Supporting vulnerable young people return to the community

Edinburgh Secure Services provides care and support to some of the most vulnerable young people in the country, who are referred through the courts or the children’s panel. The service provides a secure environment for young people whose behaviours pose a serious risk to themselves or others. There is a strong focus on supporting transitions for young people and helping them sustain changes in their behaviour.

At the time of filming, Inspector Duncan Craig said: “Young people understandably don't take kindly to being locked in, but staff work exceptionally hard to show them there are alternative ways of leading their life. Staff work very intensively with young people to return them to the community. From day one, when a youngster is admitted, staff are working with them, their parents, carers and social workers to plan their exit. So from very early on in a youngster's stay, they will know where they are going to next.”

The service seeks to stabilise a young person when they arrive, support them to make changes, and then sustaining that when they move on.

Peter Closkey, Principal, explained: "Being part of the local authority, we have access to a lot of other services. The stay in secure is very short – generally about four months, although it can be longer. Our throughcare and aftercare allows for really smooth transitions for a young person to allow them to move on and be supported.”

In the films, two residents speak about their experiences: “You have to work towards getting out. You're not allowed your phone or laptops. Staff are strict but they are really nice. If you do something wrong, they'll send you to your room. One warning - that's it. It helps you. It's been positive. It gets you back into a routine and that, being more responsible and respectful. It's helped me get on with family. The first day I came in here, I was really aggressive.”

Sarah, a parent of a resident, said: "It's helped majorly in keeping my daughter safe. She's healthy, her education, her manners – it's all changed for the better. I had this image of it being like a prison, where they are all locked up, but it's not like that at all. I bring my younger children here to see their sister and have no hesitation doing that. It's not just saved my daughter – it's saved my family from falling apart."

Most young people return to their families after secure care, but not all. When teenagers can’t return, Peter explained how the service continues to support them. “We stay with these people, working with our aftercare support as they move into their own flats in the community that we organise for them,” he said.

“Our workers keep contact with young people in their flats sometimes up until 21, or even 25. We offer respite to them if things get difficult, to come back for a bed. We'll have them for a couple of days, a couple of weeks, whatever it takes to get them back to doing well again. This step down care is very important.”

Inspector Duncan Craig added: “The service has found a unique way to balance the way of keeping young people safe, and to keep other people safe, with the responsibilities to provide care and support. The whole ethos and culture is based on young people being able to establish very strong and positive relations with staff members. There is very busy, purposeful day-to-day life experience.”

We publish regular inspection reports for all care services – and grades can go up and down depending on what we see. The effective practice we see here should always be read in conjunction with the latest inspection report.
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