Challenging Justice Inequalities with children in conflict with the law

The Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice’s Research Lead, Dr Nina Vaswani and co-investigators Professor Yvette Taylor (Education) and Dr Michelle Donnelly (Law) have been awarded a prestigious Nuffield Foundation Research Grant for the project “Challenging Justice Inequalities with Children in Conflict with the Law”.  The project will also benefit from inputs from Dr Robert Porter (CELCIS) and from a group of 10 interdisciplinary academics, policymakers and practitioners.

This project acknowledges that children in conflict with the law experience significant disadvantage, including poverty, exclusion, discrimination and other adversities, such as loss and trauma. These experiences affect how children participate in or are treated by justice systems and many minoritised or vulnerable groups are over-represented in these systems. Although children in conflict with the law often face many interrelated disadvantages, there is minimal research in Scotland, or the UK, that takes an intersectional view of childhood, or considers how intersecting inequalities affect experiences of (in)justice.

Over 27 months, this project aims to address this gap and increase understanding of how the interactions between poverty, the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 (including: age, disability, gender identity, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation) and inequalities shape children’s experiences of justice in Scotland. To do so, the project will work collaboratively with a group of 10 children in conflict with the law who will be recruited to form a Young Advisory Group.  Together the Project Team and the Young Advisory Group will co-produce a unique and innovative programme of peer-led research, involving a wider group of 50 children in conflict with the law.

As well as academic outputs, the project plans to co-produce guidance for policymakers and practitioners about how children can be treated more fairly in, and be prevented from, contact with justice systems.  An accessible guide for children and families will also be produced to support them to know their rights in relation to protected characteristics and justice.

The project will commence on 1st April 2024. CYCJ’s Research Lead Nina Vaswani, who is leading on the project, said:

“We are delighted to have received this funding from the Nuffield Foundation, and are looking forward to working together with the Foundation throughout this project.

We know that children who come into contact with justice systems are some of the most vulnerable children in society, and that their contact with the justice system often disadvantages them further.  By adopting an intersectional approach, and in providing a space for children to develop and drive research in this area, the project aims to generate unique and rich knowledge about children’s lived experiences of intersectionality, inequalities and justice.

This project is timely given the recent passing of the UNCRC Incorporation Scotland Act. It will fill an important evidence gap and our guidance will provide stakeholders with the knowledge and tools to reflect on the changes needed to improve children’s justice experiences, uphold their rights and remain compliant with UNCRC.”

About the funder: This project has been funded through the Nuffield Foundation’s Research, Development & Analysis Fund. The Nuffield Foundation is an independent charitable trust with a mission to advance social well-being. It funds research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare, and Justice. The Nuffield Foundation is the founder and co-funder of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, the Ada Lovelace Institute and the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory. The Foundation has funded this project, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily the Foundation. Website:

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Children's and Young People's Centre for Justice
University of Strathclyde
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