These orders may last between three months and 12 months.
A referral order is usually made when a young person appears in court for the first time, and pleads guilty. Most young offenders will get a referral order for their first convicted offence. (For very minor offences, the court can order other punishments like fines. For very serious offences they can still be sent straight to custody but this is very rare).
A referral order means that the young person, and usually their parent or carer, must meet regularly with a Referral Order Panel of trained community volunteers. They will agree a contract of change to improve their behaviour and make amends to the victims of their crime, who might also be invited to attend the meetings.
A Youth Justice Service officer will be allocated to support and guide the young person during their contract, and they will meet regularly in between meetings with the Referral Order Panel. If the young person won't co-operate with this supervision, then they are taken back to Court.
When a young person successfully completes their referral order it is immediately 'spent' from their criminal record, so they usually don't have to tell anyone about it.