Questions and Answers

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Here are some questions that you might want to know the answers to. Simply scroll down the page to see all the questions and answers.


What is the Children’s Hearings System?

The Children’s Hearings System deals with children and young people in Scotland under the age of eighteen who are in need of help. There are two main reasons why the Children’s Hearings System will help a child or young person:

  1. Because they are in need of care and protection.
  2. Because they have got into trouble with the police or at school.

What is a Children’s Hearing?

A Children’s Hearing (sometimes just called a Hearing) is a legal meeting that children and young people are sometimes asked to go to with their families or carers to help them sort out their problems. Children’s Hearings are held in private.


What is a Referral?

A referral is information received by the Children’s Reporter about a child or young person because they need help to sort out some of the problems in their life. Most of the information is received from the police, social work departments or schools. However, anyone, including you, can contact the Children’s Reporter if they are worried about a child or young person. There are lots of different reasons why a young person might be referred – these are called the ‘statement of grounds’. These are:

  • If they have not been going to school,
  • If they have been in trouble with the police,
  • If they have been drinking alcohol or taking drugs,
  • If their behaviour has been causing concern at home, school or in the community,
  • If someone is worried that they are not being cared for properly by their parents or carers,
  • If an adult has hurt them or someone in their family in some way.

Why are young people referred to the Children’s Reporter?

There are lots of different reasons why a young person might be referred to the Children’s Reporter – known as the ‘statement of grounds’. These are:

  • If they are have not been going to school,
  • If they have been in trouble with the police,
  • If they have been drinking alcohol or taking drugs,
  • If their behaviour has been causing concern at home, school or in the community,
  • If someone is worried that they are not being cared for properly by their parents or carers,
  • If an adult has hurt them or someone in their family in some way.

What is a Children’s Reporter?

A Children’s Reporter (sometimes just called a Reporter) is the person who makes decisions about a young person to help them sort their problems out. For example, once a young person has been referred, it is the Children’s Reporter who decides whether or not that young person should attend a Hearing.


What decisions can a Children’s Reporter make?

When a Reporter receives a referral, he or she will find out all they can about that young person and their circumstances, so that they can help them. They might speak to a social worker or a teacher or the people who look after the young person at home. They may also ask a social worker or a teacher at the young person’s school to write a report about them and their family to give them the information they need to make the right decision. Once the Reporter has all the information they need, they can decide what to do.

If the Reporter thinks that the young person is in definite need of help, they will ask them to come to a Hearing. Not all young people who are referred to the Children’s Reporter are asked to attend a Hearing. In many cases, there are other ways to help that young person for example, if they have a very supportive family who can help them with their problems.


If I have been referred to the Reporter, do I have to go to a Hearing?

Most of the young people who are referred to the Reporter do not have to go to a Hearing. If you have been referred to the Reporter, you will get a letter. Your parents or carers will also get a similar letter. It will explain why you have been referred to the Reporter.

The Reporter might then ask for some more information about you from your school or from social work. Once they get this information they will decide if you need to go to a Hearing. The Reporter will write to you again to let you know what they decide.


If I have been referred, what could happen to me?

There are a few different things that a Reporter can decide to do:

  • They can decide to arrange a Children’s Hearing.
  • They may decide that you don’t need help from the Children’s Panel because you are managing to sort your problems out with help from your family.
  • Or they may decide that you need some help from somebody else like your local council.

If you are asked to attend a Hearing do you have to go?

Yes. The Hearing is about helping you. It is important that you are there to let the people at the Hearing know what you think and how you are feeling.

Sometimes something called a Pre Hearing Panel will be arranged. Children and young people do not have to attend Pre Hearing Panels, but can if they wish, and are still entitled to have their views heard about the issues being considered if they choose not to attend.

At the Pre Hearing Panel, the Panel Members and the Children’s Reporter decide if the child or young person needs to attend  their Hearing. Normally if a child is very young or if it would be too upsetting for them to attend, then the Pre Hearing Panel will decide it is OK for the child not to attend the Hearing. They will also decide whether someone must be told about the Hearing because they are a ‘relevant person’ or whether someone should be treated as a ‘relevant person’ because of their involvement in a child or young person’s upbringing.

