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

DR LORRAINE JOHNSTONE (Centre for Youth & Criminal Justice)

DR LORRAINE JOHNSTONE (Centre for Youth & Criminal Justice)


AWARD WINNER 2015-16: Lorraine is a Consultant Clinical and Forensic Psychologist at Scotland’s Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice. She wins an Award for her exceptional work in developing, championing and overseeing the pioneering IVY project, which provides highly specialised interventions for some of the most difficult and troubled young people across Scotland. [This Award is sponsored by Ingeus.]

Dr Lorraine Johnstone is Consultant Clinical and Forensic Psychologist for the Interventions for Vulnerable Youth (IVY) Project at the Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice (CYCJ), Strathclyde University. She had the idea for IVY, helped secure funding from the Scottish Government, and remains its driving force as she tirelessly promotes this highly specialised intervention for some of the most difficult and troubled young people in the system.

Her nominator, Fiona Dyer, CYCJ’s Practice Team Manager praises Lorraine for her “innovation, determination and drive” as well as “her commitment to providing the best service for young people.” Fiona describes “a pioneering psychological and social work project for young people aged 12-18 who present a significant risk to others.”

Lorraine’s focus in developing IVY was to meet the needs of children who eluded existing Child and Adolescence Mental Health Service (CAMHS) criteria (which usually include diagnostic criteria for a mental disorder such as depression, anxiety or psychosis), but who had “significant psychological difficulties that are relevant to understanding and managing their violence risk.” IVY is a national service and covers the whole of Scotland.

Fiona notes that IVY came about due to Lorraine’s “relentless determination”, because she knew that many young people risked ending up in secure care or secure mental health facilities. The service she developed meets these extremely high risk young people’s needs, offering a flexible approach to them, their families and carers, and to professionals who work with them. As Lorraine explains, these young individuals show “a high risk of engaging in serious violence, sexually harmful behaviour, intimate partner violence, stalking, violent extremism [and] fire-raising” among other behaviours.

Fiona adds that “Lorraine works tirelessly within IVY and is committed to each individual young person… She is passionate about her work, extremely knowledgeable and writes endless papers and presentations to promote the service and this way of working.  Lorraine’s belief and energy results in her working 24/7,” and notes that when speaking about a young person and their family “Lorraine shows such warmth and empathy to their situations, that you know she will be engaging with that family from the start.  She is caring, compassionate and just a genuinely lovely person.”

Lorraine successfully won funds for the service, and her vision, says Fiona, is “to divert children and young people away from the criminal justice system and enable them to be supported in their communities….  and it would not be possible without [her] skill, knowledge and tenacity.”

Now the service is established, Lorraine is focused on evaluating its impact and contributing to the evidence base. Her colleague, psychologist Kate Black, describes Lorraine as a person “who is exceptionally dedicated to her work”, noting that, “most refreshingly… she approaches the delivery of services to our most in need young people with an emphasis on integrity, ethical practice and high quality, and in doing so, helps others to do the same.”

Another colleague, social worker Linda Robb, adds that Lorraine’s “knowledge, expertise and commitment to this disaffected group who present a serious risk of harm to others has given professionals more understanding of the root causes of the presenting behaviours, in particular the impact of trauma, and has inspired confidence in risk management and planning.” Lorraine, she says, “should be recognised for her drive to make IVY successful in producing better outcomes for this group of young people who did not fit with existing service provision and who were, in effect, ‘nobody’s children’.”

Other colleagues across the sector praise the “exceptionally positive experience”, “invaluable” work, and “really positive” influence of Lorraine’s work and the IVY project. Steve Collins, a Service Manager at Glasgow, describes Lorraine as “one of the most committed, passionate and knowledgeable professionals I have ever worked with. Her insight is invaluable and she has directly shaped the manner in which we deliver services to some of Glasgow’s most vulnerable children.”

Steve goes on to say that “Few people can be described as ‘exceptional’, however, I am strongly of the view that any other description of Lorraine’s drive, ability and impact would be inadequate. She is quite simply a beacon of light in the world of mental health for young people and an extremely valued colleague.”

CYCJ’s Director, Dr Claire Lightowler, agrees, adding that “in a world far too often characterised by constraints and boundaries, Lorraine has an exceptional ability to cut through them by developing innovative approaches which are based on the best current available evidence.” Claire attests to Lorraine’s ability to “balance a strategic vision and focus with individual attention, care and support both for the children she works with and the team she brilliantly leads.” She notes that Lorraine is “widely respected across both health and social care sectors, in her practice and in academia, by colleagues at all levels. Her integrity and values shine through as does a work ethic which I’ve never seen matched. She is genuinely an inspiration to us all.”

Lorraine says that “violent behaviour in children has often been viewed primarily through a delinquency lens – a lens which can be somewhat narrow and perhaps misleading.” She notes that “many, if not most, violent youth, have harrowing trauma histories.”

By expanding “the lens of analysis” to take account of the whole life experience, she believes “a far more meaningful understanding is achieved and a platform for change provided.” Lorraine continues, “I truly believe that by meaningfully helping young people who are vulnerable to behaving violently, we can change their trajectories, reduce victimisation and break the cycle of violence. I am convinced that I have witnessed real change in some of the young people and systems I have worked with as a result of this approach.”

Like many of our Award Winners, Lorraine is generous in praising her colleagues, describing herself as “extremely fortunate” to be able to work alongside “equally passionate social work and psychology colleagues who have shared the vision and worked tirelessly with unending enthusiasm, passion and creativity to overcome geographical and practical barriers” to ensure young people and their wider support systems have access to this unique resource.

One additional benefit from the project has been the improved health and wellbeing of the staff themselves, who have indicated that they feel better informed and equipped to deal with these young people.

As well as expanding the project and securing an evidence-base, Lorraine is keen to develop more intensive therapeutic work with vulnerable youths, their families and their carers. She is also keen to work with young adults “at times of transition and therefore vulnerable periods in their lives.” By developing and driving forward IVY, these high-risk youths, who were getting lost in the existing system, can no longer be said to be “nobody’s children.”

Top of the page