News and Blogs Blogs A testament or four to Youth Just Us Youth Just Us, the Youth Justice Voices steering group led by young people with care and justice experience has recently celebrated its 2 year anniversary. The impact they have made over the last 24 months has been nothing short of extraordinary. Don't believe us? Then have a read of these glowing testimonies from our partner organisations whose young people have been involved in the group... Testimony 1: Jan Philip, Throughcare worker, Rossie Young People’s Trust Experience and impact of Youth Just Us steering group and Youth Justice Voices staff in delivering participation activities and influencing change The young people that have been involved with this group have been really in ‘awe’ at times as to how much influence they can have. The fact that their feedback has been shared with Scottish Government regards UNCRC and how this will benefit so many others. The No Knives Better Lives project was amazing and again our young people are so pleased that they have their voices on this and that they were able to give feedback on the game and changes were made because of this. "The young people have become more aware of how as a care experienced young person this can be positive – seeing older care experienced people still being active involved with the ‘care world’ and that they are choosing to do this. Often young people want to get away from being ‘care experienced’ this has shown a different lens, which is very positive." The group has provided opportunity for our young people to become more confident in speaking to others virtually – this has been quite huge for some of our young people, particularly one who would not show her face for several weeks and now is confident to speak up, give her feedback and fully engage while being seen. Being asked to say how they would like Police to interview them, discuss previous negative situations and have their voices heard was great and again gave young people a different view of how this can be different. Why the project is important and beneficial to you/ how it links with Rossie / improving the workforce The project is very important to me, Rossie and the young people. Especially during COVID it can be isolating so this has provided a great opportunity for all to be involved in current projects. "It has allowed our young people to still feel part of the ‘world’ outside of Rossie and shown them that other people are also struggling with the COVID restrictions and lockdowns. This has not been an easy time for anyone, which makes this more pivotal." Within Rossie we have various projects going on, mostly these are currently related to the Promise, so all the work that is being carried out with Youth Just Us has contributed greatly and I am sure will continue to do so. Why/ how it benefits the young people at Rossie or more widely? Young people have discussed the group out with, so other young people have become more aware of the group and how they are making positive change, at times I have had a waiting list of young people wanting to join the group. I have discussed young people’s involvement in the groups in reports and at meetings, I hope this has allowed more Social workers etc. to be aware of the work that is ongoing and open to all care experienced young people. "This provides another opportunity for young people to have their say, young people are able to use the information from group to promote their own situations." Ruth is always very welcoming, encouraging and supportive to all our young people in ensuring they feel valued, respected and important. Testimony 2: Alison Melville - Youth Justice & Children Hearings Unit Directorate for Children and Families, Scottish Government Experience and impact of Youth Just Us steering group and Youth Justice Voices staff in delivering participation activities and influencing change Our initial plans to consult on our new youth justice strategy had to be shelved due to Covid‑19 restrictions. Although timescales were tight, Ruth Kerracher was incredibly helpful in suggesting alternative methods for gathering the views of children and young people. She then worked with 4 members of the steering group, who became ‘Youth Justice Visionaries’, to develop a guide to facilitate discussions. They also carried out engagement sessions with children and young people with lived experience to discuss those areas of the system they think need to be improved. "The feedback gathered through this work was key to informing the priority areas to be addressed in our new youth justice strategy and the accompanying action plan. We are extremely grateful for the work of the Youth Justice Visionaries as supported by Ruth." Why the project is important and beneficial to you/ how it links to the Scottish Government’s work Improving participation and engagement of children and young people is one of the priority areas in our new youth justice strategy. We need to ensure that they have developmentally appropriate participation opportunities to help shape the decisions, services and supports that affect them. "Being able to access projects like Youth Just Us who have expertise in this area is vital." The staff and steering group, have been incredibly helpful and professional so far and we plan to work with them again throughout implementation of the new strategy. Testimony 3: Robert Clark, Head of Intensive Support and Throughcare, & Alison Gogh, Director, Good Shepherd Centre