Barnardo’s Scotland launches service for young people at risk

Dozens of young people aged 13 to 18 in Inverness and the surrounding area at risk of involvement in anti-social behaviour and becoming targets for criminal or sexual perpetrators are to be supported thanks to a funding injection for a new project to be led by Barnardo’s Scotland.

The Anchor Project, which was officially launched today, has received more than £450,000 from the Scottish Government’s CashBack for Communities scheme to create a detached youth work service with safe space in Inverness to focus on teenagers who may be subject to exploitation. The Hub will offer a safe space for young people to reduce the number of young people congregating in unsafe locations.

Barnardo’s Scotland is leading the project and will work in collaboration with Action for Children and Aberlour to support around 60 young people each year for the next three years. As well as the Hub space, which is based in the city centre, the Anchor team will engage with young people through street work in the areas where they are known to congregate in order to build trusting relationships.

The Anchor Service will support young people throughout evenings and at weekends, and will also provide telephone and text services which young people can access. Martin Crewe, Director of Barnardo’s Scotland, said: “The service will provide one-to-one and group work to 60 young people each year for the next three years. We will engage with young people and will use outreach to build relationships and establish trust with young people who are less likely to seek support.

“We recognised that to deliver the best service to children, families and young people with The Promise at the core, a strategic partnership approach was critical. This is why our alliance with Action for Children and Aberlour – as well as other key local organisations – will allow us to support scores of young people in the Highlands to the best of our ability.

“Delivering the service in this area is vital as research from Police Scotland has revealed a huge increase in child sexual exploitation since 2015. And since October 2021, more than 85 young people under the age of 18 have been identified as subjects of risk and exploitation.”

Jim Wallace, Director of Children and Families at Aberlour, said: “We are pleased to be part of this strategic partnership to provide a safe space and street work to assist young people in the community. There has been an alarming increase in the number of vulnerable young people on the streets of Inverness and we have been deeply concerned for their welfare. By working collaboratively, we can expect to achieve much better outcomes for these young people.”

The Anchor Hub in Inverness

Action for Children’s Acting Director for Scotland, Fiona Steel, commented: “We are proud to join forces with Barnardo’s Scotland and Aberlour in our shared commitment to protecting vulnerable young people in Inverness and the surrounding area. Action for Children is committed to keeping The Promise, and programmes such as this can have a lifechanging impact on the outcomes for the children and young people we support, care for and love.

“We know from our years of experience delivering our Serious Organised Crime Early Intervention Service that this project’s focus on building relationships and trust with young people will be crucial to its success. I am confident that by working together with Barnardo’s Scotland and Aberlour we can best utilise our experience and resources to support the young people in the Highlands and protect them from the dangers of exploitation.”

One of the young people already being supported by the service said: “The Anchor Service is helping to create a safer future for young people like me. It’s an environment that has love and support and a place to escape worries and troubles that we face outside of those doors.”

Barnardo’s Scotland supports children, young people and their families in more than 125 specialised community-based services across the country. The charity works with children, young people, parents, carers and communities to ensure that every child has the best possible start in life. To donate, volunteer or fundraise, please visit

Aberlour is one of the largest Scottish children’s charities, helping to build brighter lives for Scotland’s children and young people. The charity believes that not all children are born with an equal chance. Together, Aberlour strives to be brave for children, young people and families and works to overcome poverty, disadvantage and discrimination. For more information, please visit

CashBack for Communities is a Scottish Government programme which reinvests criminal assets recovered through the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) and invests in projects delivering positive futures for our young people. The programme has strong links to the Scottish Government’s Vision for Justice in Scotland.

Since 2008, £130 million has been committed to community initiatives to improve the quality of life of young people right across Scotland. More than 2.5 million activities and opportunities for young people have been delivered so far.

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