CYCJ celebrates 10 years at The University of Strathclyde

This week marks 10 years since CYCJ arrived at The University of Strathclyde. As part of our ten year anniversary celebrations we asked some colleagues, allies and friends who share our passion for upholding the rights of children and young people to reflect on the past decade. What have we been able to achieve, and what work is still to be done in our push to better understand and support children and young people in conflict with the law? 

To read CYCJ Director Fiona Dyer’s 10 Year Anniversary blog click here

Sandy Cameron, Chair, CYCJ Executive Governance Group:

“It has been my privilege to have chaired the Executive Governance Group for CYCJ over the past 10 years and to have been able to support the great impact the team have had in relation to Scotland’s young people who find themselves entangled in the justice system.  The Centre has been at the leading edge of advocating for better ways of dealing with young people in the justice system and for improving both policy and practice at every level.  We have been able to build a strong team over the years who have developed considerable expertise which is recognised across the sector. Our commitment to the rights of children and young people is at the forefront along with our participatory approach to everything we do.  A lot has been achieved but of course there is much still to do. I am confident that given our achievements over the past 10 years the next 10 will see even more change and improvement.”

Bruce Adamson, Children & Young People’s Commissioner Scotland:

“CYCJ has had a huge impact on law, policy and practice in Scotland over the last 10 years, with children rights at the heart of their work – including through a name change to reflect the priority that they give to children. CYCJ has been a key partner for the office of the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland over the last decade, providing expert research and being a strong ally in our role to promote and safeguard the rights of children and young people. This group of amazing human rights defenders has been right at the forefront of the world leading work to reform Scotland’s approach to children in conflict with the law. Their expertise, bravery and passion has directly lead to changes in the age of criminal responsibility, new approaches to child justice and focus on restorative justice, changes to secure care and other forms of detention, a focus on remand and deaths in custody, and a commitment from Scottish Government to stop the imprisonment of children. But most importantly of all, they have given children a voice. Children who had been constantly failed and often forgotten. CYCJ has put those children’s voices at the centre of Scottish decision making, and challenged those in power to do better.

The fact that CYCJ has done so much, dealing with some of the most difficult human rights issues facing children in Scotland, with an unwavering sense of commitment, but also with such a sense of fun, is totally inspiring.”

Neil Hunter,  Principal Reporter/Chief Executive SCRA

“Its been a real pleasure and a great experience to work with CYCJ over the last 10 years and see the Centre going from strength to strength, adapting and developing their focus and influence so clearly and positively on behalf of children and young people in conflict with the law. CYCJ are at the heart of the movement to raise, respect and uphold children’s rights and human rights in both the justice and welfare systems. The staff have a real positivity, passion and belief that support, personal growth, understanding the impact of inequality, adversity and trauma and  a focus on promoting societal understanding as the key to sustainably addressing issues affecting children and young people. That’s why they are so well positioned to support the transformational work happening across our country in relation to Keeping the Promise and to support the new Childrens Care and Justice Bill becoming a reality. CYCJ fuse research, evidence, practice, policy, influence and learning into a really compelling offering across our sector –  and we have all benefitted greatly from that. Always willing to take new challenges on over the last 10 years and to help us all deliver better more responsive, rights-based support to children and young people – happy birthday….”

Rannald McTaggart & Grace Fletcher, National Youth Justice Advisory Group:

“The National Youth Justice Advisory Group benefits hugely from the support of the CYCJ as it seeks to engage with the youth justice sector and contribute to the development of policy and practice. Strong  and unwavering leadership previously by Claire Lightowler and more recently and going forward by Fiona Dyer has seen CYCJ firmly established as a champion for rights respecting justice. The passion and expertise of the CYCJ team has undoubtedly shaped Scotland’s approach to children in conflict with the law. The blend of research and practice gives the CYCJ both credibility and relevance, and provides valuable support to agencies working across complex and diverse systems where children’s rights are often overlooked. As it increasingly integrates the voices of young people into its day-to-day work, we know that the CYCJ will continue to challenge and inspire agencies to strive towards the best outcomes for children in conflict with the law.”

