In 2002, just a few short years after Staf itself was established, National Care Leavers Day was established. Almost 20 years later, a day has become a week, the profile of care-experienced children and young people has grown, and the case for change in our care system has become unanswerable.

This past week Staf has been celebrating the contribution of the young people involved in our projects – not only are they making their voice heard, their making change now. That was clear last week when the Youth Justice Voices project received a commendation at the Howard League Community Awards.

Youth Justice Voices is a Scotland-wide participation project between Staf and the Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice (CYCJ), which is funded by the Life Changes Trust. It seeks to amplify and share the voices of care and justice experienced young people aged 16 to 25 to influence national change. The project is led by a steering group, who call themselves ‘Youth Just Us’.

It came as no surprise that the project was recognised at the Howard League Awards, their work has been impressive. Since the project was established last year, they have met the Minister for Children and Young People to shape the Disclosure (Scotland) Bill. They’ve also been consulted on the No Knives Better Lives campaign on their new initiative to educate young people on the dangers of carrying knives. And they’ve interviewed the Deputy First Minister, calling for him to consider removing the age cap of 26 years for the Care Experienced Students Bursary – something he announced the very next week.

That’s not all. Over the past two months some of the young people came together as the Youth Justice Visionaries to undertake consultation work on behalf of the Scottish Government. They developed consultation resources and engaged with their peers online on the government’s next Youth Justice Vision and Action Plan; the ACR Place of Safety and the extension of hearing system to for 16 and 17 year olds. Four young people led the project and around 35 other young people were consulted, including young people in two Secure Care centres, through creative, fun and informative online workshops.

It’s clear that they’re not done yet. Youth Just Us, alongside the young people in Staf’s Project Return, will be giving their views to members of the Scottish Parliament’s Equality and Human Rights Committee on the UNCRC Bill. This important legislation can change lives and we’re committed to ensuring the voice of young people with care experience are at the heart of the process.

The accomplishments of the young people involved in Youth Justice Voices in less than two years is remarkable. It could not have been achieved without our valued partnership with CYCJ or the work of project lead Ruth Kerracher, supported by Kevin Lafferty at Staf and Ross Gibson at CYCJ. But most importantly, it is the young people themselves who have made the project a success. There can be no doubt that they are putting the voice of care and justice experienced young people at the heart of decision-making and that their voice will shape change in the young people’s justice and care systems in Scotland.

Find out more about Youth Justice Voices.

Book a place at our Participation Practitioners' Forum.