Young people explore youth in justice

A report that aims to understand how young people could become active participants in shaping improvements to youth justice policy, practice and research has been published by Scotland’s national centre for youth justice.

The Centre for Youth & Criminal Justice (CYCJ) commissioned social enterprise and charity Space Unlimited to work with a diverse range of young people, engaging them in discussing their experiences, ideas for change based on those experiences, and their thoughts on the shape of an ongoing role for young people like themselves.

The results were then evaluated in the report, entitled ‘Youth in justice: Young people explore what their role in improving youth justice should be’.

Claire Lightowler, Director of CYCJ, said: “At the Centre, a crucial part of our remit is to involve young people in improving youth justice services and supports. We were uncertain of the best way to do this – or if young people would even be interested in being involved. Space Unlimited have done an excellent job of working with these young people, and we have enjoyed being part of this innovative project as it has progressed.

“We were extremely inspired by the young people we met, and their commitment and passion to helping improve things for others. Those involved in this project have often not had the best experience of youth justice services so it’s been humbling to see how much they want to change things for the next generation. We hope that everyone reading the report will feel similarly inspired to bring about change.”

The report focuses on work undertaken with three separate groups of young people, through Action for Children (Moving on Scotland), the West Dunbartonshire Throughcare  service and Aberlour Youth Point in Glasgow, between April and November 2014.

Issues highlighted include frustration at a lack of consistency in service/interactions: “They make you go and meet with someone else who doesn’t know you and who…doesn’t seem that interested because they won’t be working you again anyway” and at feeling judged: “The three of them (on the panel) just sat there judging me…talking about what would happen to me as if I wasn’t even there”.

In the appendix, ‘Stories of change’ show how the project has influenced young people and built their confidence. ‘Brogan’ talks about how her involvement gave her the courage to ask questions of the Children’s Panel, while Shaun Murray, a practitioner with Moving on Scotland, describes how he uses his experiences to help young people achieve their goals – “I’m there to ask the right questions and make the right prompts, helping them to do things for themselves”.

There are also contributions from professionals that work with the young people. Tom Philliben, Senior Operational Manager with the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA), praises the work for proving that “young people want to be engaged in developing improvements…they want it to be real and making a difference, not just ‘lip service’”, whilst Police Scotland’s Superintendent Lesley Clark explains why she “found the experience really worthwhile…the formula for this work is innovative and should be commended and developed”.

This report follows on from the ‘Living it: Children, young people and justice’ event, which brought together young people and politicians at the Scottish Parliament, which was jointly organised by CYCJ.

Report author Owen Cook, who is Joint Managing Partner of Space Unlimited, said: “This project pushed Space Unlimited into new territory. As well as everyone we worked with to produce this report, we would like to sincerely thank CYCJ. The Centre’s insights and connections have enabled this project to reach further and deeper than we thought possible, while providing a genuine opportunity for the young people involved to effect change that is meaningful to them.”

Download ‘Youth in justice: Young people explore what their role in improving youth justice should be’.


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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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