Although the strategy came to an end in June 2020, the work to drive forward improvements in Youth Justice is still live. Whilst there has been an array of work produced over the last five years, the work is by no means complete. All three implementation groups have established future work which they feel still needs to be addressed. Some of this will continue through the new Vision and accompanying action plan for youth justice, however, some will be addressed by other key partners and strands of work being delivered across Scottish Government and elsewhere.
There is a clear commitment and drive from partners to continue to make improvements for our children and young people in Scotland and we do not want to lose this momentum. We continue to place real importance on partnership working.
In order to continue to make positive changes, a successor approach is required. A vision and three year rolling action plan has been developed. By having a rolling action plan this allows flexibility to deal with the complex and fast changing landscape around us. A need for such flexibility has been demonstrated with the shift in practice and working, not only in Scotland but across the world, in order to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic.
Over the past 18 months the Scottish Government has been engaging with stakeholders and partners to gather views on the future focus for youth justice. This includes co-produced work with young people to develop a platform for gathering the views of children and young people in a meaningful way during August and September 2020.
A number of programmes of work currently underway will impact on the vision for youth justice and key priorities for the action plan. These include:
- Youth Justice Standards – Standards were drafted in 2019 and were reviewed and consulted on at the end of 2019. The consultation ended in February 2020, and amendments have been made based on the responses received. The revised standards will be published in June alongside this document;
- Consultation on 16 and 17 year olds in the hearings system – Responses to the public consultation on raising the age a young person can be referred to the Principal Reporter to include all under 18s showed overwhelming support for change. We are now exploring the practical implications of this and developing legislative proposals;
- Age of Criminal Responsibility rise to 12 and consideration around a future increase beyond this age;
- The findings and recommendations from the Rights Respecting? Scotland’s approach to children in conflict with the law paper which was published in January 2020 by CYCJ;
- The incorporation of the UNCRC into Scottish law and future EU Strategy on Children’s Rights;
- The Promise from the Care Review;
- Recommendations from the Expert review of mental health in Polmont published in 2019 and subsequent comments from the Justice committee following evidence sessions on secure care held in 2019;
- Recommendations from the Expert review of Harmful Sexual Behaviour by children and young people;
- New vision for young people in HMP&YOI Polmont published in March 2021;
- Justice in Scotland, vision and priorities;
- Development of a future Youth Work strategy; and
- Impact of Coronavirus on vulnerable young people.
Collectively these help to provide a clear and complementary vision of what Scotland’s approach to children in conflict with the law should be, and importantly how this could be achieved. This has formed the basis of our new Vision and Action Plan for Youth Justice. Continued feedback and views of key partners, stakeholders and young people were imperative to providing the evidence for the change required. This is where a live action plan can take shape and continuously evolve as circumstances and priorities emerge.
Whilst the three implementation groups have paused, the YJIB continued to provide a governance role in the development of the new vision and action plan and to drive this agenda. Consideration will be given to the current oversight and leadership structures and what groups may be required to deliver on this important work from 2021 onwards.
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