Relationships with significant agencies, especially the police

Our methods prompted the participants to talk about their relationships with various agencies. Many paid tribute to the practical support, care and fun provided by a variety of statutory and voluntary sector workers. However, several respondents from Glasgow and the islands identified places associated with the police as their ‘least favourite spaces’. Four islands participants felt targeted by the police. One young woman (16) explained:

I’m known to them now…they just pick me up instead of anyone else.

She also felt that the police were abusive

They throw you on the floor..they take your blanket and your mattress away..They take your shoes off, take your belt off, take your jumper off, and if you refuse to do it they’ll pin you down, and they’ll actually take your bra off.. they ask you ..‘do you harm’, ‘no’, ‘have you ever self-harmed?’ ‘no’ and then they do it anyway.

Similarly a Glasgow participant compared the police unfavourably with secure unit staff:

[The police] always try and hurt you..they don’t care, they just pure squeeze yer heid down…In here [secure unit]..they try to keep you safe… They’re putting you down on the ground but they’re placing you down safely and they’re just like that ‘come on ..just calm down’..and they point out good things to point oot’.

Jodie (15, children’s unit) and Mackenzie, whose contact with the police came as witnesses to incidents that led them into the care system, criticised how they had been left scared, tired, hungry and thirsty in police stations very late at night. Jodie felt as if she were the one in a cell. Mackenzie recalled that

[the police] called the social work but it took them two hours to do that…and then after that it took about an hour for the taxi to get there, and then another hour to get to the place (emergency house) that I was going, so I was there at about three o’clock in the morning and I had school the next day.

She also criticised the police’s response to her contacting them on behalf of a friend who was thinking of committing suicide:

they said ‘we’ll call you back’ and I was waiting up until [2.15am] and they still didn’t call me, they’ve still not called me now.

Several participants emphasised how they found the physical environment of children’s hearings intimidating, while Daniel (16, foster care) complained that social work arrangements for contact with his birth family members forced him to return regularly to a local shopping centre, associated with drug use, that held bad memories for him. Further, some participants complained of worker turnover and heavy caseloads which prevented social workers and others from providing effective support when they needed it. Others, who were settled in their placements, found the periodic interviews they were required to attend with social workers intrusive.