The Centre for Youth & Criminal Justice (CYCJ) established this piece of work in order to understand how young people could become active participants in shaping improvements to youth justice policy, practice and research.

CYCJ commissioned Space Unlimited to work with a diverse range of young people, engaging them in discussing their experiences, their ideas for change based on those experiences, and their thoughts on the shape of an on-going role for young people like themselves.

who we worked with

Our aim at the outset of this project was to bring a group of young people together to work, diverse in ages, experiences, geography and background. We hoped that by bringing together this group, we would more quickly gather an understanding of the range of experiences and the possibilities for a group like this to work together to change youth justice services.

We worked with three separate groups of young people ranging from 13 to 25 years old, from Moving On Scotland (a partnership service delivered by Action for Children and Barnardo’s), the Through-care service in Dunbartonshire and Aberlour Youth Point.

These young people have a range of experiences, from quite in-depth experiences of youth justice services including the courts, police, secure educational facilities and institutions like Polmont Young Offenders and Barlinnie Prison, through to foster care, children's homes, social work and adoption services.

how we worked

We know from experience that bringing groups of young people together to work means: helping them to create a safe space in which to be honest and open; building their trust in us and each other sufficiently that they are happy to work together; helping them to understand the subject matter and their importance in addressing it; and, creating some shared experiences and understanding within the group. In order to do this, we felt it was important to work towards our ultimate goal by supporting these young people to ‘speak about what they know’ first. As such, the work with all three groups had three points of focus:

  • What are your experiences of Youth and Criminal Justice Services?
  • What are your ideas for change in these services?
  • How should young people (yourselves or those like you) be involved in informing/making ongoing change in these services?


There are many insights that came out of this project, some focused around the engagement of young people on this kind of work, specifically the impact of 'over consultation' and whether or not the young people see the work as having the potential to make change happen.

Many of the young people's ideas for change focused on relationships as a source of support, understanding and 'giving something back'. They wanted to see young people like themselves offered more support and guidance through the Justice system, helping them to understand their options, why things were happening and who would be making decisions about their lives.

Read the full findings of this project in the full report, available to download here.

  • "The thing is, I can see now all the bad decisions I was making. I was on the wrong path and I just kept going down it. It took a lot of work but once I understood that there were other choices I could make, other paths, I could start to set goals for myself and work towards them…the energy and effort I had to put in to stick with it and achieve my goals, that was the price I had to pay. That’s what I talk to a lot of other lads about, I use myself as the example, because if they can see it’s possible and you can help them set a goal that means something to them…well, they might just turn things around."

    young person

  • "[Look, is this actually going anywhere?] That’s what’s important to me. Are people going to listen to us and change stuff as a result…otherwise why bother wasting our time talking about it all, again?"

    young person

  • "(this project involved) ...speaking to adults who want to listen so it changed my opinion on most adults, also this project made me feel part of a team."

    young person