Timely support is not always available for children and young people with experience of - or who may require - secure care, according to a new report by the Care Inspectorate.

The Secure Care Pathway Review found that availability and access to the right kind of educational, legal, health and community support is essential in preventing young people going into or returning to a secure care setting.

Between July 2022 and July 2023 the Care Inspectorate followed the cases of 30 young people who were either experiencing or had previously experienced secure care, or who had been considered by their local authority for a secure care placement, to assess the impact of the support they received over time.

During the review inspectors spoke with over 200 people, including young people, their families, staff and managers.

The authors highlighted positive examples of staff working together to provide intensive support for young people to help them stay in - or return to - their local communities.

They also reported on the extent to which young people felt their rights had been upheld before, during and after experiencing secure care. For example, the report notes that young people were generally being well supported to share their views, access legal support and independent advocacy, particularly when living in secure care settings.

The report highlighted positive examples of staff working together to provide intensive support for young people to help them stay in - or return to - their local communities.

Key areas for improvement:

  • Early and effective family support was not always available when families needed it. When families required intensive support, this was also not consistently available.
  • Young people needed better support when leaving secure or residential care settings to prevent further breakdown in living arrangements and to prevent homelessness.
  • The availability and access to therapeutic support to address emotional distress and risk of self-harm and suicide was a key area for improvement.
  • Too often young people in the review moved around the care system and many experienced changes in the staff working with them. When young people had fewer changes of lead professional and fewer placement moves, they were more likely to show signs of improvement in their safety than those with more changes.
  • Children’s services partnerships were inconsistent in their approaches to identifying, responding to and monitoring young people at risk of harm who may require secure care.
  • There was more work to do to make sure there is a shared and consistent understanding of the role and purpose of secure care across Scotland.

Jackie Irvine, Chief Executive of the Care Inspectorate, said: “In undertaking this review, we recognise the challenges of providing services for young people in and on the edges of secure care. Our work has highlighted significant factors that help promote young people’s rights, safety and overall wellbeing. We encourage policymakers, corporate parents, managers and staff to reflect on the findings in this report and consider what more they can and should do to improve the lives and experiences of young people.

“We hope that the insights in this report can play a part in improving and strengthening the supports that are in place for young people in or on the edges of secure care.”

The full report can be read here.