Skip to main content

Supporting vulnerable adolescents

Adolescents who are exposed to dangers such as substance abuse, criminality, and exploitation, both inside and outside the family, are at greater risk of adverse outcomes. These may include severe mental health difficulties, homelessness, physical or mental harm, periods of not being in education, employment or training, and contact with the criminal justice system. Addressing these outcomes later is costly.

In some cases, local authorities need to use their statutory powers to place adolescents on child protection plans or take them into care; some adolescents commit crimes and are detained by the courts.  Early support or help can reduce risks and help avoid these adverse outcomes.

The Department for Education is the lead department for children’s services and education. It must work with many other bodies to support adolescents at risk, including other central government departments, local authorities and other local bodies.   

This study will examine whether government understands what is needed to effectively identify and support vulnerable adolescents who are at risk of avoidable adverse outcomes, and who may need costly government interventions if their needs are not addressed. It will focus on adolescents who are not yet receiving statutory support through the social care system and examine whether: 

  • government understands which adolescents are vulnerable and the support that they need;  
  • there is a coherent approach to supporting vulnerable adolescents, with clear accountability and governance arrangements; and   
  • national and local bodies are working effectively together to identify vulnerable adolescents and meet their needs.