5. Core Principles
The principles underpinning effective alternatives to secure care and custody are summarised as:
lead professional and consistent risk assessment/management
2 Partnership working
3 Corporate parenting
4 Family work
5 Accommodation options/supports
7 Intensive support - and crisis support
9 Development of community opportunities
10 Exit strategies/continued support or different support arranged - if needed
1 Positive relationship between worker and young person
2 Consistency, flexibility and responsiveness
3 Persistence/commitment of worker
4 Knowledge of the needs of young people
5 Ability to focus on the future
6 Positive relationship with decision makers to ensure they are fully informed of services to increase their use
1 Confidence in the service/provision
2 Presence of workers within the Court
3 Knowledge of services available
Getting it right for every child ( GIRFEC) places the child at the centre and promises much in terms of tackling the repetition and lack of coherency in working with young people and their families through use of the single shared assessment, and a joined up planning and record system. Along with the 19 actions contained in We Can and Must do Better (2007) GIRFEC addresses all of the key points contained in a decade of research and reports since the Children Scotland Act 1995, concerning -
- the role of the corporate parent;
- partnership and clarity of responsibility;
- education within a Lifelong learning agenda; and
- flexible support before during and after placement
To manage effective change, GIRFEC highlights; the importance of using a holistic human service approach; enabling a single plan to be implemented and led by one professional where key stages are mapped on an end-to-end process; bound together by a case manager into a meaningful and coherent whole; enabling different resources and styles to be matched to different cases; and developing variable forms of teamwork and organisational support for multidisciplinary contributions to the core process of case management.
GIRFEC has a number of key components: 31
- a focus on improving outcomes for children, young people and their families based on a shared understanding of well-being;
- a common approach to gaining consent and to sharing information where appropriate;
- an integral role for children, young people and families in assessment, planning and intervention;
- a co-ordinated and unified approach to identifying concerns, assessing needs, agreeing actions and outcomes, based on the Well-being Indicators;
- streamlined planning, assessment and decision-making processes that lead to the right help at the right time;
- consistent high standards of co-operation, joint working and communication where more than one agency needs to be involved, locally and across Scotland;
- a lead professional to co-ordinate and monitor multi-agency activity where necessary;
- maximising the skilled workforce within universal services to address needs and risks at the earliest possible time;
- a confident and competent workforce across all services for children, young people and their families; and
- the capacity to share demographic, assessment and planning information electronically within and across agency boundaries.
Under the GIRFEC approach, when two or more agencies need to work together to provide help to a child or young person and family, there will be a lead professional to co-ordinate that help. Where those working with the young person and their family have evidence that suggests a co-ordinated plan involving two or more agencies will be necessary, then a single plan should be drawn up.
The role of the lead professional is to:
- usually be the point of contact with the young person and their family for the purpose of discussing the plan and how it is working, as well as any changes in circumstances that may affect the plan;
- be a main point of contact for all practitioners who are delivering help to the child to feedback progress on the plan or raise any issues;
- make sure that the help provided is consistent with the Child's Plan, that services are not duplicated;
- work with the child and family and the practitioner network to make sure that the child and family's views and wishes are heard and properly taken into account and, when necessary, link the child and family with specialist advocacy; support the child and family to make use of help from practitioners and agencies;
- monitor how well the Single Plan is working and whether it is improving the young person's situation;
- co-ordinate the provision of other help or specialist assessments which may be needed, with advice from other practitioners where necessary, and make arrangements for these to take place;
- arrange for the agencies to review together their involvement and amend the Single Plan when necessary; and
- make sure the young person is supported through key transition points and ensure a careful and planned transfer of responsibility for these roles when another practitioner becomes the lead professional.
The lead professional will be responsible for ensuring the production of an agreed multi-agency Single Plan. The plan will be based on an assessment of needs and will incorporate any current single agency plans. The plan will identify when a review is needed and the lead professional will arrange for materials to be circulated to everyone involved, especially the young person and their family where appropriate. In many occasions this will involved both adult and child care systems working together and sharing information to ensure a smooth transition.
Assessment and risk management
GIRFEC highlights the importance of the assessment process 32 , which is crucial in identifying the needs and risks of young people involved in offending. This allows for individualised plans to effectively address risk and need, to manage risk effectively within the community as opposed to secure care or custody.
