Alternatives to secure care and custody: guidance

Guidance for local authorities, community planning partnerships and service providers on developing a whole system approach.

Appendix 2 Alternative Services

Intensive Specialist Fostering

An intensive specialist foster care placement can be a direct alternative to secure accommodation for a young person as part of a wrap round service 88 . A foster placement can offer a nurturing, safe environment where a young person can experience family life, positive role models and unconditional positive regard. The important factors are trusting, reliable relationships with consistent adults, who can offer personal acceptance and stability. To enable this the foster carer requires a good support structure with a 24/ 7 dedicated support system, security and training to understand and manage challenging behaviour.

Within a trusting relationship a young person can talk through and start to make sense of traumatic events in the past, they can have an understanding of what a family can be like and realise that the neglect, abuse or trauma was not their fault. This can assist emotional and personal development and help them develop more secure attachment patterns.

Research has shown that a foster placement has a greater chance of being successful if a young person wants to be there 89 . This is important to remember in the matching process, and it is also important that foster carers are skilled in welcoming and engaging with young people during the introduction period.

Young people will make their own choices but it is important that they make informed choices; a foster placement is an opportunity to support a young person to develop skills in self control within a community setting. Life lessons can be used in real life situations to support a young person to understand consequential thinking and problem solving, whilst learning about socially acceptable behaviour. In this way the young person can feel worthwhile and that they can make a positive contribution to society.

Within a family setting a foster carer can respond to a young person's emotional age, they can offer opportunity for a young person to experience elements of their child hood that they have missed in a safe and accepting environment. This gives opportunity for the carer to nurture the young person and build their resilience. Young people with attachment difficulties may feel that the only way they can keep themselves safe is by being in control. A family placement offers the opportunities for young people to take control of their lives within safe boundaries. Carers need to be able to manage behaviours without making the young person feel rejected or controlled.

A specialised fostering service for young people with serious difficulties including offending - Community Alternative Placement Scheme ( CAPS) - was evaluated with positive results. The scheme is for children deemed to be "close to secure care" to be looked after by specialist foster carers. The evaluation found that, over two years, 20 young people with CAPS were "on average doing no better and no worse" than a comparative sample of 20 others who had been admitted to secure accommodation 90 .

When making the decision about placing a young person in a foster placement consideration has to be given to the support network required. If the young person has education or mental health needs, appropriate resources need to be in place to support the foster placement as foster carers cannot work in isolation.

Intensive Support and Monitoring Service ( ISMS)

As an alternative to secure care, Intensive Support and Monitoring ( ISMS) 91 was introduced in Scotland in 2008. The use of such a service varies across the country, with some Local Authorities not using the service.

Data from SERCO shows that between April 2009 - March 2010 12 Local Authorities had at least one young person subject to an ISMS with a MRC. This involved 30 young people. Although other Local Authorities may also have an ISMS service in place, this data demonstrates the need to increase the use of alternatives services throughout Scotland.

Intensive Support and Monitoring Service ( ISMS) is part of a disposal for Children's Hearings to use as a direct community alternative to secure accommodation. Young persons aged 12 or over, receive an intensive, tailored, multi-agency support package. Where necessary a young person can also be subject to Movement Restriction Condition, requiring the young person to remain at home or some other specified location for up to 12 hours per day, monitored by an electronic tag.

Glasgow ISMS service

The programme, lasting approximately 3-6 months, tends to involve around 20-25 hours of multi-agency service input per week, including one-to-one community intensive support, provided by Includem, Education, Social Work and specialist support e.g. addictions and mental health services.

ISMS has been comprehensively evaluated and has been proven as an effective way of working with high-risk young people. Here is a summary of key findings:

  • ISMS is effective at reducing frequency and seriousness offending for the vast majority of young people. An evaluation of the ISMS service in Glasgow showed that offending levels reduced by more than half during an ISMS Order and that these positive outcomes are sustained 2 years after leaving the service.
  • ISMS slightly reduces indicators of risk of re-offending. But residual risk levels suggest that appropriate post- ISMS support is crucial in maintaining positive outcomes. Within Glasgow, ISMS reduced offending by 50%.
  • ISMS helps to reduce use of secure accommodation for young people admitted through the Children's Hearing system. In Glasgow 2008/9 secure admissions were 45% lower than before the service commenced.

