Secure Care

Secure Care in Scotland

Secure accommodation is among the most intensive and restrictive “alternative form” of care available to children in Scotland, whereby children up to age 18 are detained in a locked care setting, through the Children’s Hearings System or justice system, due to the level of concern about risks of, or actual significant harm, their behaviours pose to themselves and/or others. Secure care aims to provide intensive support, care and education to keep these children safe and to meet the extremely high levels of need and vulnerability experienced by these children. Robust regulations and requirements are in place, aimed at ensuring young people are only secured when and only for as long as absolutely necessary, and that they receive appropriate transition support during and following secure care.

Children in secure care are almost always those who have experienced childhood adversity and difficulties such as significant losses, abuse, neglect, trauma and disrupted home and school lives.

Since December 2016, there have been 84 secure care places in Scotland.  Four independent charitable organisations each deliver a certain number of placements:

The fifth centre is run by City of Edinburgh Council, which currently provides six places. For more information see Secure Accommodation Network Scotland.

Find out more about Secure Care in Scotland.

Ruby Whitelaw is CYCJ’s secure care lead. Please contact her on with any related enquiries.

Latest news and events

Secure Care Practitioners’ Forum

CYCJ is hosting the Secure Care Practitioners’ Forum . This will provide secure care practitioners with a safe space to meet and share good experiences, practice issues and receive specialist input. Upcoming dates are:

Thursday, March 30 (2pm-3pm)

Wednesday, May 31 (2pm-3pm)

Monday, July 31 (2pm-3pm)

Thursday, September 28 (2pm-3pm)

Thursday, November 30 (2pm-3pm)

If you would like to attend, please contact

Secure Care Pathway and Standards Scotland: launched October 2020

The Secure Care Pathway and Standards Scotland (referred to as Pathway and Standards) for the first time set out what all children in or on the edges of secure care should expect across the continuum of intensive supports and services. They apply to all children in or on the edges of secure care, and to all individuals and agencies supporting these children.

The Pathway and Standards provide a framework for ensuring rights are respected, and improving experiences and outcomes. They are not service led; they follow a child’s potential journey before, during and after a stay in secure care and are written from their perspective. The Pathway is made up of 44 Standards focusing on the areas that children and young people detailed were the most important to them and had the greatest impact on their experiences. The following resources have been developed to support implementation:

  • A simple self-evaluation, learning and improvement template
  • A half-day workshop session to raise awareness of the Pathways and Standards and to enable participants to contribute local areas or agencies’ baseline self-evaluation and plans for improvement. CYCJ can facilitate this session or share resources to support delivery.
  • A website co-designed with young people which includes information the Pathway and Standards; quotes on why these Standards matter to children and young people; associated legislation, policy and guidance; and illustrative links to the Health and Social Care Standards and How good is our school? Quality Indicators. This resource will continue to be updated so please share any feedback or questions.

Get in touch with for more information or to discuss collaborative working opportunities.

Related blogs and resources on the Standards

Secure Care Pathway and Standards: Coproduction process and implementation
plans: Scottish Journal of Residential Child Care

Info Sheet: Secure Care Pathway and Standards Scotland

Launching the Secure Standards in style

Securing better futures

Supporting secure care in East Ayrshire

Scotland – time for open hearts and minds

Coming soon…the Secure Care Pathway and Standards Scotland 


STARR is Scotland’s only curated space for secure care experienced children, young people and adults. They are there to help inform, advise, challenge and change the pathways into, during and after secure care. Find out more. Contact

Secure Care in Scotland – background

The Secure Care National Project (2015 to 2018)

Led by Alison Gough, as Secure Care National Advisor, the project worked with a wide range of sector leads, partners and care experienced young people to:

  • ensure the effective delivery of service to children in secure care
  • review current trends, achievements and risks
  • make recommendations to partners about future configuration of the secure estate

Recommendations from the Project led to the establishment of a national Strategic Board to provide leadership and direction, giving a voice to care experienced young people and involving them in driving a long-term programme of transformation for secure care and approaches to young people in and on the edges of secure care in Scotland. As part of this, the STARR (secure care experienced advisory) group was created, bringing together adults and young people with lived experience of the care system.

Find out more about the work of the Secure Care National Project.

Related reports and documents

Secure Care in Scotland: A Scoping Study

Secure Care in Scotland: Looking Ahead

Chief Social Work Officers and secure care

Secure Care in Scotland: Young People’s Voices

IRISS FM podcast: Secure Care in Scotland

Secure Care Strategic Board: report to Scottish Ministers

Secure Care Strategic Board minutes

Secure Care in Scotland: Cross border placements

Secure Care Practice Development at CYCJ (2019 onwards)

CYCJ has continued to work with partners to:

  • support and coordinate design, delivery and implementation of the Secure Care National Standards
  • support improvements, and transformational change, in response to young people where there are extreme needs, vulnerabilities and actual risk of significant harm to self and/or others
  • continue links with the STARR group
  • build on research, evidence and data analysis

This work has fed into the Secure Care Group that was established to provide strategic oversight to ensure that the remaining tasks of the Secure Care Strategic Board are completed and that there is no overlap or duplication of effort with the work of the Independent Care Review.


Statutory Duties in Secure Accommodation: Unlocking Children’s Rights (Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, June 2021)

ACEs, Distance and Sources of Resilience: Results from the 2019 Scottish Secure Care Census

ACEs, Places and Status: Results from the 2018 Scottish Secure Care Census

Quality Framework for secure care accommodation centres (Care Inspectorate)

Submission on behalf of CYCJ to the Justice Committee on Secure Care Places for Children and Young People in Scotland. View the resulting report here. 

Blogs and Information Sheets

From little acorns… (Fiona Duncan, Chair of The Promise)

Restorative Practice in the Good Shepherd Centre

Working together to achieve a rights respecting dream

Good deeds from the Good Shepherd Centre

Deprivation of Liberty in Northern Ireland

Routes into Secure Care

Secure Care Group Minutes



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Children's and Young People's Centre for Justice
University of Strathclyde
Lord Hope Building, Level 6
141 St. James Road Glasgow G4 0LT

(0141) 444 8622

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