Building trust in the Borders

Children 1st local manager Johnny Costello explains how our work in Scottish Borders is making a difference to children and families.

In February we welcomed Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, to Children 1st in Selkirk. He was there to launch a new Victims’ Code for Scotland, which sets out the rights of victims in one place. It was doubly fitting, as not only does our team support child and adult victims of abuse across Scottish Borders, but also because this year has been notable for opportunities for us to contribute to development of public policies that affect them.


Paul Wheelhouse MSP launching Victims' Code with Children 1st Assistant Director Anna O'Reilly (left) and Policy Officer Sarah Vernon (right).

We’ve seen, for example, how the process of bringing perpetrators of abuse to justice can add to victims’ trauma. We help them to prepare, and to find strength for the experience, which will often involve reliving the trauma they’ve been through. Many children have told us if they had known what it was like they would never have agreed to give evidence. By passing their accounts to public bodies we’ve informed official thinking. Recently we saw how this can make a difference. The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service published an ‘Evidence and Procedure Review-Next Steps,’ report that included a welcome recommendation that child witnesses give pre-recorded evidence rather than attend court.

When Mr Wheelhouse visited he heard about our work to support families affected by domestic abuse. We explained how perpetrators of abuse can be extremely controlling, and can even use the court system to further coerce their victims. As the Scottish Government considers a new criminal offence of domestic abuse it’s timely that the minister was able to hear about the experiences of victims in Scottish Borders. Of course we also told him about the difference we make for them – something that’s perhaps best put in their own words:

“This support has been great. It’s helped me a lot to be able to talk. I’ve needed that support while I still feel vulnerable and my ex still applies pressure. I can trust it’s on a confidential basis at a time when I don’t know who to trust.”


Adult

“I can let my wall down more now as you have helped me!”


Child