By Mary Glasgow

IT takes incredible courage and determination for children to tell someone they have been a victim or witness of crime. With the creation of, what will be, Scotland’s first “Child’s House for Healing” that courage and determination will be met with an immediate offer of care, justice and support to recover.

Children 1st and others, including the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee and Scotland’s most senior judge, Lord Carloway, have long been pushing for the internationally-renowned Icelandic Barnahus approach to be adopted here, to reduce the trauma children face in our complex, Victorian system of justice, which offers them little, or no, support to recover. Now, thanks to funding generated by players of People’s Postcode Lottery distributed through Postcode Dream Trust, an exciting new partnership between ourselves, Victim Support Scotland, the University of Edinburgh and Children England is making it possible to develop Scotland’s first Barnahus, or as it literally translates, “Child’s House”.

Thanks to the £1.5 million award from People’s Postcode Lottery Dream Fund, the Child’s House will be a far cry from the unfriendly police stations, court buildings and big hospitals, where children are repeatedly asked to relive the abuse and violence they have suffered to an increasing number of strangers. Children often tell us that in asking them to seek support and justice in such places, we give them a message that they are the ones in the wrong, they are the criminals, the ones who are sick.

Often, children tell us their experience of current justice and support systems is worse than what happened to them in the first place. Some say it was so bad that they wish they had never sought justice or support.

In Iceland, the very existence of the Barnahus sends the powerful message to children and their families, that they have a right to justice and care. Googling the Reykjavik Barnahus brings up an image of a large surburban family home with a rainbow in the sky above it. That rainbow is a wonderful natural symbol of the hope the Barnahus offers children in Iceland.

As in Iceland, hope will be at the centre of everything our Scottish Child’s House offers the children and families that come to it.

The building children enter, the welcome they receive and the way they are looked after will make them feel safe and relaxed enough to share the story of what happened to them, to the best of their ability. Every service they need will be under the one roof giving children and their families reassurance and safety at every step of their journey. As well as collecting children’s best evidence in a way that serves the needs of the courts, police, health and social work, the Child’s House will make sure every child and family gets the support they need to repair from the terrible things that have happened to them.

More than 12,000 children in Scotland, show incredible courage and determination by giving evidence in court every year. Thanks to the incredible funding from players of Peoples Postcode Lottery, Children 1st and our partners will match that courage and determination as we develop, test and share the learning from creating Scotland’s first Child’s House, across the whole of the UK. Our Dream goes beyond creating one Child’s House. Our Dream is to create a catalyst that transforms our systems of care, justice and support to give every child hope and help every child heal.

Mary Glasgow is Chief Executive, Children 1st