Edinburgh secure unit for youngsters to be closed

Gavin Corbett says closure must not be rushed. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Gavin Corbett says closure must not be rushed. Picture: Ian Georgeson

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A SECURE unit for vulnerable young people across the Capital is set to be closed.

Edinburgh Secure Services has two sites in the city, but the council is drawing up plans to shut one of them next year

Howdenhall Centre and St Katharine’s Centre both house children aged from eight to 16 “whose behaviours pose a serious risk to others”.

A source said the units were “vital” and the council could not afford to lose one of them. In a letter to the Evening News, he said: “These young people have been recognised by the social work department and the Children’s Reporter as being at risk of harm from others and or pose a risk to others in the community.

“I have many concerns surrounding this, not least the fact that this service is essential for keeping some of the most vulnerable children safe from harm, abuse, neglect and exploitation.

“Many of these young people have extensive histories of offending behaviour and these are often of a serious nature. I believe the service is rightly discreet, however, conversely I feel the citizens of Edinburgh and beyond need to have an awareness that such a service even exists and what it serves to achieve for the whole of society.”

The city council confirmed plans were afoot and said there were “better ways” of meeting the needs of vulnerable children in the Capital.

Green councillor Gavin Corbett, who sits on the council working group overseeing cared-for children, said that any closure must not be a “rush job”.

He added: “Looking across different councils it does seem that Edinburgh has a relatively high number of young people in secure accommodation. There is always a possibility that the provision of such accommodation itself becomes a reason to fill vacancies, even where there might be alternatives which better tackle the underlying problems and so sort things for the long term.

“So over time, I’d like to see the number of young people in secure accommodation go down, but to be done in a phased way which is consistent with both the best interests of the young people and public safety.”

A Council spokesperson said: “The use of secure accommodation in Edinburgh is significantly above the national average and for some young people there are better ways of meeting their needs and achieving more positive outcomes.

“For these reasons we are looking closely at our use of secure accommodation with a view to bringing it more into line with other local authorities.”

john.connell@edinburghnews.com