Site proposed for UK-first ‘healing house’ to protect child victims of crime

Posted: 16th March 2021

CHILD victims and witnesses are set to get help to recover from traumatic experiences at a new centre of excellence in East Renfrewshire.

In a UK-first, a pilot project to protect young people will see charity Children 1st open the Child’s House for Healing.

It will support up to 200 children from across the West of Scotland when it opens at the end of this year.

Children will give statements at the house to specially-trained staff, away from police stations and court rooms. They will also get medical care and support to recover from their ordeal.

At a meeting tomorrow, councillors will be asked to agree to giving a 25-year lease for A-listed Capelrig House, in Newton Mearns, to the charity for a minimal rent.

They are also set to grant £444,000 to the pioneering project, with £1.5m coming from the People’s Postcode Lottery.

Children 1st will lead the scheme, alongside partners at the University of Edinburgh and Victim Support Scotland.

It will be a learning hub where professionals and researchers can develop and share best approaches to helping children get justice and recover from frightening experiences.

Mary Glasgow, the chief executive of Children 1st, said: “Children and families are shocked by how traumatic it can be to give evidence in court and how little support there is to help them recover from their experiences.

“The Child’s House for Healing will inspire change across Scotland and the rest of the UK.”

She added: “We are delighted to be working with East Renfrewshire Council and the Health and Social Care Partnership as we take forward our plans to develop this forward-thinking approach to supporting children and young people who become victims or witnesses.”

The house would be Scotland’s first Barnahus, an approach – first developed in Iceland – which is internationally recognised as the best way to protect children’s rights to justice and recovery. It provides a welcoming and safe environment for children.

An international research advisory group, including specialists in child health, child protection and social work from Sweden, Norway, Canada, South Africa and the UK, will support the centre of excellence.

Capelrig House, last used for East Renfrewshire Council offices, has been vacant for over the past 10 years.

The council’s director of environment Andy Cahill said: “This is an excellent opportunity to be at the forefront of a step change in the delivery of children’s support services within the UK and Capelrig House offers an ideal location from which to deliver this pioneering approach.

“It is now for councillors to consider this proposal.”

People’s Postcode Lottery, which manages lotteries where people play with their postcodes for a chance to win cash, provides part of each subscription to charities.

Laura Chow, head of charities at the lottery, said: “The idea of your child becoming a victim or witness to a crime is every parent’s worst nightmare and it’s great to see the development of this essential project.

“It’s vital that if the worst does happen, children get the very best care and support to give evidence and recover from their experiences.”

When plans for a facility were revealed in April, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said the Scottish Government was “committed” to bringing forward Barnahus standards to support child victims and witnesses.

“We continue to work hard to provide trauma-informed support to children and young people who are the victims of serious and traumatic crime but there is always more which can be done,” he said.

Source (Glasgow Times, March 2021)

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