User Voice - Only Offenders Can Stop Re-Offending

E-Petition: Introduce Cameras with Sound Recordings into all Youth Custodial and Police Settings

A group of young people in association with the Children's Rights Alliance for England and User Voice are campaigning to stop violence against children and young people in police and custodial settings.

Further to the recommendations in the recent report, Ending Violence against Children in Custody, a petition has been started which aims to introduce cameras with sound recording into all youth custodial and police settings.

If this petition gets 100,000 signatures then it will have to be considered for debate in the House of Commons.

To read more about the Children's Rights Alliance of England project to end violence against youth in custody across Europe click here.

To sign the petition click here.

Please help to spread the word and get as many signatures as possible!


Earlier this year, Bob Ashford was barred from running in the election to become a Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC). You can read more about this here.

Since then, Bob has launched WipeTheSlateClean, a non-political campaign.

One of the campaign's aims to reduce the scope of Criminal Records Bureau checks to ensure that a criminal record does not mean a sentence for life.

For further information, visit the WipeTheSlateClean website
and read Bob's interview with The Guardian on 4th December 2012.

Children's Commissioner's Take Over Day

On Friday 23rd November 2012 User Voice were asked to take part in this year's Children's Commissioner's Take Over Day.

This is a national event that gives young people the chance to shadow jobs, get involved in decision-making and offer their own opinions on key issues. 

User Voice took part by assisting one of our Youth Reps on the day when he met with the Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner

After helping with various tasks and taking part in discussions, the Deputy Children's Commissioner, Sue Berelowitz, has said that she will ensure that her business plan includes looking at the issue of criminal records for young people.
This was a great opportunity to voice my opinion and concerns and issues that affect all young people who are involved in the youth justice system.
User Voice Youth Rep

Youth Charter for Police & Crime Commissioners

The Youth Advisory Group are calling on all new Police & Crime Commissioners (PCCs) to sign the Youth Charter.

This Charter requests PCCs to pledge to show a commitment to young people in a number of ways.

It is supported by User Voice and was drafted with the assistance of two User Voice Youth Reps who took part in last year's What's Your Story 2011 project.

Complaints Roundtable

OCC report cover In July 2012 we were commissioned by the Office of the Children's Commissioner (OCC) to report on young people's experiences of complaints procedures in the Youth Justice System.

Further information about this project can be found here.

Click here to download the full report: Why are they going to listen to me?

On 7th November 2012 some of the User Voice Reps involved in the initial report attended the OCC offices to take part in a roundtable discussion to explore these issues further.

This was a great opportunity to discuss the barriers that young people face when attempting to submit complaints, and also to attempt to find solutions and recommendations to improve the system for everyone.

Following on from this, User Voice Youth Rep, Candice (age 19) has appeared in the January 2013 edition of Children & Young People Now magazine talking about whether the Children's Commissioner should be given stronger powers.

Click here to see Candice's opinion!

NEW REPORT - Children's Rights Alliance for England

A report has been published today about children's experiences of violence in custody. This report was assisted by User Voice.

 The summary of the report stated:

The young campaigners taking forward the recommendations are being supported by the organisation User Voice. Mark Johnson, the Founder of User Voice Said:

User Voice support the work of CRAE and in particular the research findings contained within this report. I'm pleased that some of the young people engaged with User Voice projects across the country are working with CRAE taking forward the report recommendations as 'Young Campaigners' in the second phase of the project.

This report showed that young people believe that cameras with sound recording should be installed in youth custody and police stations in order to protect young people from the threat of violence. 

You can read more about this report along with User Voice's involvement at: Children's Rights Alliance

IN THE NEWS: Bob Ashford

Bob Ashford Barred from Police and Crime Commissioner Election

As you may have seen in the news today, Bob Ashford has been forced to withdraw from the election for Police and Crime Commissioner Candidate for Avon and Somerset, following clarification that a criminal offence he committed when he was 13 years old prevented him from taking this position.

Bob has been working with User Voice since April 2012, contributing his expertise from a life long career of working with young people to our youth projects.

This event goes to highlight the problems that many of us at User Voice and those we work with face on a daily basis, as discussed by Mark Johnson in a comment piece in The Guardian today.

Bob has made the following statement:

I am today standing down as Police and Crime Commissioner Candidate for Avon and Somerset following clarification the Labour Party has received from the Home Office and the Electoral Commission that youth convictions for imprisonable offences will bar people from becoming a police and crime commissioner.
I  am setting out in detail my recollection of the offences I committed and which have now barred myself from standing to illustrate the pressures and injustices that children and young people can face in their neighbourhoods and criminal justice system and the continuing damage of offences and criminal records committed by children and young people being carried into their adult lives. These events occurred 46 years ago and whilst there has been huge progress in the intervening years I still hear of similar events and pressures from young people today. This new legislations barring myself and others from standing as a PCC because of offences committed as young people perpetuates the disadvantage inflicted upon all young people convicted of offences.
These are the details of the offence. At the time I was 13 years of age in 1966 and living on a council estate in Bristol. I had no previous involvement with the police and came from a good and caring family. I remember very well the knock on the door from a group of lads I knew from school. They persuaded me to go with them and I felt I had little choice. I also knew from what they said that if I refused they could make my life difficult at school.
We went to the railway embankment and I felt very uncomfortable about this. One of the lads pulled out an air gun and started shooting at cans. I never touched the air gun and felt unable to leave, as I was frightened at what might happen at school. A goods train passed and presumably the guard reported our presence to the police who arrived a short time later. The lads with the air gun ran away whilst I and two others froze and were arrested. 
My next memory is of the police coming to my house and talking to my parents in a separate room. The police never questioned me to my knowledge. I then went to court and was to the best of my knowledge charged with trespass on the railway and possession of an offensive weapon. I was told to plead guilty to the two charges even though I had never touched the air gun. I was fined £2 and 10 shillings on both counts. Both of these offences are to the best of my knowledge "imprisonable" offences.
 I carried on at school, attended University and put the offence behind me. I have never been convicted of any other offence.
 It was only when I qualified as a social worker and started applying for jobs that I realised I would have to disclose this previous offence. However, I quickly found a job and have been employed on a continual basis ever since. I became a social work manager before moving into youth justice where I became a Youth Offending Team Manager. I then joined the Youth Justice Board in 2002 becoming the Director of Strategy before I left in March of this year. At every stage of my career I have declared the convictions even though I have seen no evidence of it on any record. I have been security vetted by the Home Office, signed the Official Secrets declaration and worked with Ministers and senior officials and organisations including the Association of Chief Constables (ACPO) on a range of security sensitive initiatives.
I saw the post of PCC as a natural opportunity to develop my career and use my knowledge and expertise for the benefit of my local community. I completed the application form in December 2011 and submitted it to the Labour Party HQ. I have declared my previous convictions at every stage of my application. As part of the interview I was asked whether I had done anything in my past that might embarrass the Party. I outlined in detail the circumstances and outcomes of the offences above even though I did not consider they could embarrass the Party. I was then shortlisted as candidate and eventually selected by members. I first became concerned at the possibility I could be barred from the post when I read electoral law expert Ros Baston's 10th July post on her queries on the Simon Weston case. Both the Home Secretary and the Attorney General had earlier stated publically that offences committed as young people did not bar people from applying. I also have to say that it had never occurred to me that an offence committed 46 years ago and which would now almost certainly de dealt with without going to court would bar me at all. I did however become concerned about the ruling and on 19th July I contacted the Labour Party HQ seeking clarification.
The Party's legal team said that the statements made by government ministers were contradictory, and that the Party would seek clarification from the relevant authorities. I have to say I find this legislation and requirement absolutely flawed and an infringement of the rights of young people. The arguments put forward in the House of Commons committee on the amendment to include offences committed by young people in the bar on becoming a PCC take no account of the need to differentiate in law between offences committed by young people and adults, and the necessity for a statute of time on offences committed by young people. I understand the arguments in Committee re the recruitment of police and offences (to whom the same bar exists) but police officers are not recruited at the age of 59, 46 years after an offence was committed.
I have spent my entire life working with young people who have been in the care of the Local Authority or involved in the justice system. The foundation of that work has been the recognition that ever individual has worth and the ability to change their lives. It is ironic that after a professional and political career spanning my entire life I am now going to be brought down by a piece of legislation which absolutely contradicts those tenets.
I have just heard from a CRB check with my local police that no record of my case exists. As a PCC candidate I will have to sign a declaration saying I have no legal bar; however, I know I do even if there is no record of the offence. To sign the declaration, knowing that I had committed an offence, would in itself be a criminal act which of course I am not prepared to countenance. Even though I have seen no evidence of my convictions in my entire life since the court case and I now know that none exist I have registered them at every stage of my career.  
At this point many Labour Party members in Avon and Somerset are working on my campaign: leaflets are on the verge of being printed, hustings are being organised. I have therefore taken the decision to resolve the matter by standing down with immediate effect. 
Bob Ashford

Click Here to see Bob's Website

NEW REPORT- What's Your Story? 2011

The new What's Your Story? 2011 report has been published.

Excluded Youth Project: How Can We Work Together to Reduce Youth Crime? is our latest report which covers the 2011 version of User Voice’s Excluded Youth Project.

Launched in summer 2011, it included 36 focus groups in seven regions with 175 of the most marginalised young people in England and Wales.

A survey was completed by 740 excluded young people with direct experience of the youth justice system.

The final report came out of workshops that took place in November 2011 involving 25 of the young people – nominated by their peers – and 50 senior policy makers and practitioners at the Annual Youth Justice Convention.

NEW REPORT - Young People's Perspectives on Complaints

"Why are they going to listen to me?"

Young People's Perspectives on Complaints in the Youth Justice System & Secure Estate

New User Voice report published 12th July 2012.

The Office of the Children's Commissioner contracted User Voice to seek the views of children and young people within the youth justice system about their experiences of complaints procedures.

