Podcast Episode: Between a rock and a hard place
Category: Criminal justice
What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.
KM - Kristina Moodie
DN - Debbie Nolan
DA - David
S - Sheila
DU - Duncan
KM Welcome to this special podcast, the Centre for Youth & Criminal Justice are hosting to celebrate the CELCIS 2017 Festival of Residential Childcare. Today we’re going to be talking about how residential childcare workers respond to offending in children’s houses. Everyone here, aside from myself and Debbie, works with young people who are looked after, so we really appreciate you all travelling and giving your time to meet with us for this conversation in Glasgow today. So, I’m going to ask you all to introduce yourself and give an indication of the role that you have, and I’ll go first. So, my name is Kristina Moodie, and I’m a Research Associate at CYCJ and next up is …?
DN I’m Debbie Nolan, Practice Development Advisor at CYCJ.
DA I’m David, I’m a residential childcare worker.
S I’m Sheila, I’m Depute Manager.
DU I’m Duncan, senior residential worker.
DA And I’m David, and I’m a residential worker.
KM So our focus today is going to be exploring your experiences and your views about the report we at CYCJ published last year and the research that it was based on. So, to start off the discussion, Debbie, can you tell us a wee bit about the project, a background to it and some of the findings from it?
DN Yep, so back in 2016 the Centre for Youth & Criminal Justice undertook a piece of research into the criminalisation of looked-after children which was entitled “Between a rock and a hard place: Responses to Offending in Residential Childcare”. The research came from a real professional concern in this area of practice which was based both on anecdotal evidence and research that had been undertaken in England and Wales, which found that young people in care were more likely to be criminalised than a non-looked-after pier. What the research also showed was that in addition to already sharing a number of the same risk factors as other young people who are prosecuted for offending behaviours such as abuse or neglect, by being placed in care young people are often exposed to further risk factors such as loss of attachment to friends or family or disrupted education, which two of us - Ashford and Morgan - had described as a form of double jeopardy. So, in Scotland we wanted to look at what the picture was here and what we actually found was that there was a real lack of data. What we do know is that care leavers are over-represented in young offender’s institutions and prison populations but we don’t really have any data about experiences prior to ending up in custody, and in addition, the research that is available, very limited attention had been paid to the experiences of residential childcare workers and how they respond to offending behaviour. So really, at CYCJ we said “well, let’s look into this a bit further”, and what we wanted to do was gather firstly data about police contacts for offending by young people in children’s houses, but more importantly we wanted to capture the voice of residential workers to explore how they make decisions and how they’re supported to make decisions in responding to offending behaviour and in terms of police involvement as well, as some of the dilemmas, tensions and challenges that are faced. So that’s the background to the research and how did we go about it? Well this was a small-scale study, and what we did was we contacted two local authorities who we then asked to collect police data for young people placed in local authorities’ children’s houses over a period of six months. We also asked house managers to complete an online survey asking them to describe what policy or practice guidance was available to staff in responding to offending behaviour, and lastly, we undertook interviews with twenty-seven residential childcare workers. In today’s session, we’re more focussed on the findings from our interviews with those residential workers, so I just want to briefly now touch on what we found. So firstly, we were really interested about policies, protocols and guidance with what’s already in place to guide staff practice and whether these were formally written down, how they were agreed and whether they were part of ongoing training, and interestingly what we found was that respondents had quite varying views on whether they were policies and procedures or not, but the majority actually said “it doesn’t really matter if those policies and procedures are in place, they’ll only ever take us so far and each response that we make to an incidence that potentially involved offending behaviour needs to be individualised depending on the circumstances of the incident, and it needs to be a matter of professional judgement”, but what staff were saying was that professional judgement was situated in a wider organisation context, and that organisational context was very much about police involvement being an option of last resort. It was very much about making sure that young people are provided with sort of as homely an environment as they possibly could be and also a real awareness that workers were corporate parents and the responsibilities that that brings. So, there was that real professional judgement role situated within this wider context, but what staff were saying was “yeah, but there’s a range of factors that are individual to each incident that we also need to take into account”, and those factors included things like was the safety of the young person, other young people or a staff member at risk, whether staff could manage the behaviour, what was the type of behaviour and how serious was the behaviour? So, they would kind of think through all of them in their head in terms of making responses. They would also think about the specific young person, so is the young person under the influence of alcohol or drugs, what’s the young person’s mental health like, and is police contact going to increase or escalate or deescalate the situation? Another facet that needs to be taken into account was dynamics in the house, so clearly this isn’t just one young person’s home, are the other young people involved in this incident, are they not, how do they feel about the behaviour, are they scared, are they intimidated and actually, how many young people are involved? And then lastly, staff did say there was considerations about staffing, so who was on shift, was there absences, were these permanent staff or not and how many staff were available at that time compared to the number of young people present? That then threw up a bit of an issue for us round about consistency. So we asked staff “well, are the responses consistent” and the majority said “yes they were consistent” but over half of staff were saying “but consistency can ever only be achieved to a point” and in amongst that staff were saying “but there is things that can aid consistency”, so they were citing things like good communication, children having really clear plans about having a good team, ongoing team meetings about staff knowing the young people that they were working with and staff training.