Assessments 33 need to be holistic and analytical, with actions highlighted in the plan to meet risk and need and improve outcomes for young people. Offending behaviour and criminogenic factors need to be measured and included in the plan as areas to be addressed. In Scotland, the Risk Management Authority's ( RMA) rated document 34 highlights the different risk assessments tools available, and GIRFEC details three tools to make sense of the information collected. Professional judgement should also be used when undertaking assessment and plans to inform risk management. Guidance in relation to child and adult protection should be followed where appropriate.
Once a decision has been made about risk management arrangements, it is for the lead professional to coordinate, monitor and review these arrangements and, through liaison with the other professionals working with the child or young person, identify any changes in behaviour which would necessitate a review of the risk management arrangements. The lead professional's primary task is to make sure that all the support provided is working well, fits with involvement of other practitioners and agencies and is achieving the goals of the child's plan.
Multi agency working is fundamental to the risk management and planning process. Positive multi agency working relies as much on formal agreements as on good working relationships between practitioners. However, it is important to ensure a consistent approach across agencies so that everyone involved in the management of young people has a clear understanding of their role and responsibilities.
Risk management meetings should be included in child planning meetings at intervals as set within the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 regulations and guidance 35 , or on a more frequent basis as risk dictates.
'No single organisation can hope to reduce the incidence of crime and tackle the underlying causes of criminal and anti-social behaviour. Local organisations need to work together to develop comprehensive solutions which achieve a permanent improvement to the communities' quality of life' 36 .
To ensure a GIRFEC approach is used, all agencies and professionals need to work together to meet the needs of the child. One plan should be used by everyone involved with the young person with agreed actions to meet risk and need. Partnership working underpins the principles of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 - 'working in partnership to support and protect children'.
Partnership working needs to include the young person, their family where appropriate and any relevant or significant people for that young person. Professionals should support the young person and their family, who are central to any plan devised.
The Youth Justice Board for England and Wales states that partnership working is key to keeping young people out of prison. They state that 'good partnership between the youth offending service and the Courts can make a difference at a local level' 37 . This is not a new concept as collective responsibility to prevent young people offending, shared by a range of public and voluntary services is essential. Evidence suggests that the more joined up 'multi-agency' teams are, the better the outcomes for young people 38 .
All local authorities and community partners should be working in partnership wherever possible to meet the needs of all young people. This partnership approach should be included within a young person's single plan, to ensure all risks and needs are being met to reduce involvement in offending behaviour and keeping more young people within their local communities.
'Corporate parenting means the formal and local partnerships needed between all local authority departments and services, and associated agencies, who are responsible for working together to meet the needs of looked after children (this includes looked after children at home) and young people, and care leavers.' 39
Being a good corporate parent means that local authorities should:
- accept responsibility for the council's Looked After children and young people;
- make their needs a priority;
- seek for them the same outcomes any good parent would want for their own children;
- consider pathways planning and transitions to independent living. 40
Local authorities will want to :
- know how many children and young people are Looked After by your council, why they are Looked After, that they are safe at all times and how well they are doing;
- make sure that your schools are inclusive, aspirational for all children and young people, including those who are Looked After, and have in place strategies to ensure that Looked After children and young people are not disproportionately represented in poor attendance, exclusions, bullying and underachievement;
- actively promote and support high standards of care for children and young people, and care leavers, taking account of their cultural needs;
- actively seek high quality outcomes for your Looked After children and young people and care leavers and take responsibility for those outcomes;
- remove barriers, where possible, which prevent your Looked After children and young people and care leavers achieving the desired outcomes;
- challenge professionals to work in new ways which always promote inclusion;
- make sure that the physical, mental and emotional well-being of your Looked After children and young people and care leavers are being addressed at the earliest opportunity;
- make sure that your Looked After children and young people are given the same opportunities that any good parents would provide for their child and that you have the same expectations and aspirations as you would for your own children. Champion the needs of, and be aspirational for, your Looked After children and young people and care leavers;
- know who your care leavers are and make sure that there is appropriate support available to them;
- be certain that the services your council provides or commissions for your Looked After children and young people and care leavers are meeting their needs to the highest possible standard, including when the child is placed outwith your own services or geographical area;
- make sure that you have effective scrutiny mechanisms in place to hold officers to account for local outcomes;
- consider making a reference to improving outcomes for Looked After children and young people and care leavers in your Single Outcome Agreement, or at least make sure that their needs are recognised in your broader local outcomes and indicators and performance management system;
- work with local health board members and other key partners to make sure that services are scrutinised across the community planning partnerships and this includes monitoring, integrated working, setting shared goals and values and continuous improvement;
- make sure that all services in your authority are able to protect, support and encourage Looked After children and young people and care leavers, individually and collectively.
