Aim Women aged 25–35 years, for whom cervical cancer is most problematic, are least likely to participate in the cervical screening programme. Therefore, identifying barriers to screening participation in this high-risk group is essential. Subject and methods A sample of 430 women completed an electronic survey of their cervical screening history and answered questions on sociodemographic, behavioural, attitudinal and informational barriers to cervical screening uptake. Logistic regression was used to predict cervical screening non attendance. Results Women with more than 10 sexual partners in their lifetime were more likely, but women from ethnic minorities, less likely to participate in the cervical screening programme. Women unaware of the recommended screening interval were also less likely to be screened, as were women who believed that screening is a test for cancer. Screening was also less likely among women who endorsed the belief that screening in the absence of symptoms is unnecessary. Conclusion These data highlight poor knowledge of the recommended screening interval and purpose of cervical cancer screening in this high-risk group. As such, interventions that target these informational barriers might be most effective for increasing cervical screening uptake in this high-risk group.