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Music intervention programmes in a youth justice context

Added to website 13/11/2018. Updated 17/04/2024.

Qualitative action research project by Nottingham Trent University that explores the contribution of music intervention programmes for children in challenging circumstances, and specifically those working with a Youth Justice Intervention Team.

Executive Summary

This research project sought to explore the contribution of a music intervention programme for Children in Challenging Circumstances (CCC). CCC are invited, often under the direction of the judicial service, to undertake a series of intervention activities. One such intervention can be the provision of music sessions.

An ambition of such an intervention is to enact a positive change in the young person – either socially (e.g. teamwork, growth in social capital), personally (e.g. self-efficacy, confidence) or educationally (e.g. enhanced capability – musical understanding, digital technology).Two key questions framed this research project:

  1. Why is it presumed all young people involved with the Youth Justice Intervention Team want to work with music technology?
  2. How does a young person choose what they want to do if they do not know what the choice is?


At the heart of the project was an ambition to properly understand the value, purpose and contribution of music sessions that were provided for Children in Challenging Circumstances.
Interventions for CCC are considered a standard part of plans developed by the Youth Justice Intervention Team, in consultation with the individual. The extent of interventions vary, depending on the engagement young people have had with the Youth Justice Intervention Team and can incorporate elements of an educational curriculum, attendance at treatment or rehabilitation programmes, volunteering and work experience opportunities, as well as what are often considered extra-curricular activities, for example, sports or music activities. For some young people, the range and types of interventions are prescribed by the Courts; for others, the interventions can be negotiated, and perhaps aligned to personal interests. Within a climate of austerity and funding compromises, and the need for services to be flexible, selective and creative, this project sought to understand how music sessions were offered to CCC and how they choose them. Distinctively, this project sought to include the voice of CCC as well as other stakeholders in considering the provision of music sessions.

Research Methodology

This qualitative piece of research was undertaken during 2016/17. Participant observation, interviews and case study research methods were used to gather data from stakeholders involved in music sessions (commissions, music intervention providers, Music Facilitators and CCC). The collected data was analysed thematically and are presented as Project Findings within these 4 groups of stakeholders.


Music interventions for CCC can provide an opportunity for the development of musical knowledge and understanding, as well as personal, social and educational growth.
The idea of choice for young people in the provision of music sessions is complex and linked with demands of the Judicial Service, the expectations of Commissioners and the skills of the Music Facilitator.

There are challenges to providing sustainable opportunities for engagement in music sessions for CCC, and to develop knowledge, skills and understanding in relation to musical instruments, but these are not insurmountable.

Next Step

The full report and embedded toolkit evidence the successes and challenges of providing music intervention programmes in a Youth Justice context. Organisations and individuals providing music activities for children in challenging circumstances can benefit from absorbing the evidence.

About the Provider


soundLINCS is a not-for-profit community music organisation delivering high-quality and innovative music making opportunities for all ages, abilities and needs since 1998. Our vision is that everyone has an opportunity to be empowered through music.