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28 Oct 2014

‘Groundbreaking and innovatory’ project enabled disenfranchised children and young people to campaign for change

Children caught up in the criminal justice system were able to lead a campaign for change thanks to support from a Howard League project whose impact will be felt for years to come, an independent evaluation has found.

U R Boss, a five-year participation project which helped hundreds of children to secure their legal rights, has been praised by a team of evaluators led by the Centre for Social Action at De Montfort University.

They said the ‘groundbreaking and innovatory’ project achieved ‘significant impact which will have a direct and beneficial effect on treatment of young people in the justice system’.

Details of the project’s success are outlined in the evaluators’ report, Use your situation to change your destination: Evaluation of the Howard League for Penal Reform’s U R Boss.

U R Boss, which was supported by the Big Lottery Fund and ended in June 2014, enabled young people to discuss their experiences of the criminal justice system and to lobby MPs, PCCs, police and other policy-makers on how it could be improved.

More than 350 young people, some of whom were in custody, contributed to a 10-point manifesto for change, which was presented at party conferences and the Howard League’s annual general meeting.

Crucial to these achievements, evaluators found, was the close relationship between U R Boss participation work and the charity’s legal service, which worked to protect children’s rights and helped them understand the legal system.

The report states: ‘The project has demonstrated that with the right level of support and guidance even the most disenfranchised individuals and groups can be enabled to constructively engage with processes of change.

‘When they do engage the lessons which can be learned from their experience are invaluable to practitioners and policy makers. That contribution does not come easily or cheaply, but it is well worth the price paid, both for the improvements in policy and practice which can emerge, and for the benefits to the individuals enabled to participate’.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Successful U R Boss campaigns have given voices to the voiceless and helped deliver lasting change, including an end to routine strip-searching of children in prison and a commitment by the majority of Police and Crime Commissioners to incorporate young people’s views on justice issues in their plans. Most recently, 350 young people were involved in developing a manifesto for change, which highlighted the key issues in youth justice as young people themselves see them. We are pleased to see that this independent evaluation has recognised the value of the work we have done. The Howard League will build on this work and continue to campaign for a fairer society with less crime and safer communities.”

Notes to editors

  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
  2. Use your situation to change your destination: Evaluation of the Howard League for Penal Reform’s U R Boss can be downloaded here.


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