance number
  • evidence of your qualification at level 4 or above (if applying for the fast-track programme)

2. Online tests - stage 1

You will be invited to complete the scenario-based test, presenting you with different behavioural and numerical scenarios you might face as a youth justice worker.

Questions may mention about being a youth justice worker as we use the same tests for a prison officer application. The test takes on average 25 minutes to complete.

We are checking to see if you have the basic numeracy skills and behaviours to work in Her Majesty’s Prison & Probation Service (HMPPS).

We will let you know immediately if you pass the first stage of the online tests.

If you are successful, we will invite you to the second stage of the online tests.

3. Online tests – stage 2

You will be invited to complete a behaviour-based assessment which checks that you have the right natural strengths and preferences to become a youth justice worker. Please allow 30-50 minutes to complete.

You don’t need experience completing on-line tests, we’re just looking for your natural ability to succeed in the role.

Before you take the real test, we recommend taking the practice assessment which will help to prepare you for the real test.

You will receive information and a code on how to download the practice test and the actual test once you apply.

If you are successful, we will invite you to the Assessment & Recruitment Centre (ARC), to complete the final stage of selection.

4. Online Assessment Centre

We test to see if you have the abilities, behaviours and strengths to be a youth justice worker.

Before you attend an Online Assessment Centre, we will give you more information about what to expect and what you’ll need on the day. In the meantime, you can find out more about the tests in our blog here.

5. Background checks

When you accept an offer for an available vacancy, we carry out security and identity checks before you begin the job. This vetting can take around 12 weeks.

If a position is not available, you will be put on a reserve list. We only begin the background checks when you have accepted an available vacancy.

6. Application success

Once you have passed the online tests, assessments and background checks, you will be eligible to work as a youth justice worker.

Before you start in your role, you will undergo Prison Officer Entry Level Training (POELT) where you will learn and practise all the key skills and behaviours that are vital in the role of a youth justice worker.

Read our introduction to POELT blog

Before you start

Check if you are eligible to become a youth justice worker. You will need to:

  • be at least 18 years old
  • have the right to work in the UK
  • be reasonably fit
  • have good eyesight and hearing

If you are not a UK or EU citizen, you will need a leave to remain entitlement of approximately 30 months or more at the point you apply.

Essential skills

As a youth justice worker, we expect you to demonstrate the following personal qualities:

  • good communication and influencing skills
  • commitment to quality
  • effective decision-making
  • care and understanding

Working in youth custody

Have a go at our activity to help you understand the role of a youth custody worker. You can find out more about working in youth custody and see if you are suited to the job.

Remember, every youth justice worker’s experience is different, and while we have deliberately described some more challenging situations, we cannot show the entirety of the role in a series of short films.

See if you are right for a youth custody role

Get ready for the online tests

We use realistic scenarios to see if you have the judgement and skills to be a youth justice worker.

During the online test you will be asked how you would deal with situations you might face working in youth custody including:

  • judging the effectiveness of actions
  • solving basic numeracy and counting tasks

Practice how you would handle the behavioural scenarios

Practice how you would handle the numerical scenarios

What happens at the Online Assessment Centre?

The Online Assessment Centre tests whether you have the abilities, behaviours and strengths for the job.

We will send you details of what to expect before you attend.

Role play icon Two speech balloons next to each other, offset vertically and horizontally from each other
Role plays

You will be asked to take on the role of a youth justice worker who is interacting with a child or young person in custody. You will also be asked to take on the role of a prison officer who is interacting with a prisoner in custody. You will deal with situations that are based upon real challenges that you could face in the role.


The interview looks at your strengths, and what motivates and energises you. You will need to speak and understand fluent English.

Numerical test

We use a short test to confirm you have the basic numerical skills needed to perform your duties as a youth justice worker. The format is similar to the online test.

We assess whether you can count, add, subtract, multiply and divide. You will also need to work with basic ratios and fractions, extract data from tables and read the time in the 24-hour format.

Reading and writing

We check your writing ability and whether you can use written sources to make effective decisions.

You will need to be able to write in sentences that show a reasonable understanding of grammar.

You will need to read different sources of information and write a summary of what you have read.

What happens at the medical and fitness tests?

You will be assessed on your medical and fitness ability during the security check stage of your application, after you've attended an Online Assessment Centre.

Fitness icon A stylised image of dumbell
Health check

A trained nurse will carry out a medical assessment to check you can safely take part in the fitness test.

The assessment involves hearing and eyesight tests, and basic health screening including checking your blood pressure.


We test endurance using a running bleep test between two points. We also test your upper body strength to see if you can hold a 7kg riot shield or grip a piece of equipment.


We test your eyesight, with and without glasses or contact lenses if you wear them. You will need a similar standard of vision as you would for driving in the UK.


The hearing test will consist of the ‘whisper’ test, where a nurse will test your hearing from a distance of 3 metres, without the use of a hearing aid.

Disability support

Tell us if you have a disability when you apply and we can offer reasonable adjustments to help with the online test and assessment centre.

Find out about reasonable adjustments

Job offers

If you are successful at the Assessment & Recruitment Centre (ARC), any job offer will depend on the type of vacancy.

Next available job

For a ‘pass’ vacancy for the Band 3 youth justice worker role, we make a job offer immediately if there is a position available.

If there are no positions available, you will be placed on a reserve list until the next available job vacancy.

Your successful pass from assessment day will be valid for 12 months and can be used to apply for vacancies at other youth custody locations.

Merit list

For ‘merit’ vacancies for the Band 3 youth justice worker role, successful applicants will be added to a merit once everyone has been to the assessment centre.

Job offers will be made first to the people who performed best at the assessment centre as positions become available.

You can stay on the merit list for 12 months. After this, you’ll need to apply again.

  • Plan for jobs logo