KM Thank you Debbie. So, would you say that the finding of the research as really laid out there by Debbie, would they align with your experiences when it comes to the complexity and your responding to offending?
M Yeah, my experience of offending within residential childcare is probably more limited than experiences of young people with mental health, so for me at the moment individual experience it’s not been the main issues and concerns that we’ve dealt with over the years but it is consistent with any incidences and experience I have had. Yeah.
F Mmmhmm. I think I agree with complexities but we don’t have a policy that tells us how to deal with offending behaviour, but we do have an ethos and we have guidance that it would be the last resort to phone the police if you’ve considered every other option within that, so all the things that you mentioned there, you would be looking at all these things, you would look at all the risks within it and what you would do for one individual wouldn’t necessarily be for another individual. So, there couldn’t be any policy that specifically says, “this is what you do when a young person offends”. It could actually be quite dangerous to do it like that because then you’ve got it down on black and white that you would do a, b or c. A, b, c doesn’t work in this job and it is very much an individual thing for each young person, which is obviously beneficial to them because their care plans are all individual as it should be.
F And is that, the individuality with the young person, is that coming from your relationship with them or is that captured in their care plans as well?
F It would be captured in their care plan. How you would respond to that, and there’s obviously by building relationships and getting to know the young person, this would determine how you would react to different situations and it would, you would know their background, what was driving that behaviour, which would obviously lead to that decision making, but it is very individual about what’s happening at that particular point, what’s been happening just prior to that and what you can maybe perceive is going to happen - whether that be a really dangerous situation or something that you can use your skills to work with that young person because you know them, rely on your colleagues to come in and take over if it’s maybe not going to be something that’s going to work for you, it might work for someone else that’s got a better relationship with that young people, but I do agree it is very much a last resort that we would be phoning the police in.
M Yeah, I shared a lot of what was said in the journal, you know, I agreed with a lot of it. I thought it was interesting it was all local authority. I mean I’ve worked in the private sector where there’s maybe not that shared ethos, shared values, cultures and things like that within a unit or, you know, procedures and policies.
M So I think having a local authority versus to the private sector is interesting.
M Yeah and having worked in that also.
F That’s interesting.
M It could go back up to right equality for, because probably things that attract workers to this and keeps us in the job is that every day is completely different and some of the situations that occur you would just never even have thought it could happen.
M So there is no way you could say “right this is what you do when x, y, z happens because you have to really react to what you’re seeing at the time and use your own judgement and especially your relationship with young people, that’s, the key’s the relationship. If you’ve got in a row with somebody and you know who they work with then you can use that to deescalate things, but I agree with the problem we still have. I think you’ve got to look at what the behaviour’s telling you. Well that sort of what they’re trying to say of it, you know? If there is an escalation of offending we’d be looking at what’s behind that, and there’s usually some underlying cause.
M You know? It’s nothing to do with what you’re seeing on the day. There’s something underlying that’s going on and on and on that you’ve got to try to tie down and then you’ll maybe see the sort of, if they feel safe and (… unclear). Phoning the police every time isn’t an answer.