ISMS as an alternative to remand

In response to the significant numbers of young people aged under 18 being remanded for often short periods of time, Glasgow looked at developing a new service to offer ISMS (without the electronic monitoring element) as an alternative option to Sheriff's through Glasgow Sheriff Court. As ISMS in Glasgow positively impacted on the numbers of young people accessing Secure Care via the Children's Hearing system, the increased availability of beds meant that this was a viable option increasingly being used by Sheriffs for remands. The service targets young people under the age of 18 for whom the Procurator Fiscal is opposing Bail and is heavily based on the standard ISMS model of service. This is irrespective of their legal status within the Children's Hearing system although those subject to compulsory measures of care (Section 70, Children's (Scotland) Act 1995) are in the priority group.

In most cases the risk assessment (Youth Level of Service/Case Management Inventory) rates the young person as lower risk than those engaged with ISMS via the Children's Hearing system thus the intensity of the intervention reflects this. The main partners are Includem, Re-generation Agencies, the Forensic Child and Adolescent Mental Health service, Community Addiction Teams and Strathclyde Police.

Following a small scale pilot, the ISMS as an Alternative to Remand Service (hereafter referred to as ATR) began in September 2009 and was evaluated after 6 months. The key findings were as follows:

1. the ISMS ATR service has made a promising start and there is sufficient evidence of effectiveness for ISMS ATR to continue.

2. offending was reduced by 46% whilst on the order, with a large number of charges accrued while on ISMS relating to administrative offences only (beach of bail / curfew etc.). Young people on Standard Bail, or Bail with other conditions did not reduce their offending to the same extent (26%).

3. the estimated net savings of ISMS ATR for this evaluation period were £420,671, projected to around £1 million or more per annum by the second year of operation.

4. despite this demonstrable progress, too many young people on ISMS ATR still end up being remanded at some point or receive a custodial sentence at the end of their order.

The service is aimed at all young people aged under 18 for whom Bail is being opposed. The scheme only works with young people for whom bail is being opposed to ensure that resources are directed at the young people who need the most support. This applies to Summary and Petition Hearings in the Sheriff Court only.

Aims and objectives of this model includes:

  • to reduce the proportions of young people admitted to secure on remand
  • to reduce the frequency and seriousness of offending by young people under 18 who are dealt with by the adult Criminal Justice System
  • to ensure that young people at risk of remand are involved in some form of education, training or employment
  • to improve outcomes for young people in relation to other needs and risks, such as substance misuse, mental health and accommodation

Bail Packages For Young People At Risk Of Remand

For a bail package to be successful in ensuring the successful completion of bail, the available options should be a tiered approach that is aimed the assessed level of need.

The different tiers would be as follows:

1. Standard Bail

2. Bail with conditions (i.e. curfew or no contact conditions);

3. Bail Supervision (current programme in place with the requirement to attend up to three weekly appointments);

4. Bail with package looking at different levels of contact (i.e. number of hours per week that they attend either programmes or individual work with support services);

5. Bail with package and other conditions;

Community Payback Orders

Provision has been included in the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2011 for the Court to impose a Community Payback Order ( CPO) 92 on a young person, who has committed an offence, which would otherwise be punishable by imprisonment. Where such an Order is made for a young person under 18 years of age a supervision requirement must be imposed, subject to the Court being satisfied that the local authority will be in a position to support and rehabilitate the young person.

Where 16/17 year olds (who are on supervision through the children's hearing system) are dealt with in the adult justice system, the effectiveness of Community Payback Orders should be supported by effective interventions which meet their needs as defined by GIRFEC in line with the principles and research highlighted in these guidelines. The objective is to mitigate against breach of order due to failure to meet needs and increased likelihood of imprisonment. This may require the development of new systems and protocols between adult justice and children and families/youth justice services.

Intensive Probation Unit, Inverclyde

Encouraging findings on the use of intensive interventions, without electronic monitoring, within Scotland are reported by Jamieson (2000) in relation to the Intensive Probation Unit ( IPU) delivered by NCH in Inverclyde. The IPU is described as a community-based alternative to custody, aimed at 16 to 21 year-olds who are at a high risk of receiving a custodial sentence based on their seriousness and history of offending. The intervention was delivered through modular groupwork following the recommendations of effective practice. The interventions were aimed at addressing criminogenic needs such as violence and substance use. After a follow-up period, of around 18 months on average, it was found that there was a 24% reduction in convictions in the IPU group compared with the group that received custody. On the basis of these findings, it appears that the provision of intensive support with a group of high risk offenders was successful in reducing recidivism in comparison to a similar group who were given custodial terms 93 .

