Community Panel Members were commissioned by the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999. Initial pilot trials were followed by national rollout in 2001. After a national volunteer conference was held in August 2003, London-based volunteers and YOT staff commenced exploratory meetings with the objective of forming a national Association and coordination network. Reasons cited included addressing problems arising from staff turnover; the absence of adequate support for volunteers in YOTs which do not participate in local forums for pooling resources, and providing opportunities to share experiences in a new and rapidly evolving setting. 

Findings from an evaluation prepared for the Youth Justice Board prompted scepticism regarding the effectiveness of Restorative Justice in reducing re-offending, and resulted in cancellation of the volunteers’ training programmes which were piloted in 2005. In addition, National Standards published in 2004 omitted a requirement for inclusion of Panel Members in YOT Steering Groups.

A backdrop of punitive sentencing delivered young people into newly constructed Secure Training Centres to maximise occupancy of the secure estate with capacity to detain up to 3000 under-18’s. Many YOTs perceived a volunteer movement to stem the tide of withdrawal from Restorative Justice as negative and undermining. Despite discouragement, a small group of activists convened a Steering Group to establish AOPM as a not-for-profit company in 2006. The inaugural conference held in April 2008, was attended by Lord Ramsbotham and supported by volunteers from all parts of the country.

Since foundation AOPM is now a national charity campaigning for introduction of standards in training and support for Panel Members and improved access to services for young people..

•  An essential part of the children’s workforce, volunteers are empowered, valued and supported, and no longer at risk of elimination

• We successfully lobbied for introduction of a statutory requirement to educate young people in custody for the first time in 100 years, since establishment of the youth court.

• We secured the first central funding of volunteer training since introduction of the integrated youth justice system. 



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