The problem

It is apparent that the youth criminal justice system is failing children and young people. More than two-thirds of children released from custody in 2018 went on to re-offend in the following 12 months.

Additionally, the price to pay for the current approach is high for both the taxpayer and the young people themselves.

The most recent Ministry of Justice report cited the cost of reoffending by children and young people as £1.5 billion. It is evident that this is expensive and unsustainable for everyone.

The price for this is paid not only by these young people themselves and the taxpayer, but by everyone who depends on over-stretched public services, who wants a stronger sense of community, or who suffers the pain, heartbreak, misery and fear of being a victim of crime.

It’s really clear that the existing system for tackling youth crime is inadequate, expensive and ineffective

The solution

Transforming the way we guide and rehabilitate children and young people.

SHiFT aims to break the destructive cycle of offending behaviours in vulnerable children by radically transforming the way current services are designed and delivered in order to reduce reoffending and unnecessary public spending.

At the heart of SHiFT’s approach will be the relationship the child or young person has with a “Guide.” Recruited from the very best professionals in teaching, social work, police, health and youth offending, these Guides will neither be limited by shortage of time nor hampered by unnecessary bureaucracy as they do whatever it takes to build trust and find a connection that can bring change. Often for the first time in their lives, the child or young person taking part in SHiFT will have the focused, consistent and effective attention of a highly-skilled practitioner.

Guides will be there for them in moments of crisis, such as after an arrest, when they are in most need of support and open to being challenged about the decisions that got them into trouble – as well as to celebrate successes, big and small.

With the focused attention of a highly skilled SHiFT guide for 18 months, at-risk young people will be supported to make a positive contribution to our society and build better lives for themselves. SHiFT will focus on each child as an individual, rather than as a ‘young offender’. In contrast with the £76,000 spent on keeping someone in a Young Offenders’ Institute or the £210,000 bill for each place in a Secure Children’s Home, participation in SHiFT will cost just £17,000 a year.

SHiFT is based on the highly successful Breaking Cycles Model, used by the Pause programme for children’s services, which has been heralded as one of the most successful models for scaling a social intervention nationally; developing from operating in one local authority to 29, across three countries, in five years.

Through exploring and analysing their impact, SHiFT’s model will provide a blueprint for supporting at-risk children on a national scale; breaking the entrenched, destructive and often multigenerational cycle of offending for those already involved and those at risk of being caught up in criminal activity.

Work in action

SHiFT wants to see teams operating across the country, demonstrating best practice in working with young people in, or at risk of going into, the criminal justice system.

Those teams could be based with local authorities, schools, community organisations and other care systems. SHiFT will capture and share their learning across the first 5-7 pilots to develop and better adapt their approach to the needs of every child and young person they work with.

SHiFT will commission an external review partner to provide rigorous outcome data – including on reoffending rates – to support its objectives and bring further change.

SHiFT guides will do whatever it takes to help these young people break this destructive cycle so that instead, they make a positive contribution to society and build a better life for themselves.

The Big Changers

Sophie Humphreys, Co-Founder

Sophie founded Pause. Pause has been heralded as one of the most successful models for scaling a social intervention nationally, going from operating in only 1 to 29 local authorities, across 3 countries, in 5 years, without loss of integrity and fidelity to the core model.

An independent Department for Education evaluation found that for every £1 spent on Pause, local authority children’s services saw a saving of £1.38. Over two years this equated to a cost saving of £976,836.

It also found estimated net cost savings for local authorities of between £1.2m and £2.1m per year after the 18-month programme.

Michael Steel, Chief Executive

Michael joined SHiFT in August 2020 as Chief Executive. Prior to SHiFT, Michael founded and was Chief Exec of a healthcare business that provides urgent treatment centres to support busy NHS A&E departments across London.

With a reputation for high quality services, the organisation grew rapidly to 11 centres treating more than 750,000 patients per year.  Before that, Michael worked in strategy consulting with Booz Allen & Hamilton and founded and grew a spin-off consulting firm with three colleagues. Michael has an MBA from INSEAD and a master’s degree in Economics from Oxford University.


We’re proud to have backed SHiFT to generate impact, evidence and learning to scale up. Since being funded by Big Change, they have launched their second pilot in Greenwich after their first successful pilot in Kingston & Richmond. Their first pilot successfully supported some of the most vulnerable young people in the area: 

  • After a detailed and comprehensive scoping process, 45% of children on their Kingston and Richmond pilot were referred in via Adolescent Safeguarding Team (AST), 32% from the Leaving Care Team, 14% from Youth Justice Service (YJS) and 9% from CLA (Children Looked After).
  • Virtually all the children have been previously excluded either temporarily or permanently from mainstream education
  • 86% have been missing from school.

Their work has been recognized in a report by The Centre for Social Justice. While the data and recognition speak for themselves, young people who have received support from SHiFT have also confirmed the transformative impact of SHiFT’s work:

My guide helps me get my voice heard. He understands what I am saying, he just gets me when others don’t. Shift has supported me each time I have had to go to court and have kept me calm.