Purpose, design & methods


The study aimed to provide evidence about:

  • The support for carers that exists across forensic mental health services in Scotland
  • Any gap between what professionals say is provided and carers’ experience
  • The extent to which carers access available support in forensic mental health services
  • What works well and what hinders carers from accessing this support

In addition to gathering information from carers about their experiences and views, the study has gathered information from forensic mental health services about existing support, as well as access and uptake.  This study has only looked at forensic mental health services in Scotland and the relatives and friends that relate to people in these services.  It does not include the experiences of carers who live in Scotland and provide support to people in forensic mental health services elsewhere in the UK.  As there are no women’s high secure facilities in Scotland, the voices of carers of women in high secure services are not included.

Research Design

This evaluation research has applied the approach of appreciative inquiry to gather information about current support and experiences, focusing particularly on detecting strengths and what works and why, and considering how this could be extended.  The study used mixed methods, mainly qualitative, to explore experiences and views and to develop greater insight and understanding into the gaps and discrepancies reported in previous consultations with forensic carers.  The design was refined in consultation with the project Working Group.


There were three main approaches to data collection/information gathering:

  1. A review of literature focusing on innovative and best practice (see Appendix 1);
  2. An audit of forensic mental health services reporting of their practice in supporting carers via an online questionnaire survey (see Chapter 2);
  3. Gathering information from carers in the forensic system about their experiences and views via a questionnaire survey and in-depth qualitative interviews (see Chapters 3 and 4).

Literature review

A brief search of the published research and practice literature in the UK within the past 25 years (and to a more limited extent, international literature) was undertaken to identify contemporary thinking about best practice in supporting carers, and to draw together evidence on innovative and effective practice in forensic mental health services.