Stuart Allardyce, Director, Stop it Now Scotland (Former CYCJ Practice Development Advisor): 

“Over the last 10 years the CYCJ has shifted from being a centre of excellence in practice and policy about youth offending, to becoming a centre that is dedicated to promoting the rights of children in conflict with the law. In short, they fight for justice for children and young people. Always rational and evidence based, but also courageous in promoting unpopular causes such as ensuring children who harm others – who have often experienced harm and maltreatment themselves – are still recognised as children first and foremost. They are a team that are not afraid to march towards the sound of gunfire;  they don’t run away from the really challenging policy and practice issues in the children’s rights field. Over the last 10 years their work has impacted positively on the lives of innumerable children across Scotland. I’m very appreciative of what I learned working at the centre back in 2013 and I’ve watched it grow and develop with a real sense of pride over the  last 10 years. Happy birthday CYCJ, and may there be many more anniversaries in the future!”

Charlotte Morris, Former CYCJ Communications Lead:

“I didn’t quite make the full decade at CYCJ but I came close! CYCJ is such a special place. We’d joke that nobody ever really leaves, and it’s so true – I’ll always feel part of the CYCJ family. Highlights are many and memorable – from competing for the dodgiest dance move at the youth justice conference, to being inspired (and challenged) by young people to step out of my comfort zone and do things differently.

Launching Claire Lightowler’s report calling for a rights respecting justice system in 2020 was a stand out moment – so much pride and excitement, which was maintained even during the lockdown that followed. Concluding yet another successful conference, feeling exhausted but triumphant (and who can forget the 2017 hip hop session!) Creating safe spaces, both physically and virtually, for children, young people and their families to learn more about the justice system is another – especially Just the Right Space, CYCJ’s website for people to understand the justice system and engage in change. Recruiting amazing Associates to enhance CYCJ’s knowledge and learning. These are just some of the many accomplishments of which the team should be proud of.

And I’ll never forget ‘workshopping’ our new brand and the looks on some colleague’s faces when we were asked to describe what city we’d be! I could go on and on…suffice to say, CYCJ remains the best place I’ve ever worked. I’ve made lifelong friends, developed professionally and gained the confidence to move into something new. Congratulations on an amazing ten years – here’s to the next ten!”

Ross Gibson, CYCJ Practice Development Advisor:

On a personal level having the chance to undertake research has been a highlight, as was the small role I played in the work of the Independent Care Review which I believe will lead to material improvements in the lives of children and their families in Scotland.

More importantly, the past decade has seen a far greater emphasis – both at CYCJ and in the sector more broadly – upon seeking out, listening, respecting and acting on the views of children who have come into conflict with the law.  CYCJ has played a significant role in that, with Youth Just Us, Inside Out, Starr and short-term projects contributing towards recent developments in youth justice in Scotland.  Internally, creation of the Participation and Engagement strategy and representation on our executive governance group have been other highlights for me.”

Beth-Anne Logan, STARR Chair:

 “Working with CYCJ over the past 5 years has been both an honour and a privilege. Being involved in the creation, development and the delivery of the secure care national standards has been amazing. The phenomenal work that went into the “From me, for me, with me” engagement piece is one of the most special moments in my career so far. The support provided to STARR is second to none and I am forever grateful for this. I can’t believe CYCJ is only 10! It feels like they have been delivering real change in real time for so much longer. I cannot wait to see what the next 10 years bring, specifically what CYCJ looks like in a post-Promise world. ”

Kristina Moodie, CYCJ Research Associate:

“When I was reminded that it was coming up to 10 years of CYCJ and then asked to write some words about how I think CYCJ has changed over the years I was instead reminded how much many things have actually stayed the same. From the first day I started here, nearly 8 years ago, to today, I am still constantly amazed by the breadth and depth of knowledge across the whole team. I think there is a huge value in our three (now four?) CYCJ strands, of research, practice development, knowledge exchange and most recently engagement and participation. My work frequently straddles several of these strands at once, and as a researcher I find the knowledge my colleagues have from their experience of practice or of engagement and participation invaluable, I know that whatever random question I throw at them they will be able to answer and frequently in language even I can understand. I sincerely hope that aspect stays the same over the next 10 years.”

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Children's and Young People's Centre for Justice
University of Strathclyde
Lord Hope Building, Level 6
141 St. James Road Glasgow G4 0LT

(0141) 444 8622

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