The transitions to and from custody are major, often traumatic, life events for children, which in addition to the negative effects this experience in itself can bring, may exacerbate pre-existing vulnerabilities and disadvantage, rendering young people susceptible to a range of (further) negative outcomes on their return to the community (CYCJ 2020; Bateman, Hazel and Wright, 2013). However, “the amount and availability of support networks that each young person has is integral to their successful exit from secure care or custody” (Scottish Government, 2011, p.19).
Planning for a child leaving custody and reintegration to their community should start at the point of remand/sentence and must include children and their families.
The child’s length of sentence will determine how, when and who decides that a child can be returned to their community. The date in which a young person is released can be:
- Earliest date of liberation (EDL): automatic release date and applies to children subject to enhanced or standard Integrated Case Management (ICM) – see liberation for more information
- Parole qualifying date (PQD): becomes live if the Parole Board for Scotland has deemed the child can be returned to the community. Generally only applies to enhanced ICM cases – see release on licence and home detention curfews for more information.
Under the Prisoners (Control of Release) (Scotland) Act 2015 release timed to benefit re-integration in certain circumstances means an individual can be released up to two days prior to their scheduled release date. Any service or professional working with a child (including the local authority) who believes they can evidence that the child’s EDL is problematic to their reintegration can apply but they need to provide robust reasons and evidence for this. The Scottish Prison Service are responsible for considering any such request. It is important that the child, SPS staff and community based-social work are aware of this provision.
Children are presented to:
- Standard ICM: Case Management Board approximately one to two weeks prior to the child returning to the community or release on a Home Detention Curfew to ensure a plan is in place for the child’s return to the community.
- Enhanced ICM: Case Management Board for a statutory pre-release review approximately six weeks prior to the child returning to the community to agree post-release supervision arrangements and support.
For all children: a pre-release meeting should be held at least ten days prior to the child’s return to the community. This meeting should be chaired by a representative from the local authority where the child ordinarily resides and include the child, their family (where appropriate), Personal Officer and YOI staff, the Lead Professional and other relevant professionals, including those who will support the child on their return to the community. It is important that information from this meeting is available to the Case Management Board.
Preparation and planning
Just as children should be prepared for entering custody, they should be for leaving and planning for a child’s exit from custody and their return and reintegration to their community should start at the point of their stay in custody. Children must be fully involved and influence all decisions and plans for their future from an early stage and in a way that works for them, being supported to understand their rights.
Under Standard 6 of Standards for those working with children in conflict with the law “Corporate Parents must provide support for children returning to the community following any period where the child has been deprived of their liberty and must prioritise their reintegration, rights and best interests. This…should be detailed in a Transition Plan within the Child’s Plan” (Scottish Government, 2021, p.14).
Plans for moving on should involve a range of professionals, including from statutory and third sector organisations, and ensuring supports as detailed in the Child’s Plan are coordinated with the Lead Professional having a key role. Supports should be provided in a timely manner and plans should be responsive to changes in the child’s circumstances, needs and risk, to offer holistic and individualised support. These key characteristics of effective support can be summarised as plans and supports being constructive; co-created; customised; consistent; and coordinated (Beyond Youth Custody, 2017; CYCJ 2020).
Such preparation, inclusion and support is vital to successful transitions and is the responsibility of everyone involved in the child’s current and future care (Gough, 2016). Plans must also pay particular attention to (Beyond Youth Custody, 2017; CYCJ, 2020; SPS, 2021; Scottish Government, 2021):
- The child’s hopes, strengths, achievements and goals, as well as needs, risks and vulnerabilities
- Personal support to support the child or young person’s shift in their identity - the way they see themselves, their relationship with others and their life story
- Legal advice
- Accommodation and where the child will move on to stay
- Family relationships and support
- Employment and training
- Health, mental health and wellbeing
- Substance misuse
Prior to a child leaving custody, all should:
- Be provided with a health letter and five day supply of non-over the counter medication, with a letter for their GP
- Be signposted to relevant services, including community prescribers
- Have treatment plans sent to continuing care providers
- Be given details of any outstanding appointments.
Resources for this page
- Beyond Youth Custody
- Children (Scotland) Act 1995
- Families Outside Time in Custody Information Sheet
- Integrated Case Management Practice Guidance Manual
- Prisoners (Control of Release) (Scotland) Act 2015
- Bateman, T., Hazel, N., and Wright, S. (2013). Resettlement of young people leaving custody: lessons from the literature. London: Beyond Youth Custody.
- Bateman, T. and Hazel, N. (2014). Resettlement of girls and young women: research report. London: Beyond Youth Custody.
- Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice. CYCJ. (2017). Health provision for young people aged under 18 in and leaving SPS custody. Glasgow: CYCJ.
- Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice (CYCJ). (2019). Reviews for young people aged under 18 in custody. Glasgow: CYCJ.
- CYCJ. (2019). Template for Reviews for Young People in Custody. Glasgow: CYCJ.
- CYCJ. (2020). A Guide to Youth Justice in Scotland: policy, practice and legislation: Reintegration and Transitions. Glasgow: CYCJ.
- Criminal Justice Family Support Network. (2015). Good Practice Guidance for the Support of Families Affected by Imprisonment. Edinburgh: Families Outside.
- Goodfellow, P. and Francis, V. (2016). Custody to community: supporting young people to cope with release: a practitioner’s guide. London: Beyond Youth Custody.
- McGillivary, C. (2016). Rendering Them Visible: A Review of Progress Towards Increasing Awareness and Support of Prisoners’ Families. Edinburgh: Families Outside.
- Scottish Government. (2011). Reintegration and Transitions – Guidance for Local Authorities, Community Planning Partnerships and Service Providers. Edinburgh: Scottish Government.
- Scottish Government. (2021). Standards for those working with children in conflict with the law. Edinburgh: Scottish Government.
- Smith, S., Dyer, F. and Connelly, G. (2014). Young Men in Custody: A report on the pathways into and out of prison of young men aged 16 and 17. Glasgow: CYCJ.
- SPS. (2013). Report of the Scottish Prison Service Organisational Review – Unlocking Potential, Transforming Lives. Edinburgh: SPS.
- SPS. (2021). SPS Vision for Young People in Custody. Edinburgh: SPS.
- Wright, D. and Factor, F. (2014). Resettlement of girls and young women: a practitioner’s guide. London: Beyond Youth Custody.
- Wright, S. and Liddle, M. (2014). Developing trauma informed resettlement for young custody leavers: a practitioners guide. London: Beyond Youth Custody