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Scottish youth project Voice Against Violence was presented with a Philip Lawrence Award at a special event, organised by crime reduction charity, Nacro, in Edinburgh this week. They were joined by Sandra White MSP and Dr Alasdair Allan MSP, Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland’s Languages, who presented them with their award.

Founded in November 2009, Voice Against Violence is a group of eight young people with first-hand experience of domestic abuse and support services who formed a national independent group of recognised ‘young experts’ to tell people in power what needs to change to improve the lives of children. The members of the group recognised that policy makers need constant advice from a child’s perspective, whereby young people are listened to as equals and experts in order for their needs and wishes to be upheld.

The members of Voice Against Violence aim to put a stop to domestic violence through campaigns, grass-roots research and dialogue with the Scottish Government. The group have conducted a survey report entitled ‘Shaping the Future’ which expresses the views of over 600 young people across Scotland, setting out their priorities for tackling domestic abuse. Through these efforts, funding has been secured for specialist support workers and outreach services for isolated young people in Scotland.

Voice Against Violence (VAV) have drawn together their hard work into a legacy film and booklet ‘One Voice at a Time: tackling domestic abuse through the voice of the young’. This will soon be sent to every school, youth organisation and all those working with young people, to inspire them to stand against domestic abuse. It includes the advert VAV created for the Government targeting teenagers who ‘feel like they’re living in a warzone’, letting them know where to get help. The group also created a ‘safehub’ website for young people as part of their work advising the Government on a teaching resource designed to encourage teachers to listen to their students and take action against domestic abuse.

Mrs Frances Lawrence MBE, said:

“Voice Against Violence is an inspiring, brave and determined group of people who have used their own negative experiences of domestic abuse to help many others in need.”

Voice Against Violence, Project member Declan, said:

“It reaffirms the successful outcomes of all the hard work that the group has done over the last two years, but also brings recognition to the project beyond Scotland.”

Voice Against Violence young Chair Chloe, said:

“It means such a great deal, to be appreciated for doing what is so close to our hearts”

Sandra White MSP, said:

“It’s a great privilege to welcome the awards to Scotland!

“I think there’s one thing we can absolutely say about these kids and that is that they absolutely deserve the award.

“The positivity they have shown has been absolutely fantastic. It’s a great lesson to all of us – if you can put you mind to something, as they have done over the last three years, you will absolutely achieve. For me their dedication, passion and drive are to be credited and congratulated for what they have achieved so far.”

Dr Alasdair Allan MSP, Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland’s Languages, said:

“It’s clear to me that Philip Lawrence believed that every child is capable to greatness. The young people involved in Voice Against Violence have proved this beyond doubt.”

The Philip Lawrence Awards, managed by the crime reduction charity, Nacro and supported by the Home Office, celebrate the positive contribution groups of young people make in their communities to counter crime, violence, bullying and racism, and challenge negative stereotypes.

Photograph by Mark Green