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Securing better futures

Thursday 8 October 2020



Author: Paul Sullivan

This article was first published on The Children's and Young People's Centre for Justice (CYCJ) website on 8 October 2020. 


October 8, 2020 marks a very important moment for children and young people who experience secure care. That’s because it’s the day that the Secure Care Pathway and Standards will be launched in Scotland’s five secure care centres, celebrating the hard work, creativity and passion that children put into helping to develop these. Paul Sullivan, Sector Engagement Lead at CELCIS, explains what this mean for the future of secure care in Scotland.

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The Pathway and Standards, which were officially launched on October 5, provide a new standard (literally!) of how children in or on the edges of secure care in Scotland will experience their care journey. Implementation will help improve how care is experienced by young people in secure settings now, but also for any other children and young people who may experience secure in years to come.

What will change?

Full implementation of all 44 Standards will help transform secure care. These Standards are what everyone in the system should expect: for children and young people, their families, staff involved in providing secure care, and those professionals involved in supporting children before and after any potential stay in secure care.

Within secure care settings, young people will be welcomed into a space that feels safe, comfortable and friendly. They will be given access to what they need to relax and rest. The people they care about will be encouraged and supported to stay connected with them, and they will be treated with dignity, compassion and respect. Their rights will be upheld and respected.

Education was one of the main issues children discussed during the co-production process and there are a number of Standards that reflect the importance of this; including young people being given a range of high quality educational, vocational and community-based experiences and qualifications.

The Standards don’t just apply to secure care settings though. Children told us that often it was the preparation for coming into secure care or transitioning out that was most difficult. As well as during, 20 of the 44 Standards speak to the ‘before and after’, ensuring that children are involved in the decision making process about their care; given the right information in preparing to enter secure care; and supported to leave secure care at a pace that’s comfortable for them.

The Standards provide a framework for ensuring the rights of children and young people are respected, and are aimed at improving experiences and outcomes for children who are experiencing extreme vulnerabilities, needs and risks in their lives. Each one of the 44 Standards are hugely important. They are written from the perspective of the child, and reflect the areas children and young people detailed were most important to them. You can read them in full here.

How did the process work?

Just as importantly, the Pathway and Standards have been co-produced alongside children with experience of secure care. It’s important that we take a moment to recognise every single child who took part in this process. Without their involvement the Standards could not have been developed in the way that they have. The co-production process has been integral to their development and will be integral to their success. This co-production process must now be seen as the ‘new norm’ for the development of any service and the development of the Pathway and Standards should be seen as a real example of co-production in motion.

Each of the five centres took on the ‘creative challenge’ of redesigning how secure care should look and feel. Supported by CYCJ, CELCIS and the STARR Board, each of the centres used art, storytelling, model building, music and other forms of creativity to design how care should look and feel. Some of the creative abilities showcased were truly amazing as children worked alongside staff to design their perfect care environment.

The creative process helped staff and children think differently about how they wanted their care to be. The process gave them an opportunity to work alongside staff on an equal footing. Being covered in pritt-stick, paint and post-its always acts as a good leveller! Most importantly, the creative process gave many the opportunity to have their voice heard in ways which felt safe to them. These elements of fun, choice and creativity were so important.

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Once this creative work had taken place, further work was carried out to create the standards, test them out with the children, and then hone and develop them further. It’s wholly appropriate that October 8 is about launching the standards in the secure care centres, back with the children who helped shape them.

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None of this work could have been possible without the leadership of the STARR group, Scotland’s only volunteer group of members with lived experience of secure care who help advise, influence, inform and challenge secure care. Developing standards for care is not a quick win. It has been a process of years in the development and one in which STARR has never wavered. Its members have been patient, focused, and always driven towards the goal of improving care for other children. The Standards Champions in the five secure care centres played an equally pivotal role.

The development of the Pathway and Standards is also a clear example of multi-agency working and the value of bringing together different key partners to work to a common goal. Each of the five secure care centres worked in close partnership together and with Scottish Government, CYCJ, CELCIS, Staf, Education Scotland, local authorities and other corporate parents. Each partner played a critical role in bringing us to this juncture.

Next steps

Following the launch on October 8 in the secure care centres, we want the Pathway and Standards to become the reality for every child who experiences secure care. In this sense, the hard work starts now.

The STARR group has helped to develop this fantastic website along with children and young people in secure care and the Standards Champions, which explains each of the 44 Standards and includes creative work designed by the children. Please take a moment to check this out and familiarise yourself with the Standards. The greater awareness we have of children’s rights, the more likely it is that they will be upheld.

These Standards have been developed for the here and now, and as a starting point for further improvements in years to come. As we all look to support the implementation of The Promise made by Scotland’s Independent Care Review, and look forward to the full incorporation of the UNCRC, we hope even greater changes and improvements are made to how children experience care. The Pathway and Standards are one important step on that journey and we know that by working alongside children who experience care, we can make further transformational changes all across Scotland.


The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author/s and may not represent the views or opinions of CELCIS or our funders.

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