CYCJ study ‘shines a light’ on Chief Social Work Officers and secure care

A ground-breaking study by the Centre for Youth & Criminal Justice (CYCJ) has been praised for highlighting the current issues, challenges and opportunities for Chief Social Work Officers working with young people in and on the edges of secure care.

The study, conducted through in-depth interviews with 21 out of 32 local authorities, focused on perceptions of secure care by Chief Social Work Officers (CSWOs), and of CSWOs’ and local authority approaches to the use of secure care in Scotland.   

The resulting report, ‘Chief Social Work Officers and secure care’, was published today (May 10).

Key findings include:

  • CSWOs had differing perceptions of secure care and whether it is felt to be a protective or punitive response to troubled young people
  • The pressure CSWOs find themselves under when determining whether to implement a secure order, against the context of extremely vulnerable and traumatised young people
  • The need for ongoing dialogue around use, function and perceptions of secure care

Alan Baird, former Chief Social Work Adviser to the Scottish Government, said:

“I was very interested to read this important piece of work on an area which has been the subject of discussions by local authority CSWOs over many years due to the complexities, challenges and responsibilities placed on local authorities to ensure the safety and protection of Scotland’s most vulnerable young people. It is valuable to see for the first time a piece of research which addresses important considerations, including the fundamentals of what the purpose of secure care should or should not be from the perspective of CSWOs.

“In my view this report highlights many of the current issues and challenges faced across systems and services in relation to very high risk and vulnerability. It also presents opportunities for CSWOs, as well as secure care providers, and professionals working with young people in and on the edges of secure care, to work together to break down barriers in understanding and so build more effective partnerships to help meet the needs of some of our most troubled young people.”

Claire Lightowler, Director of CYCJ, said:

“Our intention was to shine a light on this highly vulnerable group of children and young people, and the decision making processes and systems that bring them into secure care, the most restrictive and intense form of care available. We wanted to start a dialogue about secure care and how it’s being used across local authority areas, and I think we have achieved this.”

The qualitative study was undertaken to further explore some of the questions which were raised about decision making, risk thresholds and routes into and on from secure care, by a scoping study undertaken by CYCJ in 2015.  The research was also conducted to complement the work of the Secure Care National Project, which reported on key messages and calls for action from the project in November 2016.

Download Chief Social Work Officers and secure care.