Introducing Millie Hall, SCYJ’s new Communications Assistant

“Hello everyone! I’m Millie, the new Communications Assistant at the SCYJ. I am joining the SCYJ out of my dedication to holistically support vulnerable young people facing adversity, and also to help address the gross overrepresentation of BAME children and young people in the youth justice system (YJS).

I am interested in challenging social narratives, especially those unjustly tied to marginalised and oppressed communities. I studied a Bachelors degree in Global Studies and History at Nottingham Trent University where my interest in social research grew. I researched topics which receive minimal coverage such as the health inequalities faced by young Aboriginal Australians, the discrimination faced by Rastafarian communities, and sexual racism within the UK. I will continue to research and analyse social justice issues with my Masters course in Race, Media and Social Justice at Goldsmiths University of London starting this September. Through this course, I will be increasing my foundation of critical race theory, which will support my ability to understand the links between the histories of empire, and contemporary racial and societal formations in the UK.

Previously, I have worked as a writer for VICE Media’s magazine, NBGA, where I was responsible for publishing cultural articles aimed at female youth. I covered topics from racial identity to female empowerment and I collaborated with other female creatives to encourage young women to occupy spaces where they are underrepresented. This role allowed me to practice how to translate theories and academic ideas into a style of writing which attracts a wider audience and allows for more inclusive discussions. I also volunteer as a project assistant and social media coordinator at Disrupt Space, an emerging community-based art agency. At Disrupt Space we aim to tackle the underlying cultural bias and the layers of bureaucracy found in the arts sector by supporting the growth of Black visual artists. Through this work, I have been provided with a practical insight into the ways that Black creatives are harnessing the power of community to defy inequality.

In my work, I have always strived to look at the bigger picture and I constantly take into consideration wider factors. Therefore, what attracted me to the SCYJ was the organisation’s holistic approach to improving the youth justice system (YJS), as it recognises that progress must be made in the circumstances before, during and after contact with the system. I was also attracted to the presence of grassroots and community-based organisations within the SCYJ as I believe many solutions and answers can be found within these organisations which are much closer to the ground and will likely have a larger presence of lived experience.

Within my new role at the SCYJ, I am very much looking forward to getting more young people involved and discovering creative and accessible ways to help increase awareness and provoke thought around the YJS. I am keen to open up debates around the YJS to a wider audience as I am a strong believer that only through an inclusive approach can we carry out meaningful conversations which hold the power to create change. I am proud to be working with the SCYJ and its members, and I feel that in the current UK climate plagued by austerity, poverty, and a general lack of compassion, organisations such as the SCYJ are needed now more than ever.”

Millie will be working for us Wednesday-Thursday on all things communications, but specifically on increasing engagement with our members and the wider sector, refreshing our external facing platforms, and promoting the findings of our upcoming youth participation project. If you have any ideas regarding communications (or would like to say hello!) you can get in touch with her at comms@scyj.org.uk

The SCYJ would like to extend huge thanks and appreciation to the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation for their generosity, investing in our team and making this fantastic appointment possible.

Ensuring custody is a last resort for children – new SCYJ report

SCYJ is proud to publish a new report, Ensuring custody is the last resort for children in England and Wales, developed with an expert group of SCYJ members:

  • The principle that custody should only ever be used as a last resort for children is enshrined in domestic law and international human rights conventions, but is not currently applied as such.
  • As the number of children in custody has declined over the past decade, the overrepresentation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) children has worsened, such that 2019 saw more BAME children in custody than white children for the first time.
  • This paper sets out proposals for new legislation to ensure that custody for children is only ever used as a genuine last resort.
  • Distinct and tightened legal restrictions would apply more equitably to all children and minimise the influence of a range of biases, that can see disproportionately negative outcomes for BAME children and those in local authority care.
  • The suggested legislative criteria would ensure that custody is only available for the most serious crimes, where the child poses a serious and continuing risk to the public, and where there is genuinely no way of managing that risk in the community.

These proposals would be a vital tool in stemming the flow of children who are sentenced and remanded to custody. The report has been submitted to the Justice Select Committee as part of its inquiries into youth justice.

Read the report here.

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Introducing Amania Scott-Samuels, SCYJ’s new Policy and Engagement Assistant

“I have always been keen to bridge gaps between underrepresented groups and those making the decisions that have such a significant impact on their lives. Growing up in Brixton and seeing many of those close to me affected by the criminal justice system (CJS) led me to study Criminology at university. I have recently completed my Criminal Justice and Criminology masters at the University of Leeds, which further developed my particular focus on youth justice. These studies afforded me opportunity to conduct primary research with justice-affected youth for my two dissertations, firstly surrounding the 2011 riots and most recently concerning the presence and impact of trauma and trauma-informed approaches in relation to knife crime.

Following my studies, I was looking for a role that was truly impactful –at both the interpersonal and policy level. Furthermore, to me it was vitally important to be part of a team and organisation that understood the significance of lived experience, whilst recognising the complexities of youth involvement in crime and the responses that follow. I was attracted to the SCYJ as a result of the emphasis on putting children first when it comes to criminal processes and the aims to address issues across the prevention, policing, custody and resettlement stages. The organisation’s priority areas, proactive approach to policy reform and eagerness to incorporate youth participation really excited me!

I have five years of mainly youth and community engagement work, having planned and delivered workshops and youth engagement events with a number of organisations. My belief in the need for scrutiny of the police lead me to work with the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) as a young advisor, where I facilitated discussions across the country. I also presented these findings to various stakeholders including the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) 2020 ‘Child-Centred Policing’ conference. I also guest edited Issue 37 of the IOPC’s publication ‘Learning the Lessons’ – the ‘Young People’ issue. With the Scouts Association I worked to widen participation of young people in skills-based activities in deprived areas in what I believe was invaluable, non-punitive, preventative work. Additionally, with Leaders Unlocked I have worked on youth co-production projects relating to school exclusion, the welfare state, looked-after children and others in frequent contact with the CJS. Having benefited directly from amazing volunteer mentors over the years, I know some of my most important work was mentoring inner-city (elementary-high school) children in America and being trained for a similar 1-1 mentoring role at Leeds Youth Offending Service.

My knowledge of many member organisations only strengthened the weight and credibility of the SCYJ’s aims and abilities to make meaningful long-term change in the area of youth justice, in my eyes. In keeping with this, learning more about the work of those I was not previously aware of demonstrated the undeniable value of having a means to consolidate ideas and experiences of frontline work – as there is so much good stuff going on! I cannot wait to get to meet and work with you all more closely in the near future.”

Amania will be working for us Tuesday-Thursday on all things policy and engagement, but specifically with our upcoming youth participation project and producing the youth justice bulletin. If you have any ideas regarding policy and engagement (or would like to say hello!) you can get in touch with her at amania@scyj.org.uk

The SCYJ would like to extend huge thanks and appreciation to the Paul Hamlyn Foundation for their generosity, investing in our team and making this fantastic appointment possible.