Information for new/recently qualified teachers and education staff
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.
Teachers and support staff may already be familiar with the Children’s Hearings System. Teachers are regularly asked to provide information to the Children’s Reporter and may also be invited to attend Hearings.
If you haven’t had any dealings with the Children’s Hearings System before, this section should help you. You can also view this document ‘Guidance on Referrals to the Reporter – Information for Partners’.
SCRA has a variety of information materials to help prepare children and young people for their Hearing.
Information guide for Teachers
In addition, we have created a resource for trainee/newly qualified teachers – a guide which gives a brief overview of what happens at a Children’s Hearing and how teachers/education staff may become involved. It also includes links to SCRA resources for children and young people which may be of assistance to teachers and education staff working with a child or young person who is coming to a Hearing for the first time.
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 or young person), when there are concerns about a child or young person’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 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 teachers. 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 in your class or school, 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 in your class or your school, the Reporter is likely to contact you for some information as part of their wider investigation. They might ask about the child or young person’s attendance at school, their behaviour, and whether outside influences are impacting on their schooling.
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 if 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.
Teachers routinely attend Children’s Hearings to provide information about children or young people in their class or their school. The information provided by teachers 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.
Your independent input is very important, based on your knowledge of the child or young person and from seeing them in class or school each day.
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 on a Compulsory Supervision Order. They then become known as a Looked After Child.
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 on Supervision or subject to a Compulsory Supervision Order or 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 frequently asked questions, is available on this website.
There is also a dedicated section for children and a separate section for young people.
You can view all of SCRA’s Children and Young People’s Information leaflets here.
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 communications mailbox.