Wednesday 31 October 2018
YCS ran "See the truth. See the potential", a recruitment campaign aimed at increasing the number of people applying to become officers at young offender institutions.
In 2016, the Charlie Taylor published his review on the youth justice system. The review set out recommendations for extensive reform of the youth custody justice system, putting education and health at the heart of the Youth Custody Service (YCS). The report recommended setting YCS up as a separate entity.
The recruitment marketing challenge was to position YCS as part of, but distinct from the adult prison estate, dedicated to supporting and guiding young people. YCS tasked GCS with creating a pipeline of candidates who were highly motivated to work with young people. Prior to the launch of YCS most applicants did not consider the difference between working with young people and adults when applying for prison officer roles. Those who did held some misconceptions about the differences in estates.
The new campaign sought to attract the right applicants and address misconceptions while alerting candidates to the challenges specific to the youth estate.
The campaign’s aim was to fill youth custody prison officer posts at five sites in the Youth Custody Service, attracting a total of 2901 applicants to 165 roles. Our goal was to increase the number of applicants specifically motivated to work with young children. Previously most staff come from retail / customer service background, and only 15% identify working with young people as a motivator.
For this campaign, YCS used specialist channels to target those with a background in working with children, or an interest in social care including volunteers in children’s sports and charities.
Focus groups and surveys showed potential applicants perceived youth as more open to change than offenders in the adult estate, which in reality is not always the case.
Focus groups and surveys with current staff made the point that working with younger offenders comes with its own set of challenges different to, but no less difficult than working in the adult estate.
It was important to us not to hide from the difficult reality of working with challenging and vulnerable young people. Instead, we encouraged applicants to look behind the behaviours and think about the reasons.
We highlighted the statistics from the Charlie Taylor review: that 38% of young people custody come from care environment; 1/3 have mental health issues; half of the 15-17 year olds in youth custody have numeracy/literacy levels expected of 7-11 year.
We created a distinct identity for YCS, complimentary to HMPPS brand, setting out differences between roles and estates.
We targeted media based on existing links and interest of young people.
Strapline: See the truth. See the potential.
By using creative straplines that revealed a double meaning at second glance, we encouraged people to think again about what they think they know about young people in custody.
The campaign launched on 23 April and immediately began attracting applications for the five sites. In the first six weeks of the campaign, we attracted over 1,600 applications, with three of the five sites meeting their recruitment need in that time.
The website was a valuable tool in telling the story of YCS, setting out our differences and challenges from the adult estate.
We used video to bring our story to life.
Our ultimate goal had been to increase the number of people specifically motivated to work with challenging young people, and we saw a 7% increase of applicants with previous experience of working with young people.