Information for student and newly qualified Social Workers
The Children’s Hearings System is the care and justice system for Scotland’s children and young people. A fundamental principle is that children and young people who commit offences, and children and young people who need care and protection, are dealt with in the same system – as these are often the same children and young people.
If you haven’t had any dealings with the Children’s Hearings System before, this section should help you. Please scroll down to find out more information about making a referral, going to a Hearing etc. You can also view ‘Guidance on Referral to the Reporter – Information for Partners’ and a useful briefing sheet for social workers.
Information guide for Social Workers
In addition, we have created a guide for trainee/newly qualified social workers.
Going to a Hearing can be a daunting experience for many children, young people and their families. SCRA’s recent Children and Families survey showed the most common person they spoke to about a Hearing was a social worker. A total of 30% of children, young people and adults spoke to a social worker before their Hearing and 94% of them found it helped at least a bit.
This guide provides some information on what a trainee/newly qualified social worker can do to help prepare and empower children and young people and relevant persons coming to a Hearing, and make it less intimidating. It also includes information about our resources which are available and can assist.
Children and young people are referred to the Reporter from a number of sources, including police, social work, health and education.
They are referred because some aspect of their life is giving cause for concern. Most children and young people are referred on care and protection grounds. Only a small number are referred on offence grounds.
Some examples of grounds are; a lack of parental care, being the victim of a Schedule 1 offence (offences committed against a child), when there are concerns about a child’s conduct, when they are misusing drugs or alcohol, when they fail to attend school or when they allegedly commit an offence. (View the full list of the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 S67 grounds).
Anyone can make a referral, including concerned relatives or neighbours, as well as professionals. In some areas of Scotland there is a multi-agency approach to referrals and there may be protocols already in existence in your area.
If you want to make a referral about a child or young person, all you need to do is write to the Reporter detailing your concerns. Details for local Reporter offices are available in the Contact Us section of our website.
The Reporter investigates each referral, assesses the evidence and determines whether compulsory measures of intervention are required.
The Reporter may ask you to complete a report about a child or young person that you have referred or who lives in your area. There is usually a pro forma of the report used by your local authority. Some of these are multi agency. The purpose of this report is to give the Reporter sufficient information to allow them to make a decision. The report normally includes information about the child or young person’s development, parenting and family/environmental circumstances.
The views of the child or young person and their parent or carers should also be included. A recommendation is given based on this information and the report is sent to the Reporter’s office. The Reporter will also ask other people in the child or young person’s life for more information, such as the teacher.
If the Reporter decides that there is sufficient evidence to support one of the grounds listed in section 67 and that compulsory measures of intervention are required, a Children’s Hearing will be held.
Before a Hearing
Coming to a Children’s Hearing can be an anxious time for children, young people and their families. Often they have limited knowledge of what will happen. Social work can play a really vital role in helping them understand what will happen and answer any questions they may have. The Reporter will send out age appropriate leaflets to the child or young person when they write to tell them that they need to attend a hearing. You can use this material in your discussions with young people.
If a child or young person you are working with is particularly anxious about coming to a Hearing, a pre Hearing visit can be arranged to allow them to come and see where the Hearing will be. Contact your local Reporter’s office to arrange this.
The Hearing (sometimes known as the Panel) consists of three Panel Members, all trained volunteers from the local community.
The Hearing is organised by the Children’s Reporter, who also attends the Hearing, but they do not take any part in the decision making. The decisions are taken by the three Panel Members. The Reporter is present to support fair and legal process and to fulfil a statutory function, the main one being to keep a report of the proceedings.
Social workers routinely attend Children’s Hearings to speak to their report which will have been given to Panel Members, parents or carers, and the child or young person (if they are over 12 years old or it has been requested by a child under 12 years old).
Social workers can provide additional information if required by Panel Members. The information provided by social workers and others at the Hearing, will help Panel Members make the right decision for the child or young person.
The Hearings System aims to ensure that the best interests of the child or young person are met, and that they receive the most appropriate intervention and support.
If the legal reasons for the child or young person’s referral are accepted by the child or young person and family, the Hearing listens to the child or young person’s circumstances and then decides what measures are required. The child or young person may require a particular type of treatment or intervention, they may be placed with foster carers, a residential unit or in secure accommodation.
The most likely outcome will be that the Hearing may decide that the child or young person should remain at home with support from the local authority under a Compulsory Supervision Order.
You may be asked to attend future Hearings to provide up to date information on the child or young person’s progress, for example, if they are subject to a Compulsory Supervision Order, or on an Interim Compulsory Supervision Order.
Going to Court
If any grounds (facts) are disputed by the child or young person or their parent or carers, you may be cited to appear in court as a witness if your testimony is key to matters which are disputed. The Reporter can provide you with more information about this, and we have also have a section on our website called ‘Being a Professional Witness’.
More detailed information about the Children’s Hearings System, including some frequently asked questions, is available on this website.
There is a dedicated section for children and a separate section for young people.
If you have a question about a specific case, please contact your local Reporter. If they have been in touch with you, their contact details should be on the letter or email they sent to you.
You can read the SCRA and Social Work Scotland Joint Protocol on the management of contact arrangements for children here.
View the SCRA, Children’s Hearings Scotland (CHS) and Local Authority tripartite Operational Framework agreement here.
If you have a general question, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.