Translators, Interpreters and Transcribers
If you are a translator, interpreter or transcriber, and have never been to a Children’s Hearing before or had any contact with the Children’s Reporter, you will have lots of questions. This section should help you find out more.
The Children’s Hearings System is the legal system for children and young people in Scotland who are either at risk or who have committed offences. Most children are referred to the Reporter because of concerns about their welfare.
SCRA regularly appoints translators to translate documents such as reports prepared for the Children’s Hearing to ensure children, young people and families can understand the paperwork we send them. Interpreters are also arranged or appointed to attend Children’s Hearings to ensure children, young people and families can fully participate in their Hearing.
This section of our website has been created to give translators, interpreters and transcribers key information about the system.
What is a referral?
A referral is information received by the Children’s Reporter from anybody about a child or young person who may be in need of compulsory measures of supervision (legal intervention) to help them address their needs and/or behaviour. Most of the information about children and young people is received from the police, social work departments or schools. However, parents, family members, carers or any concerned member of the public can contact the Children’s Reporter if they have concerns about a young person and their circumstances.
What is a Children's Hearing?
A Children’s Hearing is a legal meeting arranged to consider and make decisions about children and young people who are having problems in their lives and who may need legal steps to be taken to help them. Children’s Hearings are held in private and only those people who have a legal right to be there, or are allowed to be there by the chairperson, will be present.
Appointment of a safeguarder
A Safeguarder is a person who is appointed to make sure that a child or young person’s interests are looked after. A Safeguarder can be appointed by either a Children’s Hearing or a Sheriff. Not all children and young people need to have a Safeguarder.
Sometimes if the people at a Hearing have very different views to each other, or the Panel Members feel they need more information to allow them time to make a decision, they will appoint a Safeguarder. A Safeguarder is separate from the social worker, Children’s Reporter and the Panel Members, and would speak to everyone involved especially the child or young person, to help them build up a better picture. Sometimes they will write a report for the Panel Members and attend the next Hearing.
Who will be at the Children's Hearing?
- The child or young person, unless the Hearing has agreed that they do not need to attend,
- The people who look after the child or young person,
- Three Panel Members who will make the decisions. These are trained volunteers who want to make the best decisions to help vulnerable children and young people,
- The Children’s Reporter who will record what has been decided,
- A social worker from the local authority will prepare a report which will be considered by the panel members,
- There may be a person called a Safeguarder – they are there to help the Hearing make the right decision for the child or young person.
If the child or young person wants to, they can bring someone along like a family friend or teacher to support them or to help them communicate their views.
A relevant person can bring someone along as a representative to assist them.
What is a Pre Hearing Panel?
This is sometimes arranged when the Reporter decides to arrange a Children’s Hearing for a child or young person. Children and young people, as well as their parents/carers can attend Pre Hearing Panels if they wish but do not have to. Even if they don’t attend they are entitled to have their views about the issue(s) being considered heard.
The Pre Hearing Panel takes place before the Hearing and is where three Panel Members meet to consider certain issues in advance of the Hearing. This means they might talk about:
- whether to excuse a child, young person or relevant person from attending the Children’s Hearing.
- whether to deem (make) someone a Relevant Person.
- whether it is likely the Children’s Hearing will consider making a Compulsory Supervision Order with secure accommodation authorisation.
After the Pre Hearing Panel, the Children’s Reporter will write to the child or young person, to tell them what has been decided.
Being a Relevant Person
Under the new law the following people are automatically considered to be a Relevant Person:
- Any parent (whether or not they have parental rights or responsibilities)
- Any other person who has parental rights and responsibilities (obtained through the courts).
This means that other people, for example foster carers and kinship carers, are not automatically considered to be Relevant Persons, even if they were Relevant Persons at previous Hearings under the old law.
However, they can be deemed to be a Relevant Person. This is a decision that must be made by a Pre Hearing Panel or a Children’s Hearing. The Reporter has no power to make someone a Relevant Person. The test for being deemed a Relevant Person is that the individual has, or recently has had, significant involvement in the upbringing of the child.
Some children and young people on Supervision may have been with relatives or foster carers for a number of years in a stable placement. This process should not been seen as a threat to that arrangement or to the placement. In the vast majority of these cases, the granting of Relevant Person status is likely to be a formality.
There is a right of appeal against the decision to deem someone a Relevant Person. The child, any Relevant Person and the individual concerned can appeal against the decision to make or not to make the individual a Relevant Person. In such an appeal, the Sheriff would consider if the person met the test or not. A person cannot appeal simply because they do not like the individual or wish them to be involved in the child/young person’s life.
There does not need to be a Pre Hearing Panel for every subsequent Hearing. Once the Panel Members have decided that an individual is a Relevant Person, they retain that status for future Hearings, though it can be reviewed if the person no longer has, or recently has had, significant involvement in the upbringing of the child.
Some family members or foster carers may only be looking after a child or young person for a short period or on a temporary basis. They may not want to be considered to be a Relevant Person or they may not meet the test of significant involvement. They may still be able to attend the Hearing as a representative of the child/young person or a Relevant Person. The Panel Members also have discretion to allow them to attend.
What will happen at the Hearing?
Each Hearing comprises of three Panel Members – all trained volunteers from the local community. The child or young person, and their family or carers are central participants in the Hearing. The role of the Reporter is to attend the Hearing to support fair process. The Reporter takes no part in the Panel Members’ deliberations.
