Virtual Hearings

grandmother-and-granddaughter-having-good-time-in-public-park

If you are taking part in your Hearing virtually, it is important you get the help and support you need.


Although lockdown restrictions are easing and face to face Hearings are gradually restarting, some Children’s Hearings are still being held virtually. If you are due to attend a Children’s Hearing, you will receive a letter from the Reporter providing you with more information about the Hearing and whether it will be held at a Hearings centre or virtually.

If you need to contact your Reporter, email addresses and phone numbers are available here.


Questions and answers

If you are participating in a virtual Hearing, you might have some questions beforehand. We have provided some Q&As which might help you. If there’s questions missing, please contact your Reporter.

What is a virtual Hearing?

A virtual Children’s Hearing is a Hearing that takes place online. Children’s Hearings centres are closed because of Coronavirus, so we are using technology to help people attend their Children’s Hearings by attending meetings using their smartphone, tablet or computer. In a virtual Hearing you can participate and see and hear what is being said.


Are Hearings still taking place?

Yes, Children’s Hearings are still taking place, but only Children’s Hearings that must go ahead. If your Children’s Hearing needs to take place, you will be sent a letter (sometimes called a Hearing notification) from the Reporter. The letter will tell you when it is happening and will include information to help you prepare for it and submit your views.


Can I participate in my Hearing virtually?

We are trying to make it possible for as many people as possible are able to participate in a virtual Hearing – but you don’t have to if you don’t want to. You will be sent information in your Hearing notification letter telling you how you can do this.


What kind of technology are you using?

We are using Vscene. You can download this on to your smartphone, computer or tablet.


Why can’t I use Zoom, Skype or What’sApp or another kind of technology?

Vscene is a more secure platform. Children’s Hearings are private meetings and we need to protect your information, so we can’t use technology that isn’t as secure.


If I am joining my Hearing virtually, what happens?

Yes, if you decide that you would like to attend your Hearing virtually, you will need to contact our Virtual Hearings Team who will give you an information guide and login details. They will talk to you about how it works and what to expect, and will also send you detailed set up instructions and information to support and help you during your virtual Hearing.

It is really important that you do this in plenty of time to allow your connection to be tested, to get some support, to have time to think about what you want to say and whether you would like to bring a representative, advocacy worker or lawyer to your Children’s Hearing.  Doing this at least a week before your Hearing, or earlier, would be best to give you enough time to think about all of these things


Will it cost me to take part in my Hearing virtually?

If you have Wi-Fi, attending your Children’s Hearing virtually will be free. If you don’t have Wi-Fi, depending on your phone package, attending the Hearing could use up a lot of your data. This is because Vscene, like many virtual meeting platforms, uses a lot of data. We can help you with this, and will provide you with additional data by purchasing it in advance and sending it to you. You will get more information on how this works when you speak to the Virtual Hearings Team.


Who can help me with my virtual Hearing?

There are lots of ways to get help with your virtual Hearing. The Reporter and the Virtual Hearings Team will give you information on how to prepare and what to expect. You can also have a representative and/or a lawyer attend your virtual Hearing. A representative could be a trusted adult, friend or professional advocate and a lawyer is a legally trained person.

You can contact an advocate through Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance on 0131 510 9410 or visit www.siaa.org.uk. You can contact the Scottish Legal Aid Board on 0131 226 7061 to get the name of a lawyer in your area or visit www.slab.org.uk

We always encourage children, young people and parents/carers to have a representative and/or a lawyer at their Hearings, but we especially encourage you to think about it for your virtual Hearing. An advocate or lawyer can help and support you through the process and submit your views on your behalf if you are finding it difficult to say how you feel.


I don’t have a laptop, tablet or a mobile, can I still give my views to my Hearing?

Yes, you can. There are lots of options available to you. You, or someone representing you (such as a lawyer or an advocate), can email your views to the Reporter. The Reporter will give the email to the Panel Members. You can also appoint an advocate and/or a lawyer who will be able to attend the Hearing on your behalf and let the Children’s Hearing know what your views are. It’s important that you do this as far in advance of your Hearing as possible to make sure that there is enough time to get your views to the Hearing.


What about my rights in a virtual Hearing, are they different than a normal Hearing?

Your rights at a virtual Hearing are the same as they are at a normal Hearing. You can find more information about your rights here.


Top tips

If you are taking part in a virtual Hearing, we have prepared some top tips to help you in advance. Watch our short animation to find out more.


Getting help and support

If you are taking part in your Hearing virtually, it is important you get the help and support you need before and during your Hearing. There are lots of people and organisations who can help you:

Advocacy
You can find a list of all the Advocacy Organisations in your area at:
www.siaa.org.uk/find-advocate/

Legal representatives:
You can find a list of Legal Representatives in your area at:
www.slab.org.uk/new-to-legal-aid/find-a-solicitor/

Parentline:
You can contact Parentline on 08000 28 22 33 or at:
www.children1st.org.uk/parentline


Other supports

You can contact the Reporter if you have any questions; their telephone number and email address can be found in the letter you were sent and in the email with information about Vscene.

You can also contact your Social Worker, who should be able to offer you support and advice.

Emergency legislation and Children’s Hearings

Under the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020, there are some temporary changes to the law.  These changes are only in force for as long as the new temporary legislation is in force. This information sheet is designed to help children, young people and families understand some of the changes. Click here to find out more.