Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice

CLAIRE MCCARTNEY (Youth Justice in Scotland)

CLAIRE MCCARTNEY (Youth Justice in Scotland)

COMMENDEE 2019-20: Claire is Commended for her pivotal role, with the Kibble Education and Care Centre in Paisley, at the heart of a facility for young people at risk of offending which, as a result of her efforts, is now recognised as a national leader.

Initial nominator, Line Manager, and Clinical Director, Dan Jonson, explains that Kibble Education and Care Centre is a 150 year old charity providing secure and residential care for some of the most high risk children and young people in the UK. When Claire joined Kibble in 2006 she was responsible for setting up a service that could provide specialist mental health support to young people and help them reduce their offending. Dan says that:

“In the twelve years since then Claire has worked tirelessly to develop a world-class service that has children and young people at its heart. The service has evolved to be a nationally-recognised leader that has served over 1000 children. Essentially, it’s highly valued by young people and their families and often has a key role in achieving change for them.”

Dan believes this is because Claire has ensured the team “always places young people and their interests at the heart of their work”, “provides gold-standard mental health support including psychology, therapy and family services”, “are innovative and push the boundaries of what the service and Kibble can provide”, “collaborate with children and young people in design and delivery of the service”, and “work above and beyond their role and remit and go that important extra mile.” Dan adds that:

“Claire has been both the turbo-engine and the backbone of these achievements. She is a force of nature with the energy of a whole team! She has transformed not just the team but also the wider organisation and championed young people, their rights and the importance of placing them at the centre of what Kibble does.”

He goes on to say that Claire “has consistently gone above and beyond all because of her passion to improve the lives of young people. She is principled about getting it right for each child. She is never afraid to say unpopular things if it is in the interests of the child and will challenge those all the way to the top of the organisation. She does an extraordinary job extraordinarily well. Her positive and moral attitude is contagious and has raised many of those around her.”

Several young people added their own testimonials, too, and here are some of their remarks:

“She goes into depth into a problem to find a solution.”

“She lets you have a rant and get everything off your chest and she will just sit there and listen.”

“She has the best interest of the child at heart.”

“She’s welcoming and friendly and always has a smile on her face.”

“She can cheer you up in any situation.”

Butler Trust Local Champion and Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice Interim Director, Fiona Dyer, explains that Claire works across a number of services, including Kibble’s ‘Safe Centre’, an 18-bed secure unit for young people with a range of needs including offending behaviour. “She has two roles. One is as an operational manager where she covers the duty manager role and ensures the day to day running of the secure unit one weekend per month. Her main role though is heading up the Specialist Intervention Service: a team of 14 psychologists, therapists, family workers and counsellors. Claire initiated this service approximately 15 years ago and has managed it ever since. She has turned it into one of the most valued and respected services of its kind.”

Fiona explains that, on a daily basis, Claire multitude of roles includes being “a support to her team and the wider staff group, providing individual therapeutic support to young people, advocating and campaigning for young people, and being a trainer and mentor.”

Fiona adds that Claire “is a key part of organisational change and champions many new projects and initiatives (including a move to trauma-informed services and responsibility for self-harm and suicide prevention and reduction), and does more than all these things – not to mention organising the annual children’s Christmas party!”

“Above all she brings energy and child-focus to all that she does and has been a powerful force in ensuring that the work we do here is about the children and for the children. She has been a key part of keeping the organisation child-focused, sector-leading and cutting edge in a time of financial pressure and change.”

Fiona goes on to says that Claire has been described as “a force of nature! She is almost infamous for her energy and passion for the best interests of young people in secure care. She does not stand on ceremony and is happy advocating for young people and saying what she believes to anybody regardless of hierarchy or importance.”

Fiona adds that Claire is “an authentic and real person. She speaks the same language as the young people – even though she runs a team of psychologists and therapists who can speak a fair bit of jargon!” Describing her as “ever the optimist” and someone who “jumps on change when the opportunity is there”, Fiona says Claire “will seize on any good idea and make it bigger and better if she thinks it can help young people. Her enthusiasm for change is almost hard to keep up with but she somehow manages to scoop people up in her whirlwind and get the best out of them. Her team work really, really hard because she lives and breathes her values about getting the best for young people and her team follow her in this.”

Several colleagues added their own testimonials. Among them, Sinclair Soutar, Executive Director (including the Safe Centre), who says “there is being child-centred, and then there’s a level above and it is Claire McCartney.” Executive Director Neil McMillan says Claire “is passionate and committed to young people. She brings ‘being human’ to her work and can connect to anyone and make difficult concepts real and meaningful to staff. She cares about everyone including the staff. She puts the needs and welfare of others before herself or the organisation.”

Principal Psychologist Susan Steele adds that Claire “is passionate about hearing and championing the voice of young people and making sure we get it right for them”, while Executive Director Jim Crawford says “she is all about the weans!” (the vernacular in West Scotland for young children).

Claire herself outlines her approach to her work: “From the outset I shared my vision that if we really wanted to help young people then we needed to recognise that they were children first and not ‘young offenders’. That the young people’s behaviours were a response to the things that had happened to them as children and that unless we tried to understand this and meet their wider emotional needs then we were not going to change much.”

Claire explains that a journey that started with two trainee forensic psychologists led to a team that now includes “child trauma counsellors, play therapy, CBT [Cognitive Behavioural Therapy] therapists, art therapist, a DBT [Dialectical Based Therapy] team and a family therapist.” She adds that “we try to ensure that the intervention meets the needs of the young person, not the young person fitting into the therapist’s ‘model’. This integrative approach has gone down well with young people and they feel that they have some control over what they think will best support them.”

Claire concludes:

“Probably the most important thing for me is actually enjoying the young people and seeing them grow and thrive. As part of my role as duty manger in the secure centre, a shift can comprise of making pancakes, supporting a child who is self-harming, providing psychological first aid for staff, doing the limbo challenge, laughing with the kids, physically holding them and listening to their stories. How privileged am I to have these opportunities to make even just a wee difference to their lives.”


With thanks to Kibble Education and Care Centre, especially initial nominator, Line Manager and Clinical Director Dan Jonson, Butler Trust Local Champion and Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice Interim Director Fiona Dyer, as well as numerous colleagues and young service users, for their contributions.

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