COVID-19 Children and Families Collective Leadership Group - short-life group on under-18s in custody: report

The Covid-19 Children and Families Collective Leadership Group (CLG) set up a short-life group to deliver improvements in the experience and reduce the number of under-18s in custody. This is the sub-group's report and recommendations.

Role and Remit of Short-Life Group

The Covid-19 Children and Families Collective Leadership Group (CLG) agreed at its meeting on 4 November 2021 to establish a short-life group to urgently review the cases of under-18s currently in Young Offenders Institutions.

This was in response to issues raised in the HMIPS – Year of Childhood Pre-Inspection Survey 2021[1] and CLG's role in supporting UNCRC Implementation and maintaining momentum on work to Keep The Promise by removing all children from Young Offenders Institutions. In addition HMIPS submitted a proposal to deliver the Promise commitment.

CLG agreed the Short-life Group should focus on two areas:

  • Addressing the issue of under-18 year olds being isolated in Polmont YOI using information provided by the Scottish Prison Service.
  • Understanding key decision points and opportunities to provide additional support and alternative approaches to custody. This could include a short guidance note/flow chart to help facilitate better multi-agency working and complement National Child Protection and GIRFEC guidance.

(Note of 9 December meeting - Coronavirus (COVID-19) Children and Families Collective Leadership Group minutes - 9 December 2021 - (

The Group was tasked with delivering a Report and Recommendations to key groups by end of February 2022. The Group met on three occasions in December 2021, January 2022 and February 2022. The membership was self-selecting from CLG with Scottish Government support from relevant Policy Units. The Governor of Polmont attended the Group for the second and third meetings.

Terms of Reference were agreed at the first meeting and actions to enable fuller understanding of the factors contributing to under-18s being in YOIs and scoping of work already underway to deliver improvements. (The full Terms of Reference are in the annex to this report).

The Short-Life Group has expanded the request from CLG as follows:

1. Identify what actions can be taken now to deliver improvements in the experience for under-18s in YOIs (Young Offender Institutions) and reduce the number of under-18s in YOIs.

2. With a clear focus on supporting UNCRC Implementation and examining issues relating to the number of hours spent without access to activities outwith rooms, review key policies including the Youth Justice: Whole System Approach to Preventing Offending by Young People[2], to identify any gaps and improvements that can be made. The Group should take particular account of opportunities for improvement that become available through the new Justice Strategy[3] and Review of Continuing Care.

3. Consider what improvements can be made to professional practices at key decision points for children and young people, including through the GIRFEC National Practice Model[4], to divert from YOIs by maximising prevention, early intervention and other support and help to ensure that detention is the last resort.

In addition to these areas of focus, the Group discussed legislative changes that could help to deliver the remit of the Group and remove under 18s from YOIs.



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