- promote a positive view of Looked After children and young people and care leavers, and help to raise public awareness about the care system;
- recognise and show pride in children or young person's achievements, build their confidence and defend them against unfair criticism;
- make sure that the views of children and young people and care leavers are heard and listened to, and when decisions are being made that their views are being taken into account.
Duties of local authorities 41
There is a statutory duty (set out in Part II of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995) on all parts of a local authority to ensure that they safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people who are looked after by them, which includes those in secure care. There is also a duty on other agencies to cooperate with councils in order to help them fulfil that duty.
However, as highlighted in These Are Our Bairns 42 , being a good corporate parent is not only a responsibility but an opportunity to improve the futures of looked after children and young people and care leavers. Local authorities have a duty to prepare young people for ceasing to be looked after ("throughcare"), with transitions 43 and to provide advice, guidance and assistance for young people who have ceased to be looked after over school age ("aftercare"). Regulations and guidance on services for young people ceasing to be looked after came into force in April 2004. Central to this legislation is the duty to carry out an assessment of the needs of these young people. Guidance materials have been developed to support this process 44 .
Current literature on risk factors for youth offending often highlights the impact of family relationships on young people in both positive and negative ways. The key issue is that young people have a context, and that context should direct the approach taken with those young people and their families.
Issues particularly likely to encourage 'problem behaviour' include poor parental supervision and discipline, family conflict, a family history of problem behaviour, and parental involvement in or attitudes that condone problem behaviour 45 .
Family work is appropriate when offending behaviour has some origins in family relationships and difficulties, and when the family can be actively engaged in strategies to prevent further offending. Support and Services for Parents: A Review of the Literature in Engaging and Supporting Parents concluded that 46 :
- direct child development work, parent training and school based provision is most effective for primary school children;
- structured family work alongside community programmes is most effective for adolescents;
- multi-system approaches work best with older adolescents.
The research also suggests that children who are physically abused or neglected are more likely to become offenders later in life and to be arrested for juvenile violence 47 . Given this, young people identified as having been abused or neglected would benefit from targeted interventions to combat the likely effects of abuse. Parental abuse and neglect, while directly relevant as a risk factor for offending behaviour, may initially require intervention through a child protection route if concerns are raised that the child or young person is at risk of significant harm 48 . Similarly, there is a strong correlation between truancy and future offending. Preventive and early intervention practices should focus on addressing the issues which underpin non attendance, and work with families, education, other relevant professionals and the community to ensure needs are met. It should be emphasised that the complex and interrelated nature of parental neglect and abuse, and the risks associated with offending behaviour by young people, should be addressed in a holistic and integrated way. GIRFEC provides a holistic assessment of the young person's needs and strengths but on its own does not focus in depth on offending behaviour. The challenge therefore is to address the multiple needs of young people while retaining the focus on the offending behaviour by integrating GIRFEC with other specialist approaches.
Family experiences play a critical role in promoting or reinforcing criminal behaviour by young people. Family work can be difficult to define and can range from general family and youth approaches through to specialist structured family work. Four broad categories of family-based interventions are associated with effective outcomes with children and young people: pre-school education programmes, home visitation provision, parent training and structured family work. Reviews of direct family work and parent training with adolescents show promising outcomes.
Families can equally have a positive influence, however, particularly as young people mature. Identification and involvement of positive family influences (or indeed positive supports outside the biological family), can increase the individual's stake in conformity, increase the cost of offending and be the trigger to prompt a moving away from crime. This investment in 'social capital' and 'human capital' is a critical factor in desistance from offending for young people 49 . Similarly, Laub et al 50 suggested that gradually increasing positive bonds linked to work and family would over time lead to a reduction in criminal activity.
