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Congratulations to Youth Custody Service for winning Campaign of the Month

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.

See the truth. See the potential campaign poster

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.


  • This is your opportunity to make a real difference in a young person’s life;
  • We are committed to putting children and young people at the centre of everything we do;
  • This is a real career with excellent training and opportunities for development.

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.


  • newly created website with 3 bespoke videos focusing on challenge of youth estate and on creating relationships;
  • Dedicated social media page to facilitate a two-way conversation with potential applicants and deliver relevant content to targeted audiences;
  • Blog to highlight case study of YCS staff making a difference for young people:


  • Applications to hire;
  • Candidates identifying ‘working with young people’ as a primary motivator for applying


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.


  • Over 40,000 visits to the website in month 1;
  • average visitor watched over 90% of the homepage video;
  • social media and our blog allowed YCSto have a two-way conversation with candidates.
  • over 500,000 people were reached in the first month;
  • brand awareness campaign contributed 34% of all engagements with most cost-effective element of the campaign;
  • social media direct response generated 87% of the link clicks (7,575) in total.;
  • direct response delivered a click through rate of .45% against industry standard of .47%;
  • Blog reached 5000+ with positive sentiment in comments compared to sometimes negative posts on process-specific posts

The team:

  • Stephanie Elliott – Recruitment marketing manager – MOJ
  • Lisa Rellstab – Recruitment marketing executive – Fast stream
  • Keith Coni – Head of recruitment marketing – MOJ
  • Giles Gibbins – Evaluation and insight manager – MOJ
  • Emily Chung –Senior Digital Content Manager
  • Emma Keegan – Head of Campaigns – Prison and Probation
  • Andy Robb, Tehseen Udin, Josh Low, Ollie Treend, James Devon, Alison MacLeod: MoJ Digital
  • Kate Rose: Senior HR resourcing business partner
  • Lauren Vamplew, Senior Content Developer


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