We believe that every eligible child victim or witness has the right to consistent and holistic support that enables them to have their voice heard, to access specialist services and to recover from their experiences. We have an unashamedly bold aspiration to create our own bairns’ hooses in Scotland. That commitment is obvious in our programme for government, which says that
“all children in Scotland who have been victims or witnesses of abuse or violence, as well as children under the ... age of criminal responsibility whose behaviour has caused ... harm, will have access to a ‘Bairns’ Hoose’ by 2025”.
Yesterday, we published “Bairns’ Hoose—Scottish Barnahaus: vision, values and approach”, which sets out in broad terms our vision of how the barnahus model should be implemented in Scotland, the values that should underpin the model and our approach to its practical implementation.
Our next steps are to establish a national governance group to oversee delivery of the bairns’ hoose model in Scotland, to bring forward standards for the bairns’ hoose and to develop an approach that will build on the momentum of the new Scottish child interview model for joint investigative interviews, which will be introduced nationally over the next three years. Further plans on that will be published at the end of this year.
As the cabinet secretary said, the bairns’ hoose concept has the potential to transform how children in Scotland interact with the criminal justice system. I would be grateful if he could outline how the plans will ensure that there is better access for children in island and more remote areas. I am thinking about my constituency, the southern part of which is separated from the northern part by 130 miles and two bodies of water.
That is a very good question. I have already had discussions with ministers in other portfolios who have responsibility in the area to see how we will address that issue. The idea is that we should not retraumatise victims by asking them to move between locations to have the same interview and give the same evidence. That is an important consideration that comes towards the end of the programme, although early thought is being given to how we can make the system as accessible as possible.
We agree on the overarching principles, and we should give local delivery partners the flexibility to adapt the model to their local contexts. We recognise the challenges of delivery in rural settings such as Alasdair Allan’s constituency; he is quite right to raise that issue.
Our approach will be based on the European “Barnahus Quality Standards” and should be flexible enough to allow local authorities to tailor barnahus to suit local circumstances while also ensuring a degree of national consistency for all children who are eligible for services.