Throughout August and September 2020. Several members of Youth Just Us, the steering group of the Staf/CYCJ Youth Justice Voices project, became Youth Justice Visionaries. The young people worked with Staf and CYCJ participation workers to develop online activities and a topic guide for workers.

The young people were commissioned on behalf of the Scottish Government to carry out this work. They developed consultation resources to gather the views of young people on what the Scottish Government’s next Youth Justice Vision and Action plan should include and also consulted on ACR Place of Safety and the extension of CHS for 16 and 17 year olds over Zoom. This included rewording the consultation questions into accessible language for young people and creating engaging and creative activities which would enable young people to share their views in a way which was fun, informative and completely anonymous over Zoom.

We would like to thank the Youth Justice Visionaries for their hard work, the partners who supported this work and a special thanks to the young people who shared their views on these important matters. We look forward to sharing findings and sharing the Scottish Government feedback and action points when it is available.

Thanks to Chris Marshall, one of the Youth Justice Visionaries who also took the time to provide feedback on what the process and opportunity meant to him, below are his answers to my questions.

Why do you think it’s important that young people are involved in the development and early stages of a consultation?

It’s important that they are involved in the early stages because we are the ones with the lived experience, the best views and approaches. We are the best at carrying out the consultation as we’ve been through it and no the best way to word things. The language you use is really important.

What did you personally gain from the experience?

Confidence. It definitely improved my confidence. I also improved my skills, like facilitation skills. It made me more focused. I gained organisational skills as I had to be punctual. I met a diverse group of young people. It helped that I have went through similar experiences [that the participants had experienced]. It meant that I could level with them, as I’ve been there and I can be more understanding. I wouldn’t say it was a satisfaction, I would describe it as empowering. I felt really empowered after the workshops, even though I was sometimes just listening. I felt empowered that they decided to come along, to take part. I also liked that no one was treated differently, we listened. It didn’t matter that we have experienced different parts of the justice system. We were all respected.

What did you enjoy about the process?

I enjoyed meeting new people. I enjoyed engaging with people I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to. We might not have had the opportunity to engage with young people online in Secure Care or with you guys to start with if it wasn’t for COVID.

Why was being a paid consultant important?

Good question. Because I don’t feel like a product. A lot of the time I feel like I’m getting used. But I felt like I’m being respected as a staff member. It’s a completely different ball game saying I have been paid or commissioned by the Scottish Government. It looks good on you CV. Volunteering and gift vouchers are great but getting paid means you can spend in on what you want, in what shop you want and you can treat yourself.

How did you find the online process?

Online is really good. Zoom works well. You can connect straight away. Like you can set up and invite people to a meeting that morning. You don’t have to work out travel and them things. But the human element of meeting face to face is away. You miss having a chat and a cup of tea which isn’t the same online.

What would you change?

The timescales. I would like a longer period of time to work on the consultation. I would like to have more groups. If we are asked to do consultations again the Scottish Government or whoever need to give us more time.

Would you do it again?

I would love to do more stuff. I think young people should be involved in future discussions, involved at all stages. Taking part in Zoom discussions and implementation. I’d like more opportunities to take discussions further. We put lots and lots of effort into this. I think when people are involving young people in consultations they should make an effort. Make things look nice. Be upfront, factor time in to be ready to quickly respond to emails, to give feedback and be upfront.

Find out more about Youth Justice Voices