Involvement of the families of young people can have further beneficial effects in terms of support for the families themselves. Young people's offending can often have an impact on families as well, in terms of worry for the young person's safety; concern about how to keep them out of trouble; targeting or stigma from neighbours and the wider community; or through victimisation of the young person. Engagement with families must recognise the fact that families will have needs in their own and should not therefore focus solely on the needs of the young person.
As family work should be included in all work with young people, service providers should:
- adopt the GIRFEC model, bearing in mind that 'Getting It Right for Every Child' may be better approached as 'Getting It Right for Every Family';
- directly address criminogenic needs as identified by the assessment process;
- ensure enough time to build relationships with the young person and their family;
- work flexibly in supporting families to develop individualised plans, ensuring partners are involved when appropriate;
- provide services in a way that can reach out to children and families, should they choose not to engage;
- ensure a variety of services are accessible to address multiple needs, and different needs at different times;
- value families believing in their fundamental ability to cope and make a difference in their lives;
- show an understanding of the challenges and be sensitive, honest, and trustworthy;
- endeavour to create equal relationship and using the family's strengths, views and knowledge alongside your own at every stage of the process.
Research has found that young people are often remanded in custody due to homelessness or unsuitable accommodation situation. Community alternative services may need to look at having accommodation or tenancy support to prevent this situation. Young people should not be remand or sentenced to custody due to inappropriate accommodation. Local authorities need to provide suitable accommodation to meet the individual needs of the young person 51 . This may include services like intensive fostering or supported accommodation to further support the young person.
Research shows that inadequate accommodation is likely to have a significant negative impact on reoffending. There is a documented link between severe accommodation problems or homelessness and rates of recidivism 52 .
It is beneficial for a worker to be present in court when a young person who is assessed as suitable for a community alternative is being sentenced, so that support is immediate and visible for the young person and the sentencing court. More information in relation to this can be found in guidance for court staff 53 and the National Standards for Criminal Justice Social Work 54 . Disposals also need to be made as quickly as possible to allow the young person to have clear understanding of the link between their offending and the outcome.
For some vulnerable and troubled young people, the appropriate and proportionate help that they require is an intensive package of support. The intensive nature of that support will require that it be provided by a number of agencies working together.
For some of those young people, that intensive package of support may require to be supplemented by a condition of a supervision requirement that restricts their movements and electronically monitors whether that restriction is adhered to. This can be achieved using a movement restriction condition as part of a supervision requirement with intensive support, that is ISMS 55 .
To be effective, alternatives to secure care and custody should involve some form of monitoring and surveillance. Evidence suggests services require rigorous and consistent response to non-compliance. Such responses need to ensure community safety whilst allowing for some flexibility around breaches. Non-compliance can be an opportunity for young people to learn and grow in terms of self control and keeping to commitments, and should not automatically result in secure care or custody. These approaches combine intense levels of community-based professional supervision and surveillance with a sustained focus on personal change, tackling the factors that contribute to the young person's offending behaviour, family work and bringing these together with education and training for employment, drug and accommodation services, mental health provision, life skills, leisure and voluntary sector services.
The guidance on ISMS includes a legal means of monitoring through a Movement Restriction Condition ( MRC) 57 . Not all intensive supports include an MRC as other forms of monitoring may be identified. The lead worker therefore needs to ensure the plan and risk assessment are up-to-date and everyone involved, especially the young person and their family, knows what is expected. This should involve a contingency/back up plan, outlining that if for example, the young person does not return home on time or make set appointments what the course of action will be. This will ensure consistency, whilst keeping the young person and the community safe.
Development of community opportunities
For young people remaining in the community, all opportunities to meet identified need should be explored. As corporate parents, all community partners have a role and responsibility to meet the needs of children and young people. This should include working in partnership to address all risk factors present as highlighted in the young person's single plan, and to ensure young people have access to:
- safe environment/accommodation;
- social inclusion;
- supportive professionals;
- positive activities/role models;
- programmes/interventions to address offending behaviour and need;
- leisure and sport; and
- positive and nurturing relationships.
