Justice for children and young people - a rights-respecting approach: vision and priorities - action plan

This plan sets out the early actions towards achieving the outcomes and priorities within the rights-respecting approach to justice for children and young people – Scotland’s vision and priorities (the vision) between June 2021 and June 2024.


In order to achieve these outcomes the following priorities will be the focus of the action plan over the next three years.

Rights and Understanding

  • Services provided to children and their families uphold their rights, through all aspects of work, in line with UNCRC requirements and Scottish Government legislation, including monitoring services to ensure rights are being upheld.
  • Support to be offered to children and their families to understand and know their rights so they can exercise them.
  • Promotion of better public understanding and awareness of the needs and rights of children and young people in conflict with the law and the systems in place to support them.
  • For those who go through the Criminal Justice System their experience should be meaningful and participative, one which educates, improves, understands and upholds the rights of children and young people.
  • All children and young people should be able to access services to address trauma, abuse, neglect and communication needs.
  • Provision should be made to ensure professionals/services are taking into account additional support needs, including speech, language and communication needs, to improve their life chances.
  • Provide activities and opportunities for children and young people to engage in education, gain employment and to have stable housing options as a necessity.

Participation and Engagement

  • Improve participation and engagement of children and young people ensuring that they have developmentally appropriate participation opportunities to help shape the decisions, services and supports that affect them. This will include addressing barriers to engagement providing access to information and processes in language that they understand and taking account of cultural differences or disabilities and any communication needs.


  • Information and support for victims is enhanced, considering good practice, whilst respecting data protection and confidentiality rights. This includes access to restorative justice approaches where appropriate, regardless of the age of the person responsible or the outcome of the case.
  • Support must be trauma-informed and tailored to the needs of all participants.
  • Children and young people at risk of criminal exploitation are supported through increased understanding of the nature, scale and extent of the issue and awareness raising with practitioners and communities.

Whole System Approach

  • Continue to deliver a reinforced and reinvigorated whole system approach (WSA) to under-18s – with cohesion and integrity in all its elements supporting development of the workforce to deliver effective multi-agency partnerships and creating lasting systems and culture change. In particular, this will involve supporting social work and the wider workforce to:
    • develop a consistent approach to early and effective interventions;
    • work with those whose behaviour presents a high risk of harm to others, including embedding Care and Risk management processes.
    • No under-18s, to the extent possible and appropriate, should be in young offender institutions, including those on remand, with secure care and intensive residential and community-based alternatives being used, when therapeutic trauma-informed approaches are required for the safety of the child or those around them, and where community alternatives are available for those who require additional support.
    • Extend WSA to those beyond the age of 18 providing access to support up to age 26 where possible and appropriate.
    • Raise the age of referral to the Principal Reporter to 18 for all children with a presumption against under-18s in the Criminal Justice System, consistent with the Lord Advocate’s prosecution policy. Where this is not possible, they must be treated in a way that is trauma-informed and recognises their age and stage of development.

Data and Evidence

  • Data on children and young people is recorded, gathered and analysed in order to evidence the need for change and guide further improvements in policy and practice and to ensure that improvements are sustained.

Early Intervention and Support

  • Children and families are supported at an early stage to assess, identify and respond to wellbeing needs, to reduce stigma and improve their life chances and outcomes.
  • Relationships are built, and access to services to address adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), trauma and other challenging experiences is improved, through the delivery of trauma-informed approaches, youth work, gender-based approaches and effective multi-agency partnerships.
  • All children and young people have timely access to appropriate services to address mental health needs.
  • Workforces are supported to develop and continually address the needs of children and young people in Scotland.

Given the scale and extent of the priorities, it is not possible to address all actions within the first year. The following actions are either currently underway or will be progressed between June 2021 and June 2022. Actions beyond June 2022 are listed in Annex A these will be adapted and added to during 2021-22.


Email: Youth.Justice@gov.scot

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