Information for new/recently qualified health visitors
Health Visitors may already be familiar with the Children’s Hearings System. Heath Visitors are regularly asked to provide information to the Children’s Reporter. If you haven’t had any dealings with the Children’s Hearings System before, this section should help you.
How to make a referral
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).
Some of these grounds are written in legal terms which you may not be familiar with, but they generally cover situations where you have concerns for any aspect of the child or young person’s welfare.
You might not realise, but anyone can make a referral, including concerned relatives or neighbours, and we do get referrals from health visitors. 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.
If the Reporter receives a referral about a child or young person on your case load or known to you, the Reporter may contact you for some information as part of their wider investigation. They might ask about the child/young person’s health and development, the parents level of co-operation, the home environment and if you have any concerns about the child/young person’s safety and well being.
The Reporter will also ask other people in the child or young person’s life for more information, such as the social worker or family support worker.
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.
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.
The child or young person attends the Hearing with their parents or carers. Social workers routinely attend. The Panel Members will have papers providing information about the child or young person which will include a report from the social work department and any other relevant reports. If you have been asked to submit a written report, this may also be included. The 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) will receive a copy of all reports given to the panel members.
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 other agencies, such as social work, under a 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 frequently asked questions, is available on this website. There is also 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. If you have a general question, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.