F And that leads us really helpfully on I suppose to what we found in the next part of the research, and the next part was very much about okay well when you’re faced with such complexity, especially day in, day out, and what kind of supports staff then to make decisions and to make those kind of weigh all this up and balance that and make the right decision at the point in time? So we asked staff round about the support and empowerment from managers and most of the respondents said yeah, they felt empowered and supported by managers to make the right decision in terms of how to respond to offending behaviour, and they said that this came through, for example, clear communication for managers, the use of team meetings, the use of things like de-briefings and incident reports - although there is a big discussion about how that is done and how that can be done in a helpful and supportive way, also the use of supervision and the use of training. In addition to that I’ve spoken about relationships and clearly that’s already been raised today and unsurprisingly people spoke at length about a number of the things that we’ve already mentioned so far, and staff were saying things about the importance of knowing that young person, seeing behaviours, knowing what was likely to be coming next. Things about seeing behind the presenting behaviour, knowing what actually that behaviour was trying to communicate for the young person, but also staff spoke about things like knowing when they weren’t the best person to intervene as well, and being able to rely on colleagues then to say “actually I’m escalating the situation here, can you guys come and someone else deal with this” or “my relationship with such and such is not as good as your relationship, can you intervene in this situation?” Interestingly in the research as well, staff spoke about their relationships between themselves, young people and the police, and overwhelmingly staff were positive about those relationships. What staff cited was the real importance of staff not just being there in crisis situations and the police being part of, for example, multi-agency training staff, police popping in for informal visits or having informal phone calls with staff just, you know, “something’s not quite right here, can we get some advice and guidance before the situation reaches crisis point” or additionally have police coming in to do those informal drop-ins to just have a cup of tea, share a meal, have a game of pool or whatever with the young people and precisely the importance of that bit of the police also being part of the jigsaw, and therefore the importance of them also getting to know the young person and getting to understand where some of these behaviours are coming from or what might be underpinning them about trying to build the relationships, but often as well the importance of that in changing negative attitudes and opinions that young people may hold in respect of the police. The sad part - and I suppose the kind of concerning part from the research - was staff were saying with the reduction of police resources, those types of informal supports had gone and very often now when they saw the police it was more of crisis situations, and then lastly the thing that staff spoke about in terms of supporting their decision making was training and I think someone already mentioned having a range of strategies available, and what staff were saying was “well training almost gives us that toolkit and that toolbox that we can go to to use different methods”, and that was both through kind of training prior to starting employment but then that ongoing continued professional development and continuous training being provided as well.
F Would you say that there are other things other than the kind of things that were mentioned there by Debbie that can support staff in responding to offending?
F I think just going back to maybe one thing that was mentioned, that the police, that something that did support the houses was the police visits and the community cops coming in, and that’s something that just doesn’t happen anymore because that resource isn’t there anymore, and you do see kids that do come in with a dislike for the police, been their background, that’s been their experience that you only see the police when it’s in a situation of negativity because you’ve done something wrong. Whereas they did used to pop in for coffees and have, and build that relation - going back to relationships - the police having a relationship with the young people and having a bit of banter and just coming down and sitting and having a coffee with us makes a big difference to how the young people perceive the police and what they’re there for, and I think in general you see adverts now from police Scotland - whether it be on Facebook or whatever - saying if you hear your mum and dad say that “the big bad policeman’s going to take you away”, feel free to have a tantrum! I saw that the other day and it’s really, really true! That image of the police being negative, they’re there to help and that’s what we should be promoting but actually, the police, by them losing funding for certain things have taken that away themselves - well not themselves - but on the wider scale of things that resource has been taken away from us, for the young people, for the police themselves. So that is a big factor in it and it is, it’s another relationship, so I’m going back to relationship here but that’s for me where it all comes back to is the relationships that you’ve got with your young people, the wider relationships with the multi-agencies.
M I think in trying to promote residential childcare as a positive care option, it does nothing to support that when the only reason the police are coming in is to charge some of the young people that are there and it then creates a negative environment within, and you’re trying to settle young people into a group setting and to have these kind of negative experiences - whether it be the young person themselves or them watching another young person where it’s happening to, they’re getting taken away in handcuffs and stuff, it does nothing to support that positive environment. It sort of detracts from the building of positive secondary attachment models within the residential setting.
M We’ve spoke about relationships; I’m guessing we keep well, we’ve got good relationships with the community police officers in schools and we found that that’s been really helpful, when the young people are at the schools they’re able to speak about things about mobile phone offences and drug offences and having those links.
F Is that the staff community cops?
M Yeah. So, although they’re based on the campus of the school - maybe not in the kind of area - that’s been quite useful. I think that’s been good. Good pieces of work have been happening between the house and the police in that respect.
M It also meant that that police officer could maybe speak to the police officer for that area, so there’s less room for miscommunication or maybe they’ve got a better understanding, these policemen have maybe been on better training or had some formal training so they might have got a better understanding and then you can go another route (… unclear) and then you speak to another police officer who “don’t know what you’re talking about.”