Mentoring programmes provide a promising approach to supporting a reduction in youth offending. Mentoring is a more commonly-used intervention with young people to prevent, divert, and deal with involvement in or at risk of offending and antisocial behaviour than with adults. These programmes tend to focus more on social modelling rather than on reciprocal assistance or shared experience.
Tolan et al's meta-analytic review 58 of 39 studies published between 1970 and 2005 found a moderately positive effect of mentoring programmes in combating offending and aggression. Positive effects were stronger for programmes in which emotional support was a key component of the mentoring process, and where 'professional' development was a motivator for the mentor's participation. As a caveat to these findings, the authors note, however, that even rigorous studies lacked specific information about what constitutes mentoring activity.
Transitions and exit strategies
Following the 'what works' research, intervention should meet the risk presented. As the risk decreases so too should the level of intervention. Since many young people involved in offending behaviour, who require alternatives to secure care and custody, have experienced poor relationships with adults reducing contact/leaving a service needs to be undertaken in a planned way. Exit strategies need to be included within the child's plan to ensure a positive ending of involvement in services, at a time that is appropriate.
Existing Scottish Government guidance 59 highlights the need to plan for continuity of support beyond the duration of the immediate alternative to secure/custody sentence to ensure that the foundations laid are built upon. This should include a relapse prevention period. Relapse prevention support consolidates and sustains the progress already made and allows for a tapered exit strategy to empower young people to make the transition to independence, to take responsibility for improving their lives and reduce the likelihood of reoffending.
As part of an exit strategy a young person's support should be tapered consistently to reflect their progression and reduced needs/risks, and to aid successful transition to independence.
Integral to the successful exit of a young person is the amount and availability of support networks open to them. It is therefore extremely beneficial to the young person if their support networks are accessed and their link with external agencies is incorporated into their ongoing support planning in order for their social capital to be increased and so that relationships of conviviality can be developed and maintained 60 . Support planning should also look at family work, in order to ensure an increased availabilty of support for the young person within their extended family.
The exit process should review the achievements of the young person, possible ongoing risks and their current support networks. The young person should work with their support worker on their dis-engagement plan, to have ownership of their plan for the future, after completion of the service.
If a young person is moving from a child care service to an adult one, partnership working is essential to ensure a smooth exit from one system into the next. Currently, the requirements of services do differ and young people can struggle with expectations placed upon them. Support should be offered to overcome any issues that arise.
The Children (Scotland) Act 1995 Regulations and Guidance 61 , identify good practice that is still applicable when dealing with young people who are being managed within the Children's Hearings System and also in the adult courts. The guidance and Regulations state that where necessary children's and criminal justice services should be co-ordinated and agreements reached about who is the best person to complete court reports and supervise any probation/community payback orders. It may be that youth justice and criminal justice staff work together with the young people to allow a continuity of support and resources. This will also ensure critical information is shared between workers providing a greater understanding of the complexities of both systems and a smoother transition between services 62 . Joint arrangements, where necessary, can continue until a young person reaches 18 years of age.
Effective interventions are strongly influenced by effective workers who use their personal influence through quality interaction with young people ( relational principle). Effective practitioners require skills in change management, and the policy and practice agenda needs to move towards the development of better integrated community justice and welfare provision, reflecting the importance of shared responsibility and social justice.
The 'core' conditions for effective social interventions relate to the ability of practitioners to convey accurate empathy, respect, warmth and genuineness; to establish a working alliance based on mutual understanding and explicit (written) agreement about the nature and purpose of the intervention; and to develop an approach that, as far as possible, is person-centred or collaborative. This needs to take into account the individual needs of the young person and any disabilities they may have.
Core practices identified in the effectiveness literature with adults involved in offending 63 suggest that the qualities of practitioners are associated with positive outcomes in reducing re-offending. These include the quality of the interpersonal relationship, the effective use of authority, anti-criminal (or pro-social) modelling and reinforcement, problem solving and accessing community resources. Empirical studies of supervision have found that the use of pro-social modelling consistently correlated with lower re-offending and tended to be most effective with young, high-risk, violent and drug-using offenders.
