Secure care in Scotland

Children who are in or on the edges of secure care are children who are experiencing extreme needs, risks and vulnerabilities in their lives. These children have almost always experienced childhood adversity and difficulties such as significant losses, abuse, neglect, trauma and disrupted home and school lives.

Children in secure care have been placed there through the Children’s Hearings System, by the criminal justice system having been remanded or sentenced, via powers of the Chief Social Work Officer, or temporary Police powers. For these children, it has been assessed as necessary and in their best interests that they are cared for in a locked care setting to keep them and/or others safe. Where similar concerns exist but it has been assessed that a child’s needs can be met with intensive supports in the community or the child has recently left secure care, the child is often deemed to be on the edge of secure care.

Secure care aims to provide intensive support, care and education within a nurturing environment to keep children safe and to meet their needs, improve wellbeing and promote positive outcomes. Secure accommodation is among the most intensive and restrictive “alternative form” of care available to children in Scotland. Robust regulations and requirements are in place, aimed at ensuring children are only placed in secure care when and for as long as absolutely necessary, and that they receive appropriate support before, during and after a stay in secure care.

Since December 2016, there have been 84 secure care places in Scotland (with additional beds available for short-term and emergency use). These are delivered by four independent charitable organisations:  

The fifth centre is run by City of Edinburgh Council, which currently provides six places. For more information see Secure Accommodation Network Scotland.

Find out more about secure care, including research, reports and documents.

Children’s rights

All children have rights as enshrined in law including the UNCRC. This includes children who are in or on the edges of secure care. For these children, while their freedom might be restricted, their other rights must continue to be upheld and respected. The Secure Care Pathway and Standards are rights-based and include particular standards on areas where child told us their rights were at greatest risk of not being upheld. These include:

  • being fully involved and influence the decisions and plans about my care and support
  • receiving the care and support that I need
  • understanding what my rights are throughout my journey, including any rights of appeal
  • having access to legal advice, representation and advocacy  
  • staying connected with my friends, family and people who are important to me
  • searching, restraint and isolation
  • accessing digital technology

More information on children’s rights in secure care can be found at:

Rights information for young people who are looked after in Scotland

STARR in Scotland

STARR is Scotland’s only curated space for secure care experienced children, young people and adults. It exists to help inform, advise, challenge and change the pathways into, during, and after, secure care.

Formed in March 2018, STARR provides a space for people of all ages with lived experience to come together, spend time with peers and friends, and share ideas of how to improve the secure care journey.

Find out more about STARR and how you can get involved. Follow STARR on Twitter @STARR_Secure.