F Okay, so using some of those other links potentially that are within the police as well, and I think there’s something you said there about, something about how do we share some of this? That’s what’s working well in some areas and how do we try and get some of that learning shared out as well is really important.
F I think the multi-agency training is really important. I think, I have been on training where it has been multi-agency - the police being involved in that as well - and I think that going forward that would be really helpful for everybody to understand what the effects of abuse and trauma and how that may lead to criminalisation, what a young person, and if everybody’s more aware of that through training then we’re all doing a much better job together.
F Absolutely, and you mentioned training there as well and that was something that Debbie had described, and I was just wondering how much of the training, obviously you have formal training but is there sort of informal training and something I think you mentioned earlier about - or maybe it was yourself - but there wasn’t necessarily an ethos in the same way of avoiding calling the police and so I’m wondering how much are you learning from your colleagues and how much of it is formal training and how important are both of those?
M It’s probably done at team meetings and thing like that and you’d set your - maybe a young person that’s in crisis - you need to have individual crisis management plan and you’d have one there at which point you may have to get police assistance, you know? Such is the level of distress or violence a young person, you know, you’d have your stages that you would, you’d have out all the stages that you would go through and then you’d look at that point and you may have no choice but to involve the police.
M But the police engagement, that is written and it’s formalised and it’s discussed within the whole team.
F Team, yep.
M Rather than just an individual making an individual choice. I think as well you’ve got a settled staff team, rather than one worker making a decision to, amidst a team decision, two of the three staff and you actually making a joint decision that this is over. You know, they’re faced with a situation, “how do we work through it other than involve the police?” I mean I’ve been in situations that have went on for four hours in a sort of violent incident and we’ve involved the police, we’ve worked through it and we’ve got through the other side of it, you know?
M It’s just to try to avoid that bringing the police in and again criminalising young people.
F So does that relationships part with each other as well being so important that relationships with colleagues and that ability to talk things through and to come to sort of, some consensus in team meetings, for example, round about “what’s in plans, this is how we’re going to implement this”, but then in those split second heat of the moment situations that ability to have that good dialogue with other members of your team as well to say “right which way are we going with this” as well being really important.
F I think refection’s really important as well and like, after you have had a challenging situation it’s really important to sit down with your teammates to reflect and discuss “could we have done it any other way, how did we get to that point of that decision making, was it the right decision that we made, would we make that decision again” and really look at your own practise in amongst that, because you do make decisions within the heat of the moment that may not always be the best decision for everybody involved but if you can reflect on that and discuss it with the young person as well, “these decisions were made because of a, b, c and this is what was going on”, that’s really helpful as well but I think mentoring each other and reflecting with each other is just as important as all the training that you can get, but training obviously being up there and training on trauma and all the different aspects of residential childcare all ties in with the offending behaviour.
M And also the trust and that in the young people and the trust that young people have got in the staff team that they’re going to be able to manage and they will stick by that no matter what.
M You know? And they’re going to dealt with it, they’re not going to pass it to a police officer which can go either way - you can get a really understanding police officer that’s good with them and works with them and you get the other ones that are black and white and go straight to (… unclear)
M You know? Sometimes a police officer’s the right thing to do and other times it’s a matter of working through it no matter how long it takes to get to the other side, and then it becomes almost a learning curve rather than a punitive action.
F Yeah, and I think that reflection and learning bit is so important and a lot of people spoke about that in our research, feeling at times that the reflection part was actually done almost in quite a punitive way and the people were able to then see that that had an impact on their practise that wasn’t always a positive way. So, what they were speaking about was that reflection and that scope for this being done in a leaning, not necessarily a punitive blaming sort of way, was really important as well.
M I think learning from other agencies and sharing of information, skills and knowledge is an important aspect of critical refection, for instance this report has helped us all to critically reflect on our current practise albeit that it’s changed from the past, but how can it improve further to kind of afford democratic agency towards the young people in and empowering them, active participation. I suppose the thing’s been done to them but learning these skills from other professions and other professions actually wanting to work with residential practitioners in developing the wider resource is going to be supportive to what we can achieve, especially with complex issues within children’s residential.
