SCOTLAND’S first Bairns Hoose to help children who have experienced abuse and violence has opened, bringing a number of support services under one roof.
It will offer a single-location alternative to courts, social work offices and police stations in the west of Scotland, bringing together child protection, health, justice and therapeutic support.
Based on the “Barnahus” model, which is an internationally recognised approach first developed in Iceland, the facility will be led by charity Children 1st, alongside Victim Support Scotland, the University of Edinburgh, Children England and local partners in North Strathclyde.
Four councils – East Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire, Inverclyde and Renfrewshire – make up the “North Strathclyde” area. Social work, police, justice and health professionals from the four local authorities will work alongside the Children 1st Bairns Hoose team.
The exact location of the site has not been announced to protect the privacy of children who require support.
Mary Glasgow, chief executive of Children 1st, said the Bairns Hoose will “transform the way that children experience the child protection and justice process, from one that can cause them more trauma and harm to one that will offer them hope, healing and recovery”.
It will be “life-changing for many children and young people”, she added, and thanked those who have “so bravely spoken up, over so many years, about how harmful our current systems of protection, care and justice can be”.
The People’s Postcode Lottery provided £1.5 million of funding towards the development of the Bairns Hoose. Up to 280 children and young people will receive support from the Bairns Hoose each year.
Work is ongoing with East Renfrewshire Council on a proposal to turn the A-listed Capelrig House in Newton Mearns into a centre for excellence for Bairns Hoose in Scotland. It has previously been reported that the Capelrig House project was facing uncertainty due to rising costs.
The Bairns Hoose will offer children immediate, joined-up support from the moment they disclose they have been harmed. It has been designed in a trauma-sensitive way to feel safe and welcoming so children feel at ease when giving evidence, receiving medical care, taking part in child protection processes and getting support to recover.
Jasmin, now aged 18, said: “When I went to court, I had to sit in an empty box room with no windows, no sweets or anything and a few broken toys. I was nine years old.
“If you’re coming from dealing with something terrible, you don’t want to come to somewhere broken when you already feel broken. It’s good to know kids can come to the Bairns Hoose and it’s a safe place.”
Members of the child’s family will also get support to understand what has happened to their child and how best to help them.
Kate Wallace, chief executive of Victim Support Scotland, said: “Navigating Scotland’s justice system is confusing, often re-traumatising and complex.
“Victim Support Scotland is committed to working with partners so that children and young people can access services which will help them to get the support they need to recover and thrive in a trauma-informed environment that meets their needs.”
Children 1st will be working with Victim Support Scotland, the University of Edinburgh and Children England so learning from the facility can be used as a “catalyst for rolling out Bairns Hoose for every child in Scotland and beyond”.
Professor John Devaney, dean of the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Alongside ensuring that children and families receive responsive and high-quality support at a time of crisis, we are pleased to be adding to the growing international evidence base about how professionals and services can respond effectively to various types of child abuse and neglect.”
Kathy Evans, chief executive of Children England, added: “This is the beginning of a quiet but vital revolution in the ways that children are treated by all the people and systems they need, beginning right in their moment of crisis.
“It is an evolving model we really need to learn from and spread beyond Scotland’s borders.”News