Third Sector Services


Includem focuses exclusively on the highest risk most difficult to place young people in the Children's Hearing and Court systems. Includem provides Community Intensive Support Services for chaotic young people who have a range of vulnerabilities and complex needs including persistent offending. This service is based upon the same principles applied to the intensive support provided as part of an ISMS package undepinned by a robust research and evidence based practice framework and toolkit "A Better Life". Support levels and additional service input varies depending on the individual young person's needs and risk assessment with the fundamental features of the model being:

  • No screening out of referrals on basis of problem behaviours: i.e. violence/alcohol/sexually harmful behaviours
  • One to one relationship based support
  • Intensive planned and responsive delivery at times of greatest vulnerability and least access to other services
  • 24/7 crisis response for young people and their carers
  • Persistence in engagement
  • Transitional support beyond legal requirement

Providing a direct alternative to secure/custody and return from residential placements these services aims to maintain or return young people safely in the community, reducing the use of secure accommodation and custody.


Up-2-Us resource Team provides a purchased service to local authorities to support high-risk young person at transition or as a preventive measure. This project offers an intensive support service tailored to individual need and this includes flexible working arrangements and 24/7 service access. The Resource Team also provides registered accommodation in the form of respite and wrap around care packages in a tenancy supplied by the referring authority and developed in collaboration with the referrer. Family and parent liaison is an element of all Up-2-Us services, unless there is a reason not to do so. This is agreed the precise role on the basis of age, need and vulnerability.

Up-2-Us also have the Time For Change project, to support girls leaving secure care and custody or as an alternative to such. This project offers relationship based support within a holistic, strength-based model. The service is on an outreach basis and includes elements of practical support, partnership, one to one focussed work and 24/7 crisis access.

Action for Children

The service supports:

  • young people aged between 11 and 17 years who are either looked after at home or accommodated by the Local Authority subject to either S25 or S70 of the Children (Scotland Act) 1995 and whose placement is at risk
  • young people returning to area from out of area placements

Each young person is allocated a Key Worker to:

  • co-ordinate delivery of detailed arrangements as set out in the Child's Plan
  • directly deliver and support learning and therapeutic interventions as set out in the Child's Plan
  • contribute to care planning
  • be responsible for proactive communication with others with responsibilities for elements of the Child's Plan
  • provide the Lead Professional and Core Group with a weekly update of engagement and progress of young person

In Tayside, Action for Children runs an alternative to custody project. The aims of this project include: Offering Courts and the Social Work Departments a constructive alternative to custody for 16-25 years olds. To enable users to challenge their offending behaviour and its consequences in terms of the emotional, financial and physical damage to victims. To enable users to identify problem areas in their lives and to empower them to make better choices and decisions.

Venture Trust

The "Living Wild - Chance for Change" programme helps people (aged 16-30) subject to Community Payback or Probation Orders throughout Scotland to make positive changes in their lives and reduce offending behaviour. The programme consists of a 3-phase personal development programme offering 12-18 months' support per participant, centred around an intensive wilderness personal development journey in the Northwest Highlands. Participants from any of Scotland's 32 local authority areas can be referred to the programme by Sheriffs (as a condition of sentence), or criminal/youth justice social work teams and third sector partners (to complement existing orders, but not as a condition of sentence). Although some participants have previously been in the Children's Hearing System and/or Secure, this programme is not generally a direct alternative to them, because participants must be 16 or older.


Quarriers delivers a range of services targeted at vulnerable children, young people and their families, including young people at risk of becoming looked after or involved with offending behaviours and the criminal justice system and young people who are at immediate risk of secure care and custody. These services include early intervention family support projects, short break fostering and residential care projects, education and school support, residential and residential school care for children and young people, a children's rights service, a broad range of youth housing projects and a youth justice service.

Barnardo's Scotland

Barnardo's Scotland operates a number of services across Scotland offering support and intervention to children, young people and families involved in anti-social or offending behaviour. All services are outcome focused and delivered in partnership with local authorities and other agencies to address risk and need and provide and contribute to a comprehensive Care Plan. Barnardo's Scotland resources include:

  • Early Intervention and Diversion Services - offering individual, parent/carer and family work to reduce risks of offending and improve individual resilience and parenting skills;
  • Intensive Intervention and Support Services - offering intensive packages of support and programmes of intervention to young people at risk of secure accommodation or custody as a result of their persistent and/or serious offending behaviour;
  • 'Sexually Harmful Behaviour' Intervention Services - offering intervention to young people whose sexual behaviour is harmful to others, support and guidance for families and carers and consultancy and tailored training to professionals working with children with sexually harmful behaviour.


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