F Mmmhmm. Mmmhmm. And you spoke about complex issues there so what we found was that even when really good ranges of supports were in place, some of the dilemmas and tensions weren’t going to be removed, so what the staff spoke about in our research was kind of we grouped these into different types of (… unclear). So, one was about the reality of residential childcare, so that want to provide that really good quality care environment - that really homely environment - and also about staff being really aware of their responsibilities as corporate parents to young people now in it for their future, but what staff were saying was “okay, that’s what we want to do but when we’re faced with a higher number of children than we would ordinarily have in, for example, a family home with different needs, different experiences, different ages” - that they were saying that that could be really difficult then to reconcile the two of them, and in addition to that what staff were saying was at times it felt like residential workers were expected to change behaviour overnight that potentially had developed over a long period of time, it may have been lying, and also maybe young people’s coping strategies. So, if actually when young people are living in trauma and chaos for example, they do what they need to do to survive and therefore this behaviour becomes a coping strategy. We then try and remove that coping strategy but don’t replace it with anything else and therefore young people can feel really unsafe. So, staff spoke a bit about that. They also spoke about some of the tensions between, you know, being very clear. We don’t want to criminalise children, we don’t want kids leaving residential care with charges the length of their arm and a list of convictions but likewise, you know, being aware of what are the responsibilities to young people now and to their future in terms of not criminalising them, but then on the other hand about how do we support young people to become responsible and to be accountable and to understand right from wrong? So, staff were saying at times they could be real tensions and they spoke about the role of the Children’s Hearings System in that and some of the, you know, tensions and difficulties round about that and that was probably one of the most emotive areas that we had in our discussions. Another part of the dilemmas and tensions was round about rights and responsibilities, so staff at times feeling that their right to be safe at work had been overridden in the favour of young people’s rights, and then lastly staff spoke, and it was really quite overwhelming to hear staff speaking and verbalising, you know, the level of care and the level of commitment, the level of dedication, compassion and understanding that they had for the young people that they were working with and being dead clear, as you guys have been about, you know, offending behaviour being a reflection of needs, of understanding what these young people’s experiences have been, recognising what’s normal teenage behaviour, what’s aging stage appropriate and also recognising offending being a reflection of need but then staff saying “but actually my responsibility is still to keep all the kids in my care safe and that at times leads me to need to make these hard choices, whatever they may be, and actually the personal costs of that is really difficult” and that led us to think about, you know, issues round about the resilience of the workforce, when you’ve had a really difficult shift, coming in the next day and the next day and the next day. So, they were some of the kind of dilemmas and tensions that we’d identified in the research.
F So would you say that those dilemmas and tensions that have been outlined there, would you find those accurate or is there anything else that you would like to add to that?
M I think they are accurate. I think that sometimes what’s overlooked is often within academic research you’ve got what’s the statistical knowledge at the time within residential and what seems to be the case afterwards, but where there’s less attention paid is what’s actually happened in the life experiences of young people prior to residential, to give a sort of fuller picture of what’s happening, so that’s a tension as well is that, you know, especially within dominant social work discourse and it’s often looked at on the negative aspects of residential from what the statistics are afterwards and what the outcomes are afterwards but doesn’t really concentrate or give much attention to what happens prior and I think that that’s a tension as well.
F Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. What lead to that young person being places in the first place and their life experience prior to that.
F Absolutely agree with that. I think obviously you’re not going to be able to change behaviour that’s been inherent in a young person, if they comes to us at fourteen, by fourteen and a half they’re not going to have changed that behaviour, so that’s the bit that’s really - and them having to then adjust to someone giving them a whole different set of behaviour that they’re meant to conform to from what they’ve been used to within the family home where they’ve maybe suffered trauma and abuse and then expecting that to change over a quick period of time, that’s just not going to happen, so you’re going to get periods of really challenging behaviour within that because they feel unsafe and all their survival skills that they’ve used in the past are not accepted where they now are. So, you’ve got all those challenges going on for the young person and still hold down school, still conform in society that everything’s going just according to plan. It must be horrific to get that transformation right and for the young person that may be that they go out and possibly offend or be violent towards people because they don’t feel safe, and really what they need is help in amongst that they don’t need charges in there, but unfortunately sometimes that’s the way that it does go for a young person but hopefully we can make a difference in that and prevent that from happening.
M At times as well if there’s a focus on having a young person’s placement being near to family contacts and networks and community, as a first priority, and as a recent example we’re working with just now, because the young person is actually far from the community, their offending behaviour and the picking up of criminal charges has reduced to zero, and it’s not necessarily good for everyone, every young person, to be near where they’ve originally originated from.
M It can actually benefit them to have a bit of respite away from those areas.
