Transforming children’s experiences of the justice system

Posted: 5th June 2023

New test sites for ‘Bairns’ Hoose’ to be set up.

Children and young people in the justice system will soon be able to benefit from coordinated, comprehensive support under one roof thanks to a £6 million investment in setting up Bairns’ Hoose test sites.

A key action from The Promise, the creation of Bairns’ Hoose test sites will ensure a range of trauma-informed support is available to child victims and witnesses, aiming to improve their experience of the justice system and reduce stress when recounting their experiences.

Healthcare including therapeutic support, child protection, recovery and justice services will be available at Bairns’ Hoose such as:

  • assessment of protection needs and involving the child in decisions that affect them
  • police and social work led joint investigative interviews, including deployment of the new Scottish Child Interview Model, to ensure vulnerable children are able to share evidence at the earliest opportunity and minimising the risk of further trauma
  • health and wellbeing assessments
  • counselling services that provide support for both the child and wider family

Children below the age of criminal responsibility, whose behaviour has caused harm, will also have access to Bairns’ Hoose.

Local authorities, health boards, police and third sector organisations will be required to partner together to apply for a share of the £6 million fund in 2023-24 – with further investment proposed in the future. Five multi-agency test sites are expected to be created with learning from the sites providing a blueprint for a full pilot of Bairns’ Hoose in 2025.

Minister for Children, Young People and Keeping the Promise Natalie Don said:

“The creation of Bairns’ Hoose is a key action in Keeping the Promise and I would like to pay tribute to the determination and resilience to everyone who has contributed their expertise and time to help bring the Barnahus model to Scotland.

“The experiences of the children who will access Bairns’ Hoose are in many cases absolutely appalling and ones which nobody, let alone a child, should have to go through.

“We want to prevent children being retraumatised and to improve the experience of the justice and care processes for children and families. These test sites will trial what a Bairns’ Hoose could mean in reality for children and their families, as well as for the professionals who will work to support with them. This funding marks a significant step in the development of Bairns’ Hoose in Scotland, and offers us a chance to provide wrap around care, recovery and justice for children in a way which best responds to their trauma, needs and circumstances.”

Independent Chair of the National Bairns’ Hoose Governance group Val de Souza said:

“Following years of hard work this is the first tangible, major milestone that has been realised in the implementation of a Scottish Barnahus model – Bairns’ Hoose. Now that the standards are published I very much look forward to being involved in the Pathfinder phase and shaping the implementation of Bairns’ Hoose across Scotland and seeing real life improvements being made to the experiences of children and young people.”

Director of Evidence and Digital for Healthcare Improvement Scotland Safia Qureshi said:

“Throughout the development of the standards, it was important to us that young people were at the heart of every aspect of our work. The young people offered vital advice and opinions throughout the process and were instrumental in the development of the standards. They told us what’s important to them and we listened.

“The standards set out what a Bairns’ Hoose will mean for children, young people and their families. They also explain the role of the professionals who support them. Now, we must all work together to ensure that the standards help to improve how children and young people experience recovery, support and justice in Scotland.”

Chief Executive of the Care Inspectorate Jackie Irvine said:

“The Care Inspectorate is proud to have partnered with Healthcare Improvement Scotland to develop the Bairns’ Hoose Standards. We also commend the significant efforts of partner agencies, and children and families with lived experience, who contributed to this important work.

“It will deliver transformative change by supporting children who have experienced or witnessed abuse in Scotland with professionals working together ‘under one roof’ covering protection, health, recovery and justice services, and with consistent therapeutic support available throughout.

“Establishing a network of Bairns’ Hooses will help us to collectively uphold the rights of children and families to compassionate and effective intervention and support in line with the UNCRC and Promise principles.”


Further information on Bairns’ Hoose.

‘Barnahus’ is based on the Child Advocacy Model adopted in the US in the 1980s and was first implemented in Iceland in 1998, followed by other Nordic countries and is now being widely adopted across Europe. Bringing the ‘Barnahus’ model to Scotland has been a long standing and crosscutting policy ambition, as set out in the Programme for Government 2022-2023. It is key action in the Keeping the Promise Implementation Plan and Best Start, Bright Futures: Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2022 to 2026, in addition to achieving the Vision for Justice.

The Scottish Child Interview Model has been developed and assessed by Social Work Scotland, Local authorities and Police Scotland in a series of pilot projects.

Further information on:

Bairns’ Hoose Standards

Vision, Values and Approach

Project Plan Progress Report and Pathfinder Delivery Plan

Bairns’ Hoose Project Plan Progress Report and Pathfinder Delivery Plan (2023 – 25)

Bairns’ Hoose – Children and Young People Participation and Engagement Plan



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