Youth Justice Conference 2014

Linda Robb looks back at two of the biggest days in the CYCJ calendar…

After all the planning, the decisions, the indecisions, the months of organisation, the anticipation, the last minute glitches, here we were at the 7th annual National Youth Justice Conference in Dundee. Allegedly the sunniest city in Scotland, there was not much sign of this when we arrived at a wet West Park for what is now the legendary, must-go-to event in the youth justice calendar. And in they poured on the morning of June 4, 160ish delegates, old, new and some slightly bewildered, ready for two days of how to improve the world of youth justice in Scotland with the assistance of speakers, workshops, debates and discussions. Most importantly, let’s not forget the networking and voicing of ideas and opinions over coffee, lunch and a glass or two.

The theme for Day 1 was ‘Whole System Approach – A Partner’s Perspective’ chaired by Claire Lightowler, Director of CYCJ, potentially a baptism of fire as this audience can be formidable. Robert Marshall opened the conference from the Scottish Government, reminding us of the importance of following the principles of the Kilbrandon Report. He was followed by a very full and exhausting day of speakers and workshops, broken only to consume the most enormous three course lunch – clearly Dundee doesn’t do diets!

Catriona Dalrymple of the Crown Office demonstrated the importance of talking from the perspective of a young person’s experience, SCRA’s Neil Hunter questioned if we are doing enough to retain 16 and 17 year olds in the hearing system, and Alison Gough of Children’s Hearing Scotland confirmed that the misconceptions, prejudice and stigma about children caught up in the Hearing System persist. All were in full agreement about the importance of working together.

A highlight of the day was the inspirational input by Ashley Cameron from Who Cares? Scotland, which emphasised the importance of relationships over systems and how she and others have influenced the changes in legislation for care leavers.

The day was so packed that unfortunately there was no time left to discuss the holes in Whole System, so this should probably be followed up in some shape or form.

To round off the day, our own Charlotte Bozic managed to bribe a considerable number of delegates with wine and strawberries to attend a session on how to improve your social media skills. I thought I was useless and was heartened by the thought that I am not alone!

Just enough time to scrub up then the bar awaited, followed by the conference dinner. Whilst the meal was civilised by our conference standards, it didn’t take long for inhibitions to be thrown to the wind. Courtesy of some very cheesy music by our ‘Wright on’ DJ, there followed some very dodgy disco dancing (you know who you are!) into the wee small hours, and some interesting conversations at the bar undertaken by over lubricated tongues. After a quick reconnaissance to assess potential casualties, it was off to bed to grab a few hours’ sleep in readiness for Day 2.

Day 2 focused on mental health, an issue high on the agenda of those who work with vulnerable and high risk young people. This was chaired by Steve Harte from Edinburgh City who is also the chair of NYJAG, our ‘partners in crime’. Unfortunately, this partnership arrangement had to be temporarily severed when, after doing so well to engage the delegates, some of whom looked rather fragile, he managed to introduce our first speaker by the name of a renowned sex offender. No offence was taken and it certainly helped to waken those who would gladly have opted for another hour in bed.

The pace of Day 2 was somewhat more relaxed than the previous day and delegates had more time to reflect on some of the issues raised in the keynote speeches and what needs to be done to address the mental health and wellbeing of Scotland’s young people. Well done to Lorraine Johnstone for the plug about IVY funding!

Tony McDonald from Who Cares? Scotland gave a very moving presentation about his care experience, again bringing a harsh sense of reality about how much we still need to do to make our services work for vulnerable children and young people.

Dr Olive Moloney of MAC-UK gave an interesting input on how they have taken mental health to the streets for young people who offend in North London and made us consider how we could better deliver our mental health services in Scotland.

After another productive day rounded off by workshops, it was all over and delegates skipped and shuffled back to their respective workplaces, hopefully to spread some of the good messages from the two days.

The feedback from delegates was excellent with the only complaints being the lack of bacon rolls – croissants too posh? –  and no free wine, but  times of austerity apply to us all!

The staff at West Park were as usual superb, a massive thank you to them, they always make life so much easier for the organisers. A huge thank you also to everyone who gave their time and energy to make this the success that it was, that includes everyone who attended.

I think I have now recovered enough to contemplate doing it all again next year. In the meantime, keep up the good work and didn’t we do well. Roll on 2015!

You can access resources, presentations and recordings from the Youth Justice Conference here.

About our blogger

Linda Robb is Practice Development Manager for CYCJ. Prior to joining the Centre in 2010, she was a practitioner and manager in local authority and other associated social work services for more than 30 years. Read more about Linda.