This consultation formed a significant strand of our wider youth engagement project called What's Your Story? 2011.

Click Here to download the full report.

Or see the Young People's Perspectives on Complaints page to find out more about this project.

NEW VACANCY: Website Maintenance Volunteer

Volunteer Role
Role Title
Website Maintenance Volunteer (home-based with occasional visits to London Office)

Purpose of the role
User Voice staff are responsible for the updating of the User Voice website and social media sites, but at present we don’t have a dedicated specialist.  We are looking for someone with experience in this area who would help us by keeping our website up-to-date with the latest news about our work and troubleshooting problems on an ad-hoc basis as and when they occur.  If you are able to support our team from home on an average of once a week, we would like to hear from you.  This is an exciting opportunity for someone to utilise their skills and join the User Voice team.

Time Commitment
Dependent on issues that arise, but unlikely to exceed 1 day a week.

3 months minimum, but we are flexible.

Responsibilities & Duties
Helping with website maintenance and troubleshooting problems as they arise
Responding to queries in timely fashion by email and/or phone

Skills & Experience
WordPress 3.3.1
html code
Website hosting

Personal Qualities
A strong and demonstrable commitment to the aims and values of User Voice.
A strong and demonstrable commitment to the promotion of equality and diversity.

Training Provided
An induction to User Voice will be completed.

Benefits to the Volunteer
Reimbursement of any out-of-pocket expenses
Opportunity to volunteer with a successful charity

CRB check required?   
No – This role will not require a CRB check as you will not be required to work with children or vulnerable adults.  However, all User Voice Staff and Volunteers are required to complete a suitability statement which covers disclosure of convictions and any barred lists.

Do you have the experience to help with this opportunity?
If so, please email Beth Kennedy at

    User Voice is working in Partnership with Catch22

    User Voice and Catch22 have formed an exciting partnership that builds on our respective strengths.  Our first project together is for Kent Probation.

    User Voice's strength is that it is run by ex-offenders, and has the experience and understanding to enable offenders who are subject to supervision to express their views and to positively impact on the work of criminal justice agencies and their partners.

    Joining forces with Catch22 will enable User Voice to draw on the experience and approach of a larger voluntary sector organisation that has demonstrated its commitment to service user engagement and with a track record of partnership working that has impact.

    Together we can support the criminal justice system to listen and act upon the views of its service users and help reduce re-offending.

      Bob Ashford joins User Voice

      Bob Ashford, the ex-Director of Strategy at the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, is to join User Voice.

      Bob has spent a lifetime working with young people. A qualified social worker and Children's Services Manager, Bob was one of the first Youth Offending Team managers in the country before joining the YJB, first as Head of Prevention and latterly as Director of Strategy.

      During his time at the YJB, Bob has been responsible for, amongst other things, the huge uplift in funding for prevention schemes and the recent development of resettlement consortia designed to improve services for young people leaving custody.

      Bob has worked extensively across Whitehall with other government departments and with a wide group of stakeholders in the justice sector including the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), the Magistrates Association, the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) and community and voluntary organisations, including User Voice. Bob has also worked internationally with the Council of Europe and countries as diverse as Canada and Bulgaria to improve their justice systems.

      Mark Johnson, Chief Executive of User Voice said:

      "Bob will be an extremely valuable member of User Voice. With his experience and commitment to the values and ethos of our work, he will ensure we continue to grow and sustain the opportunities for ex-offenders in the justice system and beyond."

        Have you completed a Volunteer Registration Form recently? CLICK HERE

        We have recently been having some technical difficulties with our volunteer registration system.

        If you have completed a Volunteer Registration Form on our website during the 3 weeks from Monday 20th February to Friday 9th March 2012, and not heard back from us, it is possible that all of your details have not been recorded correctly.

        We apologise for any inconvenience, but would be very grateful if you could re-submit the form.

        Thank you for your support.

          New Prison Council projects at HMP Birmingham and HMYOI Aylesbury

          In September, we began working in HMYOI Aylesbury, the first time our model has been delivered for young offenders. We are currently in the process of recruiting the party members before they undertake training in preparation for the elections.

          We have also been commisioned by G4S to start up a new Prison Council in HMP Birmingham. As the first prison in the UK to have moved from the public to private sector, it will pose unique challenges. However, our model is flexible and we hope to emulate the success of our Prison Councils at HMPs Isle of Wight, Maidstone, Rye Hill and Wolds.

          Watch this space for updates on these two new projects coming soon to our Councils page on the website.

          MARK JOHNSON appointed new member of London Probation Trust Board

          Mark Johnson has been appointed a member of the London Probation Trust board. The decision was approved by Secretary of State, Kenneth Clarke.

          London Probation Trust is the largest Trust and probation services provider in the UK. The Trust supervises over 40,000 service users covering the 32 boroughs in the capital, which accounts for approximately 20 per cent of all supervised offenders in the UK.

          "I am delighted to have been appointed and look forward to seeing what I can do for the community"
          Mark Johnson, Founder and CEO of User Voice