The vision for children and young people and accompanying action plan represent a shared foundation between the Scottish Government, key partners and children and families to work together to ensure that the rights of children in Scotland are protected and upheld, and to prevent children and young people from being involved in behaviour which leads them into conflict with the law.
In addition, Scotland must ensure that those already involved in such behaviour are fully supported to deal with its causes and effects, and that this continues throughout their journey towards the most positive destinations possible.
The vision also supports this Government's commitment to publishing and implementing a new strategy for youth justice and to making sure that no under-18s, who should not be there, are held in young offenders institutions.
We have seen many achievements over the last 12 years since the introduction of the whole system approach and the move to a preventative strategy.
Partners across the care and justice sectors have worked hard over the lifetime of the last youth justice strategy, Preventing Offending: Getting it Right for Children and Young People, to ensure that positive changes have taken effect, and that the momentum of the improvements prior to the strategy were continued. Despite progress made over the years, there is still more to be done to ensure that all children and young people – regardless of any harm they have caused or are accused of causing – are respected, supported and their rights protected and upheld.
There are obstacles still to overcome as highlighted by recent reports such as The Independent Care Review's 'The Promise', the Expert Review of the Provision of Mental Health Services at HMP&YOI Polmont and 'Rights Respecting? Scotland's approach to children in conflict with the law'.
In Scotland 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 themselves children.
The challenge over the last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic has added a further layer of complexity to what is an already multifaceted challenge to the workforce. We will capitalise on the hard work which has been achieved over the years and will encourage all those working with children and young people to understand their role in making change happen. Now is the time to get it right for all of our children and young people in Scotland.
Clare Haughey MSP
Minister for Children and Young People
This paper has been prepared by the Scottish Government and the Youth Justice Improvement Board.
The priorities are based on the views of children, young people, key stakeholders and partners.