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.


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.

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.

SCRA as a Corporate Parent

On 1 April 2015 we became a proud Corporate Parent.

By law (the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014) Corporate Parents must carry out special responsibilities. We also have a moral duty to provide the best possible support and care we can to the children and young people we are involved with.

SCRA’s Corporate Parenting duties are:

to be alert to matters which might adversely affect the wellbeing of looked after children and young people.

to assess the needs of looked after children and young people for services and support they provide.

to promote the interests of looked after children and young people.

to provide opportunities for looked after children and young people to participate in activities designed to promote their wellbeing.

  • to take action appropriate to ensure looked after children and young people access these opportunities and make use of our services and support.
  • to take any other action considered appropriate to improve organisational functions to meet the needs of looked after children and young people.

To support the Corporate Parenting responsibilities, we have a website aimed at young people. The website –www.mycorporateparents.co.uk – is a joint initiative with Children’s Hearings Scotland. The site provides young people with a more interactive version of our corporate parenting commitments and activities.

Independent Care Review

On 5 February 2020, the Independent Care Review published seven reports following their root and branch review of the way the care system in Scotland operates. The Promise told Scotland what it must do to make sure its most vulnerable children feel loved and have the childhood they deserve; The Plan explains how change should happen. This work will see renewed focus on the Children’s Hearings System along with fresh changes and developments in the way all services are delivered.

In August 2021, the Hearings System Working Group (HSWG) was created to help Keep The Promise. The HSWG is a partnership between SCRA, Children’s Hearings Scotland and The Promise Scotland. The HSWG will facilitate a redesign of the Children’s Hearings System. The voice and views of people with lived experience of the system will be at the heart of the redesign process. In February SCRA launched our Keeping The Promise Route Plan. A dedicated Keeping The Promise section has been set up on our website.

In May 2023, the Hearings System Working Group published its Hearings for Children report. The report makes 97 recommendations for strengthening the Children’s Hearings System. SCRA welcomed the publication of this report. You can read our response to the report here.

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