F So it’s better that individualised kind of way of responding, but even that step before - not just individualised in terms of the approach that you guys are taking, it’s that step prior to that in terms of placement decisions and I think that then at times can be really difficult. That placement, we’re not always making decisions about placements based on needs, we’re making them on what’s available at that times and it can be really problematic.
F Also the complexities with young people who have got a criminal record and have picked up lots of charges who are continued to get blamed for situations that we know they’ve not been involved in and we can prove they’ve not been involved in, but you get very live situations from phone calls from police saying that they’re currently chasing this young person and they’re not because he’s actually in his bed, but there’s a stigma then attached to the young person which is really hard for them to shake off and when that do start to maybe leave the some of the offending behaviour behind, if that stigma’s still there well they’re just going to think “well what’s the point, they think I’ve done it anyway so I’ll just carry on doing it.” So that’s another one that we face quite - I wouldn’t say quite regularly actually, that’s not - we face it. It’s there. It happens.
F And that was definitely something that was mentioned by at least one or two respondents in the research as well, but that sort of stigma that, you know, “oh that’s the kid from the children’s homes” they would probably refer to it, it’s that they’re just trouble makers.
F And they face that every day in their life, they face that in school, in the community, when they go into shops, everywhere, and from the police as well so it is, it’s …
M And sometimes that’s a reputation that they feel they’ve got to keep up themselves.
M You know? I’m going to be bigger and tougher and badder than everybody else.
M To deflect away from how they’re really feeling (… unclear) support that they’re getting.
F And the job of teenagers is to push boundaries anyway, so you’ve got that to contend with as well.
M I think it’s important (… unclear) a safe environment where they feel safe. So, people feel safe because when they don’t feel safe then they’ll fill that void with controlling behaviours and they try to control what’s going on because they’re feeling that the situation externally is out of control in the whole children’s home. So, if you provide a safe and stable environment for them then you’re looking at some quite tight boundaries but (… unclear) at the same time.
M Where the children are not taking control of the whole place, where there’s still that level on control in a positive culture and when they feel safe then they can relax rather than being so hypervigilant all the time and then that ends up in them kicking off and making it bigger challenges.
F Absolutely, and we were talking a wee bit about the residential childcare workers themselves thinking about the young person’s future and the impact of carrying charges or charges into adult life, but do you think that the young people themselves have an understanding of that? Is that something that you can have a conversation about or do they really think they’re …?
M You touched on it in the report, you know? It’s not clear, no one really knows, are they adults when they’re sixteen? I mean, I’m sitting here just now and I’m not sure, are some, are some not? I don’t really know.
M If it depends how serious they are who decides how serious they are? So, if I don’t know I doubt the child will.
F Yeah. And that brings us really nicely into I suppose some of the recommendations that we made in the report and it cuts across a lot of what we’ve already said. So, our recommendations were really that police contact should remain the potion of last resort, that that decision making should be within this positive, supportive, shared and respectful organisational culture and ethos, and they should include informal and formal managerial and colleague support. It should include the prioritisation of staff training, of staff development and high quality induction. That relationships between the police and residential staff and young people should be prioritised. Coming back to the point that was just made there that young people should be given clear, accurate information on the impact of offences dealt with via the Children’s Hearings System and courts, and we’ve noted that’s a massive information gap and people, it’s hard to know where to go to to get that good quality information. So, there’s sort of a much bigger piece of work there about how to we equip the workforce to have that understanding so that information can be shared with young people. We also made a number of conclusions round about supporting young people who are on bail, and that’s not really been touched on so far today, but that was to help young people comply with bail conditions and again that’s part of a bit of a bigger discussion about should we be using bail conditions for under eighteen’s, should we not? And then lastly what we were saying was multi-agency data should be gathered and it should be gathered on a local and a national basis as well.
F Would you say that those were appropriate sort of recommendations to take, I mean, I think most of you read the full report as well so …
M I think as an external sort of influence to reconsider seeing residential as the last placement of desperation and instead start to see it as a positive choice for the development and progression of young people in a successful way. That would help if there was less sort of, I don’t know, negative outlook on residential.
F Yep, I would definitely agree with that and I think it’s something about how we see the whole continuum of care and saying that actually, we need all these different types of placement and it’s not a case that one’s better than the other, although that discourse is still very much around but that throws up a whole raft of challenges in itself, so I would totally agree with that.
