It’s been a few weeks since CYCJ’s excellent National Youth Justice Conference in Stirling and the team here at STAF would firstly like to thank CYCJ for such an honest and open event for us to come together, share and learn. It was a pleasure to be part of that space. Particularly myself, as a young person, it was a welcome sight to see and hear genuine optimism despite passionate and relevant issues and worries being raised.  

Secondly, we would like to thank everyone who attended our Youth Justice Voices Workshop alongside John and Jamie, it was a pleasure to have you in the space, see your reactions to an alternative method of engaging young people through movement and Augmented Reality technology, and even learn ourselves, with some excellent suggestions on how this technology could be used to benefit young people in numerous areas, from workshops like the one some of you took part in, focusing on expressing stigma, amplifying voice, agency and empowerment, to more official spaces, such as Children’s Hearings, but with the same emphasis and motivations. It is important to remember that we too as professionals must buy into alternative approaches sometimes, even if it is out of our comfort zone, for the benefit of our young people. Sheriff Mackie highlighted this perfectly in his comments, which I won’t try and emulate. 

For myself, and our Youth Justice Voices North East group, the Conference was a positive experience. It brought a clearer understanding of the evidence and motivations behind the CCJ bill, allowing me to witness experts from numerous areas across the sector engage, acknowledge, and critique the proposed changes. I was particularly interested in monitoring and evaluation. How do we ensure that these changes are not only taking place but are effective? This is something we will look to emphasise in our participation with young people, hearing their voice around the proposed changes and ensuring that young people feel that the proposed action plans outlined in the bill match their continuing experience with the care and justice systems, and if not, where they feel their needs are not being met. 

However, these are difficult conversations, and within Youth Justice Voices, no young person is ever forced to discuss their lived experience. Talking to fellow professionals, the main critique of the bill, is how digestible and accessible it is for young people. The Youth Justice Voices team have begun the process of translating the bill into language that young people can relate to, allowing them to understand decisions that affect them directly and respond accordingly if they want to. Realistically, many of the young people we work alongside are never going to read the CCJ bill cover to cover, which shouldn’t take away from the excellent co-production shown in the bill, which was the highlight of the conference for myself.  

We all have a role to play in bringing these legislative changes to life. We owe it to our young people to make these conferences and bills meaningful, relatable and impactful, so it’s not just words on a piece of paper but something which young people can actively engage with, understand and care about. The Youth Justice Conference was a step in the right direction for all the above, and the passion that fellow practitioners showed throughout was indicative of a workforce that is committed to ensuring children and young people are respected, heard and cared for.

If you'd like more information about Youth Justice Voices click here.

If you'd like more information about Youth Justice Voices North East, please email [email protected]