The results are in from the 2018 CYCJ Stakeholder Survey. This survey takes place every two years with our key stakeholders, in order to ensure that the work we do best serves the people who need it.
Parents and carers are sometimes an overlooked element of the wider youth justice ‘response’, yet they are often an important support to their child, are frequently the first response to problematic behaviour and, where possible, should be a key element of any care plan that is in place. With this in mind, for the first time the 2018 Survey focused predominantly on the views and needs of parents and carers. However, a small selection of views from young people and the workforce are also included.
A short report summarising the findings and discussing next steps has now been published by CYCJ.
Key findings from parents included:
- Parents and carers found their child’s contact with the justice system to be a very distressing experience; most commonly describing it as ‘frightening’, ‘overwhelming’ and ‘disempowering’.
- Some parents and carers feel that the system lacks understanding and can be discriminatory against children with disabilities, particularly Autistic Spectrum Disorders.
- Parents and carers want the system to be kind and compassionate and to “treat us like human beings and see the young person as a person not an offence.”
- There was a level of mistrust in the system and parents and carers want professionals to “be more honest and not give false promises.”
- Parents and carers also want the workforce to develop greater awareness and knowledge, typically around Autistic Spectrum Disorders.
Key findings from young people included:
- Young people perceive the youth justice system as being mostly concerned with “punishment” rather than welfare. They feel disrespected, not listened to and powerless.
- They feel that the Children’s Hearings System wields disproportionate power in that “at least with a sentence you have an end date, if you are sent to secure from the panel you don’t know when you are going to get out.”
- However, going to a Children’s Hearing was described as easier than going to Court where “they [court] don’t even pretend to listen to you”.
- Young people want the workforce to be non-judgmental and “human”, to “spend time with you and get to know you” and to form relationships based on mutual respect and trust. Most of all, they want to be heard and to be listened to.
Where do we go from here?
We feel that these findings suggest that the youth justice system is not always upholding Children’s Rights. In the short term, our workplan for 2019/2020 will include specific actions to help incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scottish youth justice practice.
We will also consider developing resources, tools and events to support and inform parents and carers, recognising them as key supports to young people.
As we strongly feel that 16 and 17 year olds should not have to attend an adult court, we will also continue the discussion and debate around this issue over the coming year, with young people, policymakers and practitioners.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to complete this survey.
Image: How parents and carers felt about their child’s contact with the justice system