History of the System

Concern over the way society deals with vulnerable children and young people is nothing new. In 1960, a committee was established under Lord Kilbrandon to respond to concerns over youth justice at the time and investigate possible changes to the approach. At that time, children and young people were dealt with by juvenile courts, whether they had committed an alleged offence or were in need of care and protection.

In 1964 the committee reported that there were great similarities in the need for care of all children and young people appearing before the courts, regardless of their reason for being there. This report led to the creation of the Children’s Hearings System.

The Children’s Hearings System began operating on 15 April 1971, taking over from the courts the responsibility for dealing with children and young people who are in need of care or protection or who have committed alleged offences.

Under the new system, and until the creation of SCRA, there was a separate Reporter’s Department in each of the then 12 Regional and Island councils in Scotland.

Reporter Role, Function and Accountability

In 1992 the Scottish Office published a report – “Reporters to Children’s Panels: Their Role, Function and Accountability” – by Alan Finlayson, a former Reporter in the Lothian region. Among the report’s recommendations were the creation of a national training programme for Reporters and support staff and the development of a Code of Practice for Reporters.

This report, along with the prospect of local government reorganisation, which would turn the 12 larger regional authorities into 32 unitary councils and lead to ever smaller Reporter’s Departments, created a very powerful case for the creation of a national Reporter service.

The Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) was created in 1994 under the Local Government etc (Scotland) Act and became fully operational on 1 April 1996.

Strengthening of the Children’s Hearings System

Since Reporters were brought together to become one national body, there have been a huge number of advantages. Practice improvements such as Practice Guidance for Reporters and the new Reporter Accreditation training have all flowed from the creation of SCRA.

The single Referrals Administration Database (RAD) meant that details of all children referred were put into the same database, as opposed to each council having their own database. It is therefore much easier to have a full record of that child, even if they move between areas.

In addition, the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 was very important for the recently formed SCRA, allowing the completion of national training and development of consistent Practice Guidance on the Act for Reporters across the country to follow.

Since then, the Children’s Hearings System has been strengthened further with the implementation on Monday 24 June 2013 of the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011.

There has also been the introduction of the new body Children’s Hearings Scotland (CHS). After a period of being a shadow body, this formally came into being on Monday 24 June 2013 to coincide with the implementation of the new Act. CHS is now responsible for the recruitment and training of Scotland’s 2,700 Panel Members.

Making a referral to the Reporter

If you want information about making a referral to the Reporter, there is a guidance document for partners ‘Guidance on Referral to the Reporter – Information for Partners’.

If you are a member of the public and are concerned about a child or young person, this section of our website contains more information.

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