Justice for children and young people: vision and priorities 2024-26

This vision is a continuation of the previous vision that concluded June 2024. It represents a shared foundation between the Scottish Government and partners to continue to support the agenda to keep children out of the criminal justice system and promote the use of the Whole System Approach.

Ministerial Foreword

This updated vision for children and young people represents a shared foundation between the Scottish Government, key partners and children and families. It reflects our commitment to work together to prevent children from being involved in behaviour which leads them into conflict with the law, and when they do, to ensure Scotland’s response means that their rights are protected and upheld and their recovery and reintegration are promoted.

As Minister for Children, Young People and the Promise, I am determined to ensure that Scotland delivers an effective, child friendly and holistic approach to children in conflict with the law, based on prevention, early intervention, and rehabilitation.

Scotland’s response involves government, agencies, local communities, families, and stakeholders across various sectors. If we are to reduce the number of victims, and to promote better outcomes, we must continue to ensure that the root causes of each child’s behaviour are addressed. We need to understand the reasons behind a child or young person’s behaviour and take a multi-faceted approach to address them. We also need to respond to the impact of the behaviour appropriately, and in a trauma informed way.

This approach is not just about supporting children to understand the impact of their conduct on themselves and others, nor just about holding children accountable for their actions, it is about recognising each child’s potential, and providing them with the support they need to succeed. Through tailored interventions and wraparound provision, we aim to steer children away from being in conflict with the law and towards a future filled with promise and opportunity. The youth justice sector has seen dramatic successes over the years in meeting this agenda.

This Vision - originally published in June 2021 and updated here - continues to support the success around partnership working and the delivery of a whole system approach to preventing offending by children and young people across Scotland. In particular, it aims to support this Government’s commitment to ending the placement of under 18s in Young Offenders’ Institutions (YOI) in line with our pledge to keep the Promise and in light of the Children (Care and Justice) (Scotland) Act 2024, which received Royal Assent in June 2024. Other significant policy approaches on the horizon, or in train, will drive further progress. In the next period, these will include the Implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Act 2024, Age of Criminal Responsibility review and reporting, reimagining secure care, children’s hearings redesign, Bairns’ Hoose and future legislation around The Promise. A key focus needs to be on supporting the conditions necessary for successful implementation of these changes if they are to achieve their aims.

By investing in our children and providing them with the tools and opportunities they need to thrive, we not only reduce harm, crime and recidivism but also build stronger, more resilient communities.

Partners across the care and justice sectors have worked so hard over the lifetime of the previous youth justice strategy - Preventing Offending: Getting it Right for Children and Young People, and during the last three years of this Vision, to ensure that positive changes have taken effect, and that the momentum of the successes over the last 13 years continue.

Building on this progress, we must do more to avoid criminalising our children; we must ensure that their rights are upheld, and that they are supported to flourish and contribute positively to their communities. We must also do more to ensure systematic protections for the rights and interests of victims, particularly where those victims are children themselves.

We are well aware of the challenges which the COVID-19 pandemic brought and the continued recovery from this, but that experience also brought innovation and valuable learning. We recognise that the workforce needs support along with a sense of being valued and protected if they are to continue their vital contribution to getting it right for all of our children in Scotland.

Natalie Don MSP

Minister for Children, Young People and the Promise


Email: Youth.Justice@gov.scot

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