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Better support for children and young people dealing with the justice system

BLOGS | 25th October 2022

The Care Inspectorate’s Head of Professional Standards and practice Henry Mathias explains draft proposals for a ‘bairns’ hoose’ system for Scotland. Plans are underway to improve the way children are treated by the justice system in Scotland.

This will involve introducing a bairns’ hoose system – modelled on the Scandinavian barnahus – of a child-friendly space bringing services together in one place. This will support children and young people through what is currently a complex system and reduce the number of times they have to repeat their story to different professionals.

The aim is to ensure all child victims or witnesses and their families, have all the care, support and services they need delivered under one roof. Introducing barnahus is an exciting opportunity to build on Scotland’s strengths in how we respond to children who have experienced abuse and violence.

The Care Inspectorate is working with Health Improvement Scotland to develop a set of standards for a barnahus (bairns’ hoose) model in Scotland and have developed draft standards and a children’s version for consultation.

Different agencies are working together to improve the quality of investigative interviews and make them less stressful for children taking part. We’re working under the Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) model which is the national policy framework aimed at supporting the wellbeing of children and young people.

Services are constantly improving the way they respond to allegations of harm. Recent changes include new standards for forensic medical services and greater support for vulnerable witnesses. Introducing barnahus is the next phase of this national reform programme.

Barnahus or bairns’ hoose, originated in Scandinavia and has become commonplace across Europe. It means children can tell the statutory authorities what happened to them in a child-friendly and supportive place.

Introducing barnahus to Scotland should mean that children no longer have to repeat their story to different professionals in different locations. Instead all professionals work together as part of a specialist team in one location – in a building designed for children.

From the outset, therapeutic support should be available for children who have experienced or witnessed abuse and to family members. Bairns’ hoose should mean that fewer children have to give evidence in court which could result in them experiencing further trauma.

The standards would apply to children under the age of 18 in Scotland who have been victims or witnesses to abuse or violence and also children under the age of criminal responsibility whose behaviour has caused significant harm or abuse, to ensure they have access to trauma-informed recovery, support and justice.

At the Care Inspectorate we’re pleased to continue our joint work with Healthcare Improvement Scotland developing integrated standards for health, social care and social work. Agreeing national standards is the first step in the journey for Scotland to establish bairns’ hoose.

We have worked alongside groups of children with lived experience, as well as professional organisations to help draft bairns’ hoose standards. Children with lived experience have directly contributed to the wording of the draft standards and a child friendly version has also been produced.

The public consultation on the bairns’ hoose standards concludes on 4 November 2022 and we’re keen to hear people’s views before then.

Find out more and take part in the consultation by clicking this link.