F I’m quite interested in just looking at these recommendations, are there any sort of challenges that would be faced in implementing those recommendations? I think you’d mentioned about being in the private sector and perhaps not having the same culture and ethos of avoiding criminalisation of young people? Is that something about that would be problematic?
M Well I guess so. And less support, you know?
M If you’ve had a difficult night, you’re on the next day, you’re not getting a debrief, there’s no team meeting, “Tommy’s not coming in he’s sick, can you cover the shift on Tuesday”, you haven’t done the report from Wednesday, anxiety, anxiety, anxiety, you’re on the phone with the kids, you’re anxious, they’re anxious that you’re anxious, the circle goes round, then there’s an incident, and then it’s Thursday and so on and so on and so on. Whereas, when they do have those levels of support that you have got, you had a difficult night last night, let’s talk about what happened, explore that, come in a wee bit later, start a bit earlier to work that out, there isn’t levels of sickness, you’ve managed to do the report for last week, they pay you cash, cheques been cashed, you don’t need to worry about that, all that anxiety goes away and then you’re on the phone with the kids and you’re working with the kids (… unclear) that you can do the bits of work with them that’s needed and you’ve got a lower, there’s a better environment, you know, there’s a better (… unclear).
F So it’s really about prioritising that support for your colleagues and the other workers there?
F I think what you’ve said there is so important because what we know is how we as staff, our relationships with managers or with those above us and how we feel, is reflected in how we practise with young people as well. So, if we want to get things right for the kids that we’re working with, you need to get things right for the staff as well and I think at times we kind of forget about that because we’ve separated the two out completely, whereas I don’t think we can do that.
F I think it’s equally important to create a positive ethos for both the staff and young people to create that environment that we’re all looking for that’s a healthy one. Absolutely, and given all the things like David’s mentioned there it’s really important to get all that stuff right in order to give that care effectively to the young people.
F And is that something that you feel will come down from managers, that that comes from managers or is it something that needs to be addressed and more focus needs to be given to that?
M I guess it’s just place to place, I know there’s systems where I am and then you’ve got that structure it filters down and it means there’s less anxieties therefore we do better pieces of work with the kids. If the structures not there then it all adds to the kind of problems I think, definitely.
M I think with your recommendations within our two local authorities it’s much needed and I don’t disagree with any of the recommendations, it’s who would then spearhead it going forward to ensure that, you know, it doesn’t just end up as a report on the shelf.
F Exactly, and that’s our major fear!
F Have you been reading ahead?
F That’s our major fear is at times, you know, we as researchers parachute in, do a piece of research then say “okay, this is what we found” and then we go, and then it becomes that, and the other thing is actually a lot of the times it just doesn’t even get read because people are going “I’ve not got any time to do this”. So, we’ve been really conscious that we don’t want that to happen and as a result what we’ve done is we’ve, Centre for Youth & Criminal Justice have partnered with Staf - previously the Scottish Re-care and Aftercare Forum - to say actually we need to do something more, and what we intend to do now is look at these recommendations because some of them are local, some of them are national, and a lot of them actually need to be both. And what we’re doing as part of almost a stage two project, building on this research has been to work with likely three or four organisations locally to look at, okay, what do these recommendations mean for you in your own organisation, in your own area, what’s currently working, what could be improved, and try to support local authorities and third sector organisations to do that, but to do that in a way that they’re taking ownership of it, because what we know is myself and Christina - we’ll come and go - but other staff within the agency need to be part of that change, they need to have ownership of that, but I can, I suppose alongside that what we will also do is work with our national organisations - so Police Scotland, the Children’s Hearings System, for example, the Care Inspector at Disclosure Scotland, to look at nationally actually what do these recommendations mean for you guys in terms of police? What we’re hearing is things can be really positive but also there seems to be some level of inconsistency, so what can Police Scotland as a national organisation do about that in terms of the Care Inspector? Can they make data round about offending behaviour part of what they look at or can they not? So, our hope would be that this doesn’t just become another report and our aim would be that through that stage two project we’ll do some of that. I suppose part of the other aim of today is about getting that information out there a bit more broadly as well and so it’s been really useful to have the opportunity to do that today.
F Thank you very much for helping us do that and asking really good questions.
F And in addition just if anyone who has listened to the podcast want to know any more about either the research itself, the stage two project or any of the pertinent issues that have been discussed, they can get in touch with Kristina and myself via the Centre for Youth & Criminal Justice as well.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License