A Day in the Life – Children’s Reporter
A Children’s Reporter is the person who decides if a child or young person needs to go to a Children’s Hearing.
A child or young person may be referred to the Children’s Reporter from a variety of sources, usually the police or social work, but anyone can refer a child or young person if they have concerns that the child or young person may need compulsory intervention, to protect them or to address their behaviour.
The Reporter, after receiving the referral, investigates the case. The Reporter may request reports from the child or young person’s school, the social work department, health visitor or any agency involved with the child or young person.
When the reports requested are received, the Reporter has to consider whether the information provided is sufficient to indicate a need for compulsory intervention. The Reporter then has to decide if there are legal reasons and sufficient evidence to bring the child or young person to a Children’s Hearing.
A Reporter’s schedule is extremely varied. As well as receiving and investigating referrals, they attend all Children’s Hearings and prepare and present cases in court. Excellent communication skills are required to ensure that everyone involved in the process receives the right information at the right time.
Many Reporters have legal training or social work backgrounds, some have both. Although Reporters come from all walks of life, they will undoubtedly bring an experience of working with children and young people, or families in either a legal or welfare setting to what can be a challenging, but rewarding career.
A Typical Day of a Children’s Reporter
The Reporter arrives in the office to find that a young person has been detained in custody by the police overnight. The Reporter has to discuss the case with the Procurator Fiscal to decide whether the young person is to be dealt with by the court or by a Children’s Hearing. The decision is that the young person is to come to a Children’s Hearing. The Reporter has to contact the police and the social work department to advise them of the time of the Children’s Hearing, which has to take place later that morning. The Reporter then has to ensure that available reports, notifications and reasons for the young person attending are available to the Hearing.
The Reporter then attends the Hearings held that morning. The Reporter is there to support fair process and to record the proceedings. The Reporter takes no part in the Panel Members’ deliberations and decision making. Children or young people can be referred to Children’s Hearings for various reasons, sometimes they are in need of care and protection or have been involved in offending or sometimes both.
There are three Hearings scheduled in the morning session, including the young person from police custody. The first two Hearings are for children or young people who have been referred for “care and protection” reasons. In both cases the children or young people have been neglected by their parents. The last Hearing deals with the young person who was held in police custody. It is alleged that they stole a car the previous evening.
The Reporter records the decision of each of the Hearings.
After lunch the Reporter prepares papers for the court hearing due to commence at 2.00pm at the local sheriff court. Attending court is another element of the Reporter’s role. For example, if the statement of grounds are not accepted by the child or young person and their parents, then the Reporter may need to go to court to present evidence before the sheriff. The sheriff decides if the statement of grounds have been established, and if so passes the case back to a Children’s Hearing. The Reporter may also have to go to court if the child or young person, or their parents or carers appeal a decision made by a Hearing.
The Reporter returns to the office and records the outcome of the court hearing and sends the necessary notifications to the child/young person and their parents or carers. The Reporter then arranges some Children’s Hearings. The Reporter must contact the social workers allocated to the children or young people to discuss dates and times for the Hearings.
There are new referrals to deal with and the Reporter spends the rest of the day reading those referrals, and identifying the level and nature of investigation necessary for each case. The Reporter also contacts colleagues in social work and police departments to request background information on the referrals received, which will help them decide whether or not that child or young person should be called to a Hearing at a future date.