After the Pre Hearing Panel the Children’s Reporter will write to you to tell you what has been decided.


What information will you receive before your Hearing?

Information will be posted to young people over the age of 12 before their Hearing. This will include the reason for the Hearing, what time it is, where they have to go and a copy of any reports that the Reporter received. A copy of this information will also be sent to the parents or carers and the Panel Members.


Who can you talk to before your Hearing?

The Children’s Hearings System is a legal system, so it is important that you understand what is going on. If you have any questions before you attend a Hearing, there are lots of different people you could talk to for example, the Reporter whose details will be on the letter you have received about the Hearing, your social worker or your teacher.

If you just want to have a chat with someone, try talking to your parents or carers or other young people who are in a similar situation to you.

If you are eleven years or over, you could also call the Young Scot InfoLine on 0808 801 0338, where you can speak to someone who can give you information about Children’s Hearings, although they won’t be able to talk to you about your individual case.

If you want to know about the Children’s Hearings System, visit www.scra.gov.uk or www.youngscot.org

The Scottish Child Law Centre provides free legal advice for under 21s. From a landline please call 0800 328 8970 or from a mobile please call 0300 330 1421.

Children and young people can also speak to someone in confidence by calling ChildLine on 0800 1111.


Fill out the All About Me Form

If you have been asked to attend a Children’s Hearing, you have the right to have your voice heard. You can do this by talking to the Panel Members at the Hearing and telling them how you feel. If you are shy, you might prefer to complete a form called ‘All About Me’, which you should complete before you go to the Hearing. You can either complete it and send it back to the Children’s Reporter who wrote to you about your Hearing, or you can bring it with you to the Hearing. Your parents or carers can help you to fill out the form if you need some help. Just click on the picture to open the form.

All About Me Form


What rights do young people have at a Hearing?

  • You can bring someone along to the Hearing with you like a friend or a family member.
  • You do not have to agree with the reasons why you are at a Hearing. So if  you have been asked to attend a Hearing because you have committed an offence but you don’t agree that you committed that offence then you can say so.
  • You have the right to understand why you are at a Hearing.
  • You have the right to talk at the Hearing.
  • You have the right to talk to the Panel Members on your own, but anything you do say to the Panel Members on your own has to be told to the other people at the Hearing afterwards (although not in the same words that you use).
  • You can disagree with the decision made by the Hearing and you can say so.

How long will the Hearing last?

Most Hearings should take less than an hour – that is about the same time as your lunch break at school. Sometimes Hearings last longer than expected and you may have to wait a while for your Hearing to start. If you miss some school, then that’s OK. You are allowed to miss school to go to a Children’s Hearing.


Where will the Hearing be held?

Children’s Hearings can be in different kinds of buildings. Usually there is a waiting room and you can bring a game or a book to use when you are in the waiting room. Then the Reporter will take you and your parents or carers into the Children’s Hearing room to meet the Panel Members.


Who will be at the Hearing?

  • You
  • The people who look after you (parents or carers), who are sometimes called ‘relevant people’
  • Three people called Panel Members who will decide what to do next
  • The Children’s Reporter who will record what has been decided,
  • A social worker
  • Sometimes a teacher from your school will also be there.

If you want to, you may bring someone along to help you, like a friend or a family member.

Remember – you are the most important person at a Children’s Hearing. Sometimes the Panel Members can ask some people to leave the Children’s Hearing if this would help you.


What is a Panel Member?

A Panel Member is a person from your local community who volunteers to sit on a Children’s Hearing. Panel Members are normal people – they might be a plumber or a shop assistant. Lots of them have their own children and grandchildren. All Panel Members are given special training so that they can make decisions to help the children and young people who come to a Hearing. There are three Panel Members at every Hearing and one of them will lead the Hearing – they are also known as the Panel Chair or Chair Person.


What will happen at a Hearing?