The Panel Members will listen to everyone and consider all the information provided. The Hearing will then make a decision and the Panel Members must give reasons for their decision. Both the child or young person and their carer(s) will be sent a copy of the decision and reasons for the decision in writing.
What decisions can be made at the Hearing?
A Compulsory Supervision Order can be made at a Children’s Hearing. It can contain conditions stating where the child or young person is to live and other conditions with which they must comply.
The local authority is responsible for making sure that what is stated in the Compulsory Supervision Order is happening, and that the child or young person is getting the help that they need. A Compulsory Supervision Order has no set time limit, but should last only as long as is necessary. It must be reviewed by a Children’s Hearing at least once a year when it can be continued, varied or stopped.
Can a child and/or relevant person appeal?
A child, young person or their parent/carer have the right to appeal to the Sheriff against the decision of the Children’s Hearing. A child, young person or their parent/carer cannot appeal a decision simply because they disagree with the decision. There has to be a reason in law for the basis of any appeal. If a child, young person or their parent/carer disagree with the decision of a Hearing, they should consult a solicitor as soon as possible, because they may have the right to appeal.
A Safeguarder who may be appointed to a child or young person’s case also has the right to appeal against the decision, and does so on behalf of the child. In appealing, the Sheriff must be satisfied that the Children’s Hearing was not justified – for example, in making a Compulsory Supervision Order.
(Safeguarders are independent of the Children’s Reporter and the local authority social work department. Their task is to represent what is in the child or young person’s best interests.)
Any appeal should be in writing to the Sheriff at the Sheriff Court, and must be made within three weeks of the decision.
At the appeal, the Sheriff will hear what the child or young person’s parents/carers have to say and will also hear the Reporter, and possibly the child or young person. The Sheriff may summon the people who prepared the reports about the child or young person for the Hearing if he/she thinks that would be useful.
If the Sheriff allows the appeal, there are a number of options:
- Discharge the case altogether.
- Send it back to the Hearing for reconsideration.
- Make a Compulsory Supervision Order which is different from the one which the Hearing had decided upon.
If the appeal fails, the decision made by the Hearing will remain unchanged.
A Children’s Hearing can decide to make a Compulsory Supervision Order. By law, children and young people (and the Local Authority) have to comply with the terms of this Order.
The Children’s Hearing may decide that an added condition of the Compulsory Supervision Order is an authorisation for the child or young person to be placed in secure accommodation.
Why would a Hearing make this decision?
To make this decision the Hearing must feel that the child or young person meets what is known as the ‘criteria for secure accommodation’. This may be because they have gone missing (sometimes called ‘absconding’), that they are likely to go missing again unless they are kept in a secure place, there are serious concerns about their safety and welfare or there are concerns about the risk posed to themselves or others.
When a Children’s Hearing makes a Compulsory Supervision Order which includes an additional requirement authorising secure accommodation, they are making that decision because they believe that it is in the best interests of the child or young person.
If this happens, who can provide advice?
A child or young person is entitled to have a lawyer (a solicitor) to help them at the Hearing. They don’t need to pay for this. A child or young person may already have a lawyer, but if not it may be helpful for them to try and get one before the Hearing. The Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) on 0131 226 7061 will provide names of lawyers locally. If a child/young person doesn’t have a lawyer on the day of the Hearing, another lawyer will be asked to attend, but they might not have so much time to speak to each other before the Hearing. A child or young person’s parents may also be able to get legal aid to have a lawyer at the Hearing, and should speak to a lawyer or to the Scottish Legal Aid Board who will be able to advise about this.
What happens next?
A Local Authority has a duty to put the Compulsory Supervision Order into effect and may decide to place a child or young person in the appropriate secure accommodation. After the Order has been made, the Social Worker who has been allocated by the Local Authority to a child or young person, will speak to the child or young person, and their parents or carers, and discuss a plan for the future.
The Social Worker will also consult with others, such as a child or young person’s school, and prepare a care plan to help improve a child or young person’s situation.
The Children’s Hearing expects that the Local Authority will provide the supervision that each child or young person requires, and the plan helps to identify what needs to be done and what part everyone will play in the work with the child or young person.
Going to court
At the first Hearing, the statement of grounds (the reason for a child or young person being at a Hearing) are read out and the children or young people, and parents or carers have to say whether they accept and understand them or not.
If the child or their parent or carer do not agree with the reasons for the Hearing, or if the child is unable to understand the statement of grounds, Panel Members might ask the Reporter to send the case to a Sheriff Court so that a Sheriff can decide if the reasons (or ‘statement of grounds’) are correct.
In Scotland a Sheriff is a judge in a court. The Sheriff will listen to what is said about the statement of grounds. If the Sheriff decides that the statement of grounds are correct, then the matter will be sent back to another Children’s Hearing. The Panel Members will then decide what would be the best way of giving the child or young person whatever help or support they think that they need. If the Sheriff decides the statement of grounds are not correct, then there won’t be another Children’s Hearing about the matter.
You may find it useful to look at some fact sheets and other materials we have prepared:
The Children’s Hearings System
Children referred to the Reporter
High Risk Young Offenders
Child and Adolescent Mental Health
Role of the Reporter
Easy Read information
Films and Podcasts
Children’s Hearing Improvement Partnership (CHIP) website
Information on protecting children and young people’s information can be found here.