School of Social and Political Science

New report finds backing for Bairns Hoose project to improve children’s experiences of justice, child protection, health and recovery services



The cover of the Bairns Hoose Evaluation report


University of Edinburgh social work researchers have released a new report examining professionals’ views about how children and families who have been through abuse and neglect are experiencing justice, child protection, health and recovery services in Scotland.

The report also explores their views on planned systems changes to improve these services.

The independent report involved interviews with professionals from different agencies working with children and their families in North Strathclyde after the disclosure of abuse. Respondents reported the challenges of helping children recover from abuse in the context of ongoing criminal justice proceedings.

They said that systems and processes for justice, child protection and recovery services can often be sources of further distress or trauma to children and their families, due to the adversarial nature of legal proceedings. In addition, they said that child victims’ needs can be superseded by those of the justice system.

The report also found strong commitment among service providers to make improvements to keep children safe, ensure they experience justice and get the necessary support.

And the professionals are backing plans to introduce a model called the ‘Bairns Hoose’ to improve the area’s child protection, justice and recovery services.

The North Strathclyde Bairns Hoose Evaluation: Phase One Report was written by researchers at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Social and Political Science, in the Child Safety, Justice and Recovery Research Group. The research is part of a partnership project to implement the Bairns Hoose model in North Strathclyde.

The Bairns Hoose model is based on the international Barnahus (‘Children’s House’ in Icelandic) standard, and involves developing a child-friendly interdisciplinary and multi-agency centre for the victims and witnesses of violence. This is an internationally recognised evidence-based model for children and families affected by violence and abuse. It brings together justice, health, social work and recovery support in a single building, to best meet the needs of child victims and witnesses.

The project to develop  a Bairns Hoose in North Strathclyde is led by the charity Children 1st and supported by Postcode Dream Fund award thanks to funds raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. It will provide support for children and their families in East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Inverclyde and Renfrewshire.

The Bairns Hoose is expected to open later this year in North Strathclyde, where children and families can find all the support services in one place. The University of Edinburgh team is carrying out independent research to provide an evidence base for the project. For the new report, the team members conducted interviews and focus groups with 33 professionals across North Strathclyde’s health, social care, police, justice and recovery services.

The research revealed that services were not meeting the diverse range of needs of children and families after abuse or maltreatment, and in some cases were contributing to trauma. Particular issues included:

  • A lack of access to timely and appropriate recovery or therapeutic support 
  • Extended delays and adjournments to justice​ processes
  • Requirements on children to engage with court processes and spaces that are significantly distressing and potentially retraumatising​

Lead author Dr Mary Mitchell said: “The development of the Bairns Hoose provides an opportunity to better understand the challenges of moving from vision to implementation of the Bairns’ Hoose model locally, and subsequently with the national roll-out. This report provides insight into the systems as they are currently for children who have experienced maltreatment, and the mechanisms and contexts important when aiming to transform existing systems.”

The authors presented the report to professionals and policy makers involved in North Strathclyde’s children’s justice services at a roundtable event yesterday. They discussed how to take onboard the findings to develop services and the Bairns Hoose project.

Read the North Strathclyde Bairns Hoose Evaluation: Phase One Report here.


The project partners are:

  • University of Edinburgh
  • Children 1st
  • Children England
  • Victim Support Scotland