One of the Panel Members will introduce everyone in the room and will then read out the legal reasons for the Hearing (these are called the ‘statement of grounds’). You will be asked whether you accept that these reasons are correct. The Panel Member will also ask your parents or carers if they accept that these reasons are correct.

If these reasons are accepted by you and your parents/carers, the Panel Members will go on to have a discussion about you with everyone present. The Panel Members will already have read the reports about you and your family.

The Panel Members will listen to everyone, especially you. If you find it easier you can tell the Panel Members what you think using the ‘All about me’ form. This will be sent to you by the Children’s Reporter.  The Panel Members will consider all the information, and then make a decision about what is best to help you or to keep you safe. The Panel Members must give reasons for their decision. You will also be sent a copy of the decision and reasons for the decision in writing.


What if the statement of grounds are not accepted by the young person, or their parents or carers?

Where the legal reasons for the Hearing (the statement of grounds) are not accepted by the young person, their parents or carers, or the young person does not understand them, the Panel Members cannot make a final decision.

If this happens, the Panel Members have two options:

  • They can decide not to take the referral any further and that would be the end of the Hearing.  You would not have to go to another Hearing unless you were referred again.
  • If they wanted to find out if the statement of grounds were true or not, the Panel Members could ask the Reporter to send the statement of grounds to court so that a Sheriff can decide if they are true or not.  This is sometimes called sending the grounds to proof.  If you are over 12 years old, you may have to go to court. The Reporter will be able to tell you more about this if this happens at the Hearing but it is nothing to be worried about.

What decisions can be made about a young person at a Hearing?

It is the three Panel Members and not the Children’s Reporter, who decide what action should be taken to help a young person at a Hearing. They can decide:

  • That they don’t need to do anything about the statement of grounds and decide not to take it any further. This is called discharging the case. This might be because things have improved for the young person at home or school and the Panel Members don’t feel that the young person needs to come back to another Hearing.
  • That more information is needed to help them make a decision about what is best for the young person and they can decide to continue the Hearing until a later date.
  • That compulsory measures of supervision are needed to help the young person, and can make a Compulsory Supervision Order.

What if the young person does not agree with the decision of the Children’s Hearing?

If the young person does not agree with the decision of the Hearing they should tell someone immediately, either the person who looks after them, or their social worker or the Children’s Reporter. They will help the young person talk to someone about why they do not like the decision and help them decide if they would like to go to court to appeal the decision. If the young person wants to appeal the decision of the Hearing, this must be done within 21 days of the date of the Hearing.

A young person cannot appeal a decision simply because they disagree with the decision. There has to be a reason in law for the basis of any appeal. If you disagree with the decision of a Hearing, you should speak to a solicitor as soon as possible, because you may have the right to appeal.


What is a Compulsory Supervision Order?

A Compulsory Supervision Order is a legal document that means that the local authority is responsible for looking after and helping the young person. It can contain conditions that say where the young person must live and other conditions which must be followed. The local authority is responsible for making sure that what is stated in the Compulsory Supervision Order is happening, and that the young person is getting the help that they need.

A Children’s Hearing can make a Secure Authorisation as a condition of a Compulsory Supervision Order. This would be when they think that the young person should be in a place that they can not leave (a secure placement). This may be because:

  • The young person has run away from home quite a lot and there is a risk that they will do it again, and
  • If they do it again then they will be in danger, or could hurt themselves or someone else.

For the young person to go a secure placement, the local authority, the person who manages the secure placement and the Panel Members must all agree that it is necessary to keep a young person somewhere they can not leave. This is a very serious decision and is the last thing that Panel Members want to do. The young person is entitled to have a lawyer to help them at their Hearing.  The lawyer would be able to talk to the young person about their rights and get their views

If a Secure Authorisation is made, it must be  reviewed every three months.


How long does a Compulsory Supervision Order last?

A Compulsory Supervision Order has no set time limit, but it should last only as long as is necessary. It must be reviewed by a Children’s Hearing at least once a year when it can be either carried on for a longer time, changed or stopped.  A Compulsory Supervision Order can also be reviewed before the year is up if:

  • The Panel Members at the Hearing, think it is a good idea to have another Hearing to see how the young person is getting on.
  • The local authority can ask the Reporter to arrange another Hearing at any time if things have changed for the better or worse .
  • The young person or their parents/carers can ask the Reporter to arrange another Hearing three months after the first Hearing.

