Looking after young people? An exploratory study of home supervision requirements
Gadda, Andressa Maria
This research explores home supervision requirements (HSRs) in Scotland; as well as the views about, and experiences of those who are affected the most by this type of compulsory intervention – young people, their parents and social workers. Home supervision requirements are a type of legal supervision order at home which is unique to the Scottish system of child legislation. Despite being the most common type of disposal used by the Children’s Hearing little is known about how HSRs work in practice. There is some evidence that young people who are subject to a HSR are likely to leave school with fewer qualifications than their peers – including young people who were ‘looked after’ away from home. Concerns with this gap in our understandings, combined with concerns for the poorer educational outcomes of young people who are subject to a HSR, has lead the Scottish Government, in collaboration with the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), to set up and fund this case studentship. The research was conducted in a relatively large urban local authority in Scotland and used a multi-method approach in order to find out more about the nature, scope and outcomes of HSRs; as well as young people’s, their parents’ and social workers’ views about, and experiences of HSRs. I have conducted secondary analysis of data obtained from the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA). SCRA provided aggregated data on all 98 young people who were subject to a HSR in Thistle city for 12 months or more at 31st of December 2008. This information provided a ‘profile’ of young people subject to a HSR as well as a charter of their involvement with the Hearing System. This highlights the similarities between young people who are subject to a HSR and those who are subject to other types of supervision requirements (SRs) in Scotland. I also carried out documentary analysis of young people’s social work case files. Social work case files contain a number of different documents which provide qualitative information in narrative form about young people and their families, as well as a history of contact with social services. What gets recorded, how and to what effect is the result of the same system that they describe and influence. Case files are therefore of interest not because of what they record but how they construct subjects and facilitate the management of individuals and populations – in this case young people and their parents. Finally, semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with 10 young people, nine parents, one carer and 10 social workers. All of the young people interviewed had been known to social services for a considerable length of time, with some having been on and off different types of supervision requirements for five years or more. The interviews revealed a great deal of ambivalence towards HSRs from all stakeholders, and a lack of clarity about the nature and scope of the intervention. Drawing on post-theories critique on the rationalist, reductionist assumptions of modern discourses that dominate social policy and practice this study concludes that rather than asking whether HSRs are successful or not, we should first consider what HSRs are for. I propose that HSR is a disciplinary technique which aims to facilitate the management of individuals and populations. Social control should not however be understood as exclusive of disciplinary powers but as an inevitable and irreducible characteristic of all social relations. It is important therefore to explore how practice exercises control; how this is contested, resisted and transformed; and to what effect.