Young offenders institutions
Preparing for a child’s return to the community

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:

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:

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):

Where the child remains subject to a Compulsory Supervision Order, plans should be reviewed regularly and duties fulfilled as detailed in the appendix.


Prior to a child leaving custody, all should:

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