The Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice (CYCJ) has shared its response to the consultation on standards for the Bairns’ Hoose.
Bairns’ Hoose is a model that supports a child-centred response to health and justice for victims or witnesses of serious crime and abuse.
CYCJ was funded by Healthcare Improvement Scotland to work with children and young people on drafting the standards. Our report ‘‘Hear Us, Make Changes’ was co-produced with this group, sharing their views on how the Bairns’ Hoose can be as helpful as possible for children in Scotland who have been victims of harm, as well as children under 12 whose actions might have caused harm.
CYCJ believes that the creation of the Bairns’ Hoose is a welcome step in achieving a rights-respecting response to children in need, and those under the age of criminal responsibility who may have caused harm. The proposed standards offer a good starting point upon which services can build provision which reduces the harmful elements of child protection and welfare investigations. We note that they are based upon existing PROMISE standards found on continental Europe, and as such feel reassured that they are shaped by several years of practice and are likely to provide the level of care required.
However, it is regrettable that the opportunity to provide a Bairns’ Hoose which serves the needs of all children has not been taken, and that a large number of children will continue to face the daunting and often traumatising experience of unnecessary contact with the criminal justice system.
Children suspected of having caused harm will continue to be exposed to stark and austere environments, procedures and approaches which do not prioritise the wellbeing of children. Perpetuating a two-tier system to respond to the needs of children will not advance the cause of making Scotland the best country for children to grow up, nor will it move us closer to becoming a rights-respecting nation.
More widely, CYCJ notes the challenges that local authorities and other statutory partners face in delivering a Bairns’ Hoose that incorporates the four constituent services under the one roof. Through a combination of limited service capacity and geographical considerations, some local authorities may find it acutely difficult to ensure equitable access to provision. This is particularly relevant for island and rural communities whose geographical features preclude the clustering of all four services in the one locality, and budget constraints which act as a barrier to the creation of multiple Bairns’ Hooses across the local authority.
We are heartened to see an accessible version of the standards and believe that all those concerned in the delivery of children’s services should mirror this practice.
CYCJ commends everyone involved in the creation of the standards, for ensuring children had the opportunity to participate in the production of these standards which, on the whole, are clear and concise.