A young person might also be asked to attend another Hearing if they got into difficulty again.


What does to defer a Hearing mean?

This means that the Panel Members are unable to make a decision about the future of the young person on the day of the Hearing. This may be because they would like some more information about the young person before they make a decision, so the Hearing is stopped (deferred) to wait for that information and it will be re-arranged for another day.

If the Panel Members defer a Hearing, they may also have to think about if the young person will be safe until the next Hearing can be arranged. If they are concerned they can issue an Interim Compulsory Supervision Order.


What is a Safeguarder?

A Safeguarder is a person who is appointed to make sure that a young person’s interests are looked after. A Safeguarder can be appointed by either a Children’s Hearing or a Sheriff. Not all children and young people need to have a Safeguarder.

Sometimes if the people at a Hearing have very different views to each other, or the Panel Members feel they need more information to allow them time to make a decision, they will appoint a Safeguarder. A Safeguarder is separate from the social worker, Children’s Reporter and the Panel Members and would speak to everyone involved especially the young person, to help them build up a better picture. Sometimes they will write a report for the Panel Members and attend the next Hearing.


What is an Interim Compulsory Supervision Order?

An Interim Compulsory Supervision Order (ICSO) is a temporary order that the Panel Members can make if they are unable to make a final decision but have concerns about a child/young person.  It might say where the child/young person must live or other conditions which must be followed.  This only lasts for a short time before needing to be renewed

Sometimes, in very serious situations, the Panel Members may have concerns about a young person’s behaviour and may feel they are putting themselves or other people in danger. They may be going missing a lot from where they live or getting into trouble all the time with the police. The Panel Members could decide to issue an Interim Compulsory Supervision Order for the young person to be kept in a place where they cannot leave. This is called a Secure Authorisation. A Children’s Hearing will only decide to issue an Interim Compulsory Supervision Order with secure authorisation in an emergency and if it thinks that something must be done straight away.

If an Interim Compulsory Supervision Order is issued, it must be reviewed at a Hearing every 22 days to decide if it is still needed. If a young person does not agree that an Interim Compulsory Supervision Order is needed when the Panel Members do, they can say so by appealing the decision.


What is the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974?

This section explains how the Act may affect you in the future.

Is my appearance at a Children’s Hearing a ‘criminal conviction’?

Normally no, the appearance is in private and the press, even if present (which is a rarity) cannot publish details of any child or young person. Children and their parents do not need to tell anyone about it except for the circumstances defined in the Act. Children’s Hearings are not part of the criminal court system, but records of decisions taken at Children’s Hearings are kept by the police on their national computer system. They cannot formally become a ‘previous conviction’ in any later appearance before a court, but they may be mentioned in background reports to a court.

What is the purpose of the Act and what does it say?

It is intended to limit the time during which a person must reveal that they have a ‘criminal conviction’, especially when applying for a job. An appearance at a Hearing becomes a ‘criminal conviction’ under this Act if grounds for referral involving the commission of an offence by a child are admitted or are proved before the Sheriff.

For how long do ‘criminal convictions’ have to be revealed?

The Act talks about a ‘rehabilitation period’ after which the conviction does not have to be revealed. It becomes a ‘spent conviction’. This rehabilitation period is six months from the date the grounds were accepted or proved. When this has led to the child being placed on a Supervision Requirement, it is one year from the date it was made. If the child is on supervision for more than one year, then it is on the date it is terminated. This can be quite complicated if the child has had several appearances over time for various offences.

Are there any exceptions to this rule?

Yes. As you can imagine, there are a number of jobs and situations where it is considered that even a child’s previous behaviour is very important to know about. There is a list of these stated in law. Please click on the link below to view a leaflet which provides more information.

Rehabilitation of Offenders

Where can I get more information?

You can get more information from the Disclosure Scotland website.