Research into secure accommodation has shown that is it is crucial for social workers and staff in secure units to work together to understand and support children and that really listening to children is crucial to building understanding and relationships 64 . In fact a wide range of research has highlighted the importance of relationships to successful social care, residential care and social work. A recent review of this literature base by the Social Care Institute for Excellence highlights the clear finding that the staff best able to work with children who demonstrate challenging behaviour are those 'who are able to demonstrate a clear commitment to children, listen to them and understand and respect them' 65 .
To evaluate effectiveness, workers should be able to self-evaluate their work and services evaluate their interventions. This allows workers and services to know what they are doing well and also to identify areas for improvement. Encouraging self awareness, the ability to build on capacity to do better and to recognise strengths have been identified as positive outcomes from this process 66 .
5.3 Decision Makers
Emerging evidence from the early evaluation of the pilot of the GIRFEC approach suggests that decision making is improved by a two-fold process of strengthening individual professional values and aims, to ensure a focus around the needs of the child, and strengthening inter-professional working cultures to support multi-agency working 67 . Opportunities for joint training, regular supervision and a culture that encourages reflective practice, could all help to develop these positive multi- agency working relationships 68 .
Variation throughout Scotland in decision making practice in relation to secure care has been of concern to policy makers for a long time. Walker et al 69 undertook a study to provide, 'a framework to assist the decision-making process on the use of secure accommodation by children's hearings and social work departments'.
This focus on Children's Hearings and social work departments meant that Walker et al.'s study only examined the welfare route into secure accommodation. Their interviews with a focus on decision making included social work managers, children's panel chairs, and senior staff at secure units across eight different local authorities but did not include children. They found that the process of decision making usually involved two stages:
- stage One: Social work staff would make a decision about the need for a secure place and then ask a children's hearing for authorisation;
- stage Two: The secure units would then decide if a young person should be prioritised and offered a place in their unit.
At the first stage of decision making three out of the eight local authorities took a pro-active approach, attempting to avoid the use of secure accommodation by using more general screening groups to allocate various community based resources to children whose situations were beginning to deteriorate. Other local authorities saw secure accommodation as a more potentially useful part of the care plan and were less pro-active in their attempts to divert children from secure placement. This suggests that the perceived role of secure accommodation has an impact on the process of decision making.
Walker et al highlight that there are huge regional differences at stage two of the secure accommodation decision making process, for instance, local authorities out-with the central belt have much greater difficulty accessing secure places. The three local authorities with access to their own secure units make much more use of the provision then other authorities. Members of staff working in secure units in these authorities were also much more positive in their descriptions of secure accommodation and in their views of its role as part of an overall care plan. SCRA 70 have recently found that only 5% of children on secure authorisations had not been placed six months after authorisation. This suggests that despite the regional differences in access to secure places most children who are recommended for a secure placement now receive one.
This study concludes that decision making about secure accommodation varies greatly between local authorities and that much of this has to do with the range of other service provision that has been developed in the area and the ease of accessing secure placements. Gender has also been shown to play a significant role in decision making 71 . It is important to ensure that decisions about secure care are not 'resource-led' rather than needs led.
Present guidance on the use of secure care does not address the issue of evidence in relation to the level of risks presented by a young person. However recent research suggests that greater clarity and guidance are needed on the issue of evidencing risk and the secure criteria 72 . Evidence could include: written testimonies from relevant agencies, clearly dated logs relating to patterns of absconding and offending, detail relating to the physical and mental state of the young person and their prior history, and assessment reports. Referrals to secure care should also detail all effort to find suitable community based alternatives to secure accommodation, as stated in the Children's Hearing (Scotland) Act 2011 73 .
The Children's Hearing (Scotland) Act 2011 provides powers for new regulations to be made about placing a young person in secure care, including the role of the Chief Social Work Officer. It is therefore important for Chief Executives and Chief Social Work Officers to be aware of guidance about secure decision making and alternatives to secure care and custody.
Making sure that robust community alternatives are known to decision makers in court is important in influencing the decisions made about young people. Sheriffs need to know what is available, what such services entail, and how risk will be managed. Report authors need to ensure that all information is based on a full risk and need assessment.