Children's Hearings System
The Children’s Hearings System is the care and justice system for Scotland’s children and young people. A fundamental principle is that children who commit offences, and children who need care and protection, are dealt with in the same system – as these are often the same children.
At the heart of the system are Children’s Reporters, who are based in our local communities. Children and young people are referred to the Reporter from a number of sources, including police, social work, education and health. They are referred because some aspect of their life is giving cause for concern.
The Reporter investigates each referral and determines whether compulsory measures of intervention are required. If compulsory measures of intervention are required, a Children’s Hearing will be held.
The Hearing consists of three Panel Members, all trained volunteers from the local community. The Hearing listens to the child’s circumstances and then decides what measures are required. The child may require a particular type of treatment or intervention, they may be placed with foster carers, a residential unit or in secure accommodation.
The Hearing may decide that the child should remain at home with support from other agencies, such as social work.
The Hearings System aims to ensure that the best interests of the child are met and that they receive the most appropriate intervention and support.
SCRA’s vision is to transform the life chances of vulnerable children and young people in Scotland - they are at the centre of everything we do.
Focused on children and young people most at risk, SCRA’s role and purpose is to:
- Make effective decisions about a need to refer a child to a Children’s Hearing.
- Enable children and families to participate in Hearings.
- Provide suitable accommodation and facilities for Hearings.
- Disseminate information and data to inform and influence improved outcomes for children and young people.
A total of 42,532 children were referred to the Reporter in 2009/10, which represents 4.7% of all children in Scotland.
Referrals are split into two broad categories – care and protection, where the welfare of the child is causing concern, and offence, where the child is believed to have committed an offence.
The majority of children are referred on care and protection grounds. The most common grounds of referral in 2009/10 were ‘victim of a Schedule 1 offence’ and ‘lack of parental care’.
The number of children referred on offence grounds* has decreased for the fourth consecutive year.
The most common types of alleged offences remain; breach of the peace, assault and vandalism.
* Eight years is the criminal age of responsibility in Scotland – children aged under eight cannot be referred to the Reporter for offending.
The number of referrals to the Reporter has decreased in recent years, however the number of Children’s Hearings being held, continues to rise. In 2009/10, 43,614 Hearings were held.
Supervision Requirements are the most common form of compulsory intervention made by Hearings as they are the only longer-term option available. As at 31 March 2010, 13,829 children were subject to Supervision Requirements.
Hearings can make short-term decisions to address emergency and/or high risk situations where measures have to be put in place immediately to protect children or address their behaviour. This may include Hearings arranged as a result of the Sheriff granting a Child Protection Order (CPO).
The granting of a CPO requires the child to be removed to (or kept in) a place of safety away from home. For this measure to be considered, a child must be at risk of significant harm. Children’s Hearings may continue a CPO which has already been approved by a Sheriff, with or without a variation to the condition(s). The Hearing may also decide not to continue the CPO. Proportionately, more CPOs are granted for very young children, reflecting their greater vulnerability and requirement for immediate protection.
Hearings can also make Place of Safety Warrants which require a child to be kept in a place of safety away from home. Again, for this measure to be considered, a child must be at significant risk.
Processing Children's Hearings Cases: A Scottish Executive publication detailing an inter-agency code of practice and national standards.
Framework for Decision Making by Reporters: Provides principles and guidance to Reporters on the issues that are to be considered when making a decision on whether a child or young person should attend a Hearing.
Reporter Requirements of Referrals: This document provides guidance to agencies, who are considering whether to refer a child to the Reporter.