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Children experiencing or witnessing abuse to receive co-ordinated child-centred approach

Children and young people who are victims or witnesses to abuse or violence will have access to a ‘Bairns’ Hoose’ by 2025, the Scottish government has announced.

Bairns’ Hoose – based on an Icelandic model - will bring together services in a ‘four rooms’ approach with child protection, health, justice and recovery services all made available in one setting. This coordinated approach is designed to reduce the number of times children have to recount their experiences to different professionals.

Children below the age of criminal responsibility, whose behaviour has caused harm, will also have access to the services it will provide.

Justice Secretary Keith Brown said: “We are aiming for transformational change in relation to how children in the justice system are treated, not just in relation to the taking of evidence but ensuring that they can access timely support and begin their recovery as soon as possible.

“Bringing these elements together in one setting is our goal and we must work collectively to achieve it.

“At present, young people who are caught up in our justice system have to go to multiple different services and locations.

“We believe that every eligible child victim or witness has the right to consistent and holistic support, access to specialist services and be afforded the opportunity to recover from their experiences and that these services should be delivered cohesively,” he added.

The overall vision of a Bairns’ Hoose (Barnahus) in Scotland is that:

“All children in Scotland who have been victims or witnesses to abuse or violence, as well as children under the age of criminal responsibility whose behaviour has caused significant harm or abuse will have access to trauma informed recovery, support and justice.”

The key values are:

  • Child centred, trauma informed and respect the rights and wellbeing of the child at all times
  • Provides consistent and holistic support, which enables children to have their voice heard, access specialist services and recover from their experiences
  • Prevents children being retraumatised and to improve the experience of the criminal justice process for children and families
  • Demonstrates connectedness and national leadership to uphold children’s rights to protection, support, participation and recovery

The Scottish approach to Barnahus is rights-based in line with the United Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), The Promise and Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) in recognising that all children must receive the right help at the right time.

Where information is received by police, health or social work that a child may have been abused or neglected and/or is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm, an Inter-Agency Referral Discussion (IRD) must be convened as soon as reasonably practicable. Inter-Agency Referral Discussions will be a critical factor in the development and implementation of the Bairns’ Hoose model to ensure that every eligible child has access to its services.

The Scottish government plans to develop test sites and capture learning from a pilot programme on a limited basis before scaling up nationally, informed by emerging practice developments, in line with other European models.

Children 1st Chief Executive Mary Glasgow said: “This is an incredibly important commitment to children and their families in Scotland. Today’s publication of the Scottish Bairns’ Hoose Vision realises the pledge to transform the country’s age old systems. It will uphold every child’s right to justice, protection and care.

“Over many years children have bravely shared that they have been further traumatised by the systems that should have been there to support them following their experiences of abuse or violence. They and their parents and carers have also spoken of their shock and distress at the lack of available help to recover from what has happened to them.

“This Vision to create a Scottish Bairns’ Hoose is rooted in what children have told us they need to recover and move on and we look forward to continuing to work with all the partners, services and agencies involved to bring it to life,” she added.

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