The establishment of a National Youth Justice Board in 1998 provided an opportunity to address the development of services for young people who had harmful sexual behaviours, in a more strategic and consistent manner and a significant opportunity to build an infrastructure for practice that had so far been missing.
In 1999, the ten Youth Offending Teams and Social Service Departments, NSPCC, the Police, Education, Health and G-Map, all working across Greater Manchester, successfully made a joint bid to the Youth Justice Board for a 3 year development project (AIM), with the objective of establishing policies, training and services to young people with harmful sexual behaviour. The vision from the outset was that collaboration across agencies and local authority boundaries could enable the establishment of a range of services to meet the diverse needs of these young people and their families. A Coordinator was appointed and an inter-agency steering group established.
An early piece of research by the AIM Project across Greater Manchester (Henniker & Foster 2000) discovered that over a quarter of young people charged with sexual offences had not been subject to any form of assessment. 49% of YOT workers reported significant concerns about the current approach, process and outcomes for these young people. They identified that inadequate, or no assessment led to over or under estimation of risk; a failure to provide appropriate level of services; neglect of the role of the wider family and social context both on cause of the behaviour but also the role they could play in changing or managing the behaviour. The research also showed that this area of work was characterised by inter-disciplinary conflicts and miscommunication.
An early decision was made not to establish AIM as a service provider into which agencies would refer for assessment and treatment. It was felt that having it as a specialist service would not meet the level of demand across Greater Manchester. Instead the remit of the AIM Project was to support and develop the knowledge, understanding and skills of front line practitioners in all agencies, to empower them to feel more confident in assessment and interventions with regard to harmful sexual behaviour and to develop more consistency in perspective and outcomes for young people, through the provision of training and the development of models and guidance for practice.
After the initial 3 year funding, the AIM Project continued with support from previous partners, eventually becoming self-funding through the sales of training and our publications. In 2008, The AIM Project became a registered Charity, with the objective of developing and supporting the understanding and practice of professionals working with children, young people and their families, where there are concerns about problematic or harmful sexual behaviour, through the provision of advice, information, training and the development of practice frameworks and guidance.
Last year in 2018, The AIM Project celebrated it’s 18thbirthday, highlighting the continuing need for good quality models and guidance to enable front line staff to address the challenges of harmful sexual behaviours. It now has a national focus contributing to the development of services in a wide range of agencies and local authorities across the UK and Ireland. It also contributes to national forums and discussions on the development of UK wide services, including at Westminster. The AIM Project continues to listen to practitioners and their need for ‘user friendly’ models and guidance to support their practice and to promote a multi-agency approach.
As The AIM Project continues to develop, it is attracting interest from a range of practitioners and agencies around the world and is in the process of developing partnerships with Norway, New Zealand, Spain and Germany
Development work 2000 -2018
From 2000 until 2018, The AIM Project, along with Associates and Partners developed a range of models and guidance for practitioners, including:
AIM2which is one of the most commonly used Adolescent Risk Assessment models in the UK and Ireland
AIM Under 12s– Assessment and Intervention Model re younger children and their families
Adolescent Intervention Guidance
Guidance for specific practice settings such as Education, Residential and Foster Care
Guidance on the use of Restorative Justice with HSB cases in collaboration with European partners
Guidance on the development of Policies, Procedures and Services
New Developments from the AIM Project 2019
We continue to keep our models and guidance up to date with new research, emerging practice issues and feedback from practitioners and managers, which has identified the need for more guidance for practitioners re analysis and case formulation. As part of this process, we have developed new guidance, in partnership with NSPCC, on Technology Assisted Harmful Sexual Behaviours, launched in February 2019 and we are revising three of our previous publications, AIM3, the Adolescent assessment model; AIM Adolescent Interventions Guidance and AIM Under 12s, the Assessment model for younger children; all due to be launched in summer 2019. Finally the Restorative Practice and HSB Guidance and Assessment Framework will be launched in November 2019.