Why a Bairns Hoose
Scotland's first Bairns Hoose is based on the internationally renowned Barnahus model. The first Barnahus was established in Iceland in 1998 as a response to child sexual abuse. It was inspired by American Child Advocacy Centres, and founded in Iceland by Bragi Guðbrandsson, Iceland’s Member of the United Nation's Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and former Director General of Child Protection.
Bragi Guðbrandsson has described it as:
The success of Barnahus for child victims and witnesses of violence in Iceland led to implementation by other Nordic countries - Sweden in 2005, Norway in 2007, Greenland in 2011, Denmark in 2013. Barnahus is now being adopted across Europe.
The Barnahus model is underpinned by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and is internationally recognised as an evidence-based model for children and families who are victims and witnesses of abuse and violence.
The purpose of a Barnahus and Scotland’s Bairns Hoose is:
- To ensure that children and young people who have been victims and witnesses of abuse or violence (and in the case of Scotland, this will initially be extended to children under the age of criminal responsibility who have caused harm) receive appropriate assessment, treatment and support from the moment they disclose abuse, or abuse is suspected or alleged.
- To avoid subjecting children to multiple interviews by different agencies in different locations.
- To ensure high-quality evidence is collected to inform both legal and protective measures.
European BH Quality Standards
- Respect for the participatory rights of the child by ensuring that they are heard and receive adequate information and support to exercise these rights.
- Multi-disciplinary and interagency collaboration during investigations, procedures, diagnostic and needs assessments and service delivery, to avoid further trauma and secure outcomes that are in the best interests of the child.
- Comprehensive and accessible services that meet the individual and complex needs of the child and their non-offending family or caregiver.
- Ensuring high professional standards, training and adequate resources for staff working with child witnesses and victims of violence.
The need for change in Scotland
It has been recognised for many years that the Scottish justice system needs reform to meet the needs of child witnesses and victims. Children have often reported that their right to be heard in judicial and administrative proceedings (Article 12 of the UNCRC) is not upheld.
The Bairns Hoose is key to Scotland’s aspiration that children experience child-centred, protection, trauma-free justice, care and support to recover. In 2021, the Scottish Government committed to making a Bairns Hoose available to all children who need it by 2025 - an ambition that was published in the Programme for Government 2021/2022.
The rooms in Scotland’s Bairns Hoose
The Bairns Hoose will be designed to feel like a family home. It will provide a single location alternative to courts, social work offices and police stations, allowing each child to feel safe and supported, and able to recover and thrive.
The Bairns Hoose will have four main rooms, along with comfortable and welcoming places to wait.
The four rooms are:
Where a child’s experiences are listened to and recorded in a Joint Investigative Interview. This interview follows the Scottish Child Interview Model and is carried out by trained, skilled and compassionate police officers and social workers. Measures are taken to ensure that the child does not have to repeatedly re-tell what has happened to them to avoid further trauma.
A child’s investigative interview can significantly inform the ongoing child protection investigation and immediate and long-term safety planning for the child and other children involved. If the child is considered to be at risk of significant harm, information from the interview may result in a child protection registration and the development of a child protection plan to minimise the risk of harm to the child. The interview can also form the basis of grounds of referral to the Reporter to the Children’s Panel.
Police investigation and judicial procedures
Where a criminal trial or Children’s Hearing proceedings take place and evidence is required from a child, the Bairns Hoose enables the recording of the Joint Investigative Interview to be used as evidence-in-chief, unless in exceptional circumstances. This avoids the child retelling their story and being further traumatized by the court process.
A Bairns Hoose also provides live links to court and Evidence by Commissioner hearings. This will allow cross examination to happen ahead of a live court hearing or trial and ensure that cross- examination is relevant, age appropriate, trauma sensitive and asked in a way that the child will be most likely to understand. It also means that the child victim or witness completes their justice process within the familiar, child- friendly environment of the Bairns Hoose as early as possible and so helping them to recover more quickly.
Where a child takes part in non-acute forensic examinations, in a child friendly medical examination room. The specialist doctor has experience of identifying signs of violence and abuse against children (physical abuse, sexual abuse or exploitation, neglect). The child is also supported to link to other health services where appropriate and without delay.
Mental wellbeing and recovery support
Where a child and their non-abusing family members access therapeutic support to begin to recover from their experiences in a way that best suits their needs, without long delays and waiting lists. Therapeutic services are offered to the child and family by trained professionals, knowledgeable about recovery practices after trauma and abuse, as soon as possible. Where appropriate this includes a mental health and wellbeing assessment and treatment or therapeutic recovery options.