Two Scottish Government Ministers recently visited the Centre for Youth & Criminal Justice (CYCJ), to find out more about our work and the impact that it is having on youth justice in Scotland and beyond.
Humza Yousaf MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, met with members of the CYCJ team, CYCJ’s Executive Governance Group and the School of Social Work and Social Policy at the University of Strathclyde, where CYCJ is based.
Topics discussed included practitioner support, research (with a particular focus on our trauma, loss and bereavement work), secure care and youth justice participation work, and our shared goal with Mr Yousaf of keeping children and young people out of the criminal justice system via early interventions and systems, whilst ensuring we support those who do enter the system with rehabilitation and in reducing reoffending.
Mr Yousaf, who announced in June that HMP & YOI Polmont will no longer conduct routine strip searches and asked Scottish Prison Services to undertake a pilot of in-cell phones in measures to improve the mental health of young people in custody, and to not be afraid to sometimes fail when trying new approaches. He advocated the benefits of taking a more flexible approach in our work with young people, and stressed how small actions in connecting with others can make a big difference.
Maree Todd MSP, the Minister for Children and Young People, joined a meeting of the Youth Just Us group, a Life Changes Trust funded project created by CYCJ and the Scottish Throughcare and Aftercare Forum (Staf) to ensure the voices of care and justice-experienced young people are heard in the justice system and by corporate parents, policymakers, senior managers and the Scottish Government. There was a particular emphasis on the Disclosure (Scotland) Bill, with members of the group sharing with the Minister what this means to them and having their questions answered.
“Really enjoyed tonight” tweeted Ms Todd. “Thank you for helping me to understand what I can do to help young people with care and justice experience.” The young people added that they felt “heard and listened to”.
Both Ministers gave a joint welcome address at the 2019 National Youth Justice Conference, before taking questions from young people and practitioners on issues including improvements to the Children’s Hearing System, and supporting young people who are dealing with alcohol and substance misuse.
Fiona Dyer, Interim Director of CYCJ, said:
“We were delighted to welcome Mr Yousaf and Ms Todd, following their well-received session at our annual conference. They both had expressed an interest in learning more about CYCJ, and we enjoyed sharing with them what we do, how we do it and who we do it for, and also finding out how this relates to their work and political agenda. It was good that Ms Todd had the opportunity to meet with the young people of Youth Just Us; the group is newly formed yet its members are already making impressive headway in sharing the views of care and justice experienced young people.”
If you are aged 16-25, with experience of the justice/care systems and would be interested in finding out more about how to get involved in Youth Just Us, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.