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.

Annex 1 - Terms of Reference for Short Life Working 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-18 year olds currently in Young Offenders Institutions (YOI) to identify the main factors that led to their imprisonment; consider what support or other interventions could have created different, better outcomes; and recommend improvements to policy and practice to the relevant groups and organisations to achieve this. It is important that the Group's work supports rather than duplicates the work of existing groups and organisations.

The Group's work is time-limited but will help to inform key elements of the new Justice Strategy and the requirements in The Promise Plan 21-24[12] that:

  • The disproportionate criminalisation of care experienced children and young people will end.
  • 16- and 17-year-olds will no longer be placed in Young Offenders Institutes for sentence or on remand.
  • There will be sufficient community-based alternatives so that detention is a last resort.
  • Children who do need to have their liberty restricted will be cared for in small, secure, safe, trauma-informed environments that uphold their rights.

The Group's work will also help to meet the commitment in the Programme for Government that "we'll safeguard young people within the youth justice system, supporting a presumption against under 18s in the Criminal Justice System, keeping them out of young offenders' institutes where possible and appropriate, while ensuring that victims receive the support they need."[13]

The Short-Life Group will focus on the following tasks:

  • Identify what actions can be taken now to reduce the number of hours that under 18s in YOIs spend in isolation.
  • Develop a preventative mechanism showing the key decision points and opportunities that exist to provide additional support and guidance on alternatives to custody
  • 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, to maximise prevention, early intervention and other support and help ensure that detention is a last resort.

The Group's membership is noted below.

The Group will deliver a report and recommendations by February 2022 to relevant groups and organisations to help meet the requirements on Youth Justice in The Promise Plan 21-24.

Meetings of the Group will take place in December, January and February.


Name - Organisation

  • Joanna MacDonald - Chair and Deputy Chief Social Work Advisor, Scottish Government
  • Fiona Dyer - Children and Young People's Centre for Justice
  • Peter Macleod - Care Inspectorate
  • Jillian Ingram - COSLA
  • Neil Hunter - Scottish Children's Reporter Administration
  • Tam Baillie - Child Protection Committees Scotland
  • Thomas Carlton - The Promise
  • Sheila Gordon - Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland
  • Samantha Faulds - Police Scotland
  • Jennifer Davidson - Inspiring Children's Futures
  • Gina Wilson - Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland
  • Gill Robinson - Scottish Prison Service
  • Wendy Sinclair-Gieben - HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Scotland
  • Jenny Hamilton - Crown Officer and Procurator Fiscal Service
  • Tom McNamara, Liz Murdoch, Jess Rees, Kirsty Pate, Lucy Gibbons, Peter Donachie, Holly Ferguson - Scottish Government Support



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