I have really enjoyed being part of the Secure Care Champions Group, meeting new people and increasing my knowledge about the Standards, how they are being used by other agencies, and the difference they are making for children, young people, and families.
Cyrenians’ ‘Keeping Families Together’ service supports children (12+) in secure accommodation and their families at the point of admission, and those who are in the process of returning home. Our award-winning ‘Amber’ model of mediation and support offers 1-to-1 support from skilled mediators, practical support for each family member, and conflict resolution workshops to help build positive relationships, promote better communication, and reduce the potential for future conflict and its potential consequences.
Strong, positive relationships are essential to a person’s health and wellbeing, and that could not be truer for children. At what is an enormously stressful and difficult period in a child’s life, it is only right that they and the rest of their family receive the support they need to maintain those relationships, and for the child, where possible, to return home with a positive route forward.
The Secure Care Pathway and Standards have helped to support the work that we do. The most significant learning for the team from the first three years of Keeping Families Together has been around standards 38-44. The Promise Scotland Plan 21-24 highlights five priority areas, and states that “all children in Scotland’s ‘care system’ will have a good, loving childhood. They will feel loved. They will have their needs met. And their rights upheld.” It also states that to realise a child’s rights, you have to support their whole family.
It should be noted that the majority of children are placed in secure care for welfare reasons and therefore it should only be right to prescribe a programme of support for the whole family which helps to address the underlying causes when a child comes to the attention of the Children’s Reporter.
We have seen children moving on from secure care without an appropriate care plan in place, which can have devastating consequences for them and their families. While within secure care, children and young people have a full programme of activities, including school, recreational and family time as well as therapeutic support offerings, they then find themselves back in the community with little to fill their days. We need to get better at ensuring that any support given in secure care follows the child back to the community and continues as long as is needed. This should include holistic whole family support.
We need to collaborate better; planning for return to community or home should begin when the child enters secure care. The end goal should be worked towards from the start and should include all agencies that the family are working with. Of course, the family should always be central to the process.
We have learned that families need more information on the Standards to ensure that they know what to expect before, during and after secure care. Additionally, they need to know what they can do if they feel the Standards are not being met and who they can talk to. As a result of our learning, we now take hard copies of the Standards with us when we first meet families. Families have told us they now have a better understanding of theirs and their children’s rights. Parents and carers are now accessing our support to prepare and attend meetings regarding their children’s care with a better understanding of the purpose of these meetings and they can input and participate positively in the decisions being made for their children. We have seen positive change for children, young people and families as a result of the implementation of the standards and will continue to share our knowledge with children, young people, families and professionals as we go forward.
If we are able to recognise challenges in the system that families experience and the barriers that prevent children, young people and their families from progressing, we can collectively work towards creating positive change. Being part of the Champions Group is a great example of how we can, and do, work together as services, drawing on our specialisms to support all individuals within the family. I feel we have a great opportunity to take a collaborative multi agency approach to embed the Standards and can collectively work towards the vision of the Promise: “Where children and families need additional or intensive support it will be given in timescales that meet the needs of the child.”
About the author: Kerry Watson is the Service Manager of Cyrenians Keeping Families Together with Cashback for Communities, and a member of the Secure Care Champions Group.