Back in 2019 Youth Just Us was the name the young people wanted for their group that was going to help them get their voices heard, a wee bit more, than they felt it was. In youth justice issues, they felt muted. To raise awareness of how their rights weren't being looked after, we started a group, meeting every week. We were talking and as a group we took part in activities that help us build on ideas and sometimes look at things from a different perspective. Young people with experience of the care and justice systems have been able to drop in and out of Youth Just Us, throughout the year, all contributing in their own ways.

We've been able to talk to Ministers and people with influence through our group and we feel we can help care and justice experienced young people say what they want to say. As well as expressing their voices through art and fun activities they need legislative change. We felt good when by Youth Just Us asking John Swinney the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education to consider removing the age cap of 26 years for a bursary available to care leavers, he did.

A care experienced 28 year old helping steer the group was being denied access to this bursary and Youth Just Us gave him the platform to ask why if he was two years younger should his experience be so different and whether in fact his care experience had stopped. We have also met the Minister for Children and Young People Maree Todd to share our views on childhood convictions - this has now helped change the Disclosure Scotland Bill in Parliament. We have also taken part in the Independent Care Review and shared our views on rights and other issues with the Scottish Government.

Youth Just Us help us get together in safe environment where the group will be steered by the young people, driven by them. Opportunities are opened up for them and projects undertaken. Throughout COVID-19 the group have kept in contact with each other through digital platforms, showing again relationships matter and after this crisis care and justice experienced young people can't be forgot about.

At Youth Just Us we're ready to be that platform and voice for better.

This piece first appeared in the first two editions of the Youth Justice Voices newsletters:

Edition 1

Edition 2

'Youth Justice Voices' is a Scotland-wide participation project, jointly run by Staf and The Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice (CYCJ) and funded by The Life Changes Trust, which seeks to amplify the voices of care and justice experienced young people (aged 16-25) to influence national change.