Why the project is important and beneficial to us? The GSC supports vulnerable children, young people and young adults. Our purpose is to provide a positive, life-changing experience for young people through individual care, education and skills development focused on promoting young people’s mental and emotional wellbeing and longer-term positive outcomes. GSC offers young people a safe, nurturing and caring environment. On-campus there are three secure care houses, a close support house & two semi-independent living cottages. GSC is one of only five centres in Scotland approved by Ministers to deliver the most intensive and restrictive form of alternative care in Scotland. All of the young people we care for have experienced extreme difficulties in their lives and for the majority, they have experience of contact with both the care and justice systems. "Our experience at GSC is that these young people are often the least seldom heard and from the outset we have been fully supportive of Youth Just Us and the way in which the group connects young people with experience of the Justice system and provides a platform to amplify their voices as well as offering them many different opportunities to develop life and coping skills and build ambitions for their futures." The GSC has been involved in participation and consultation work with both CYCJ and Staf over the years. We have developed strong partnership working and this has continued with the Youth Justice Project. We were asked to be involved in the initial start-up of the Youth Justice Project which led to Youth Just Us and our experience of the project is that in a short space of time. "Youth Just Us has had a significant impact through delivering effective and democratic participation activities which have influenced decision makes at every level, for example engagement around the law and Scotland’s approach to 16 and 17 year olds, improving the GSC offer and young people’s opportunities." Our staff have attended and contributed to workshops and seminars which have strengthened our staff team’s understanding of the issues facing young people in transition on from care settings. These workshops and events have also supported our staff to develop their skills and knowledge in relation to participation and inclusion approaches, the difference between meaningful inclusion and tokenistic participation, and creative methodologies which have been led and shaped by young people. Youth Just Us and the supporting work with Staf and CYCJ helps us to further understand the current issues faced by and when supporting young people aged between 16-25 with care and justice experience and also sharing their own knowledge with the project. Why/ how it benefits the young people at GSC or more widely?One of our young people was invited to be part of the interview panel for staff for the initial recruitment for the Youth Justice Project. They were also involved in the initial workshops and discussions groups within the project which they enjoyed being part of. They were able to articulate their own views in relation to being in care and what their hopes for the future were for young people. "They made positive relationships with the staff on the Project and told us that their confidence had grown and they felt listened to." Another young person was involved in the recent Artivism project. The young person thoroughly enjoyed attending these sessions and enjoyed being involved in this project. They grew in confidence and recognised their creative expression talents. They commented that they found it beneficial and it gave them the confidence to express thoughts and feelings and to have amplify their voice through the medium and discussions of their artwork and chosen subject, Homelessness. Youth Just Us is a small project with a huge impact in our view and through Artivism and social media, the project is influencing and reaching a very wide audience cross Scotland, we fully support the extension and expansion of this much needed work. Testimony 4: Youth Just Us members Thank you to Jan, Alison, Robert and Alison for sharing their thoughts on Youth Justice Voices. Of course the views of the young people themselves are equally, if not more important, and thanks to the Floating Designer we were able to capture their views in this brilliant graphic recording. You can view the full image here. Key themes from the graphic recording Relationships: Improves well-being by giving confidence and making friends in a safe and judgment free space "It's important to have a link and connection with others who have similar experiences." Impact: It is a forum for knowledge sharing and generating which can lead to change and give young people a purpose. "We had opportunities to speak to individuals in powerful positions to influence change." Personal Development: It can improve young people's personal development by learning new skills and providing different experiences. "So many doors have opened for me' 'I took a writing course, it gave me the confidence to write." We are incredibly proud of everyone involved in Youth Just Us and hope that we can continue this life changing project for many years to come. If you're 16-25 with care & justice experience, or you know someone who is, and want to join us please contact [email protected] Youth Justice Voices is a joint collaboration between CYCJ (Children and Young People's Centre for Justice) and Staf, funded by the Life Changes Trust.