​Let's raise the age – 10 is too young

Guest blog by Vivian McConvey, Chief Executive of VOYPIC.

Now, we all know I'm not a regular blogger – yes, I'm comfy on Twitter but I don't manage to set down my thoughts in more than 140 characters nearly as often as I'd like. But this week I had the opportunity to stand up and support a great initiative and putting my thoughts in only 140 characters just won't do the trick.

I went to a conference that Include Youth and Queens University Belfast ran jointly on raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility. Northern Ireland sets the age of criminal responsibility at 10. Yes, 10! The lowest age anywhere in Europe! It's got to change for so many reasons that were set out at the onference with such clarity and sense that it's hard to see how anyone can resist changing this.

Anyway, it was a great event, great speakers, great input from young people demonstrating, once again, that they are experts by experience. At the end of the conference Koulla (Include Youth's CEO, soon to be our Commissioner for Children and Young People) launched the Raise the Age NI campaign and petition.

I was asked to support the campaign on behalf of VOYPIC. Of course I agreed and here's why. By the time a child comes into care they have experienced significant trauma, distress and neglect. Their view and understanding of the world has been shaped by their experience. Quite often children will act out their trauma and we witness this in their behaviour.

We expect 10, 11, 12 and 13 year olds to fully comprehend and take responsibility for their actions. Not only that but we use a criminal justice solution which only exacerbates their situation. We need more care, less incarceration.

We want to change the story for children in care; I support the raise the age – 10 is too young. You can support the campaign too:

  • Tweet about it @RaiseTheAgeNI #raisetheage
  • Sign the petition on change.org
  • Make it an election issue on your own doorstep this year, next year, every year till the job's done.