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The Children's Panel - life changing

How children's hearings will adapt to coronavirus lockdown easing 22 May 2020

The First Minister’s recent announcement means that we can now explore how face to face hearings may resume when lockdown begins to ease.

Arrangements for children’s hearings starting back again are included in phase 1 of the route map announced by the First Minister on 21 May. No dates or timescales have been set, and the First Minister has made it clear that the basis on which we move to each phase is dependent on meeting stringent criteria. The next review of lockdown by the Government is Thursday 28 May and we will know then whether the intention is to move to phase 1.

Hearings enable us to listen to the voice of our infants, children and young people and make decisions to support their safety and protection. The impact of Covid-19 has meant that we are currently listening to these voices virtually and we welcome the opportunity for face to face hearings to take place in addition to this, but these must happen safely.

SCRA have responsibility for hearing centres and they have started planning around how to re-open them. They are carefully considering what requirements or adaptions might be needed to ensure that any face to face hearings can take place safely, in ways that comply with Public Health Scotland requirements. In particular as transport and travel options for children, families and hearings attendees will remain limited for some considerable time.

This will take time, we cannot return to business as usual overnight. Hearing centres vary across the country, some may be easier than others to re-open in line with the Government’s route map requirements and identifying creative solutions for this will also take time. This means we will need to operate with a hybrid approach to hearings that is likely to include a mix of physical and virtual attendance for the foreseeable future.

CHS National Convener, Elliot Jackson, says: “Easing of lockdown restrictions is really good news for Scotland’s infants, children and young people, and I echo the remarks of the First Minister yesterday in praising the way they have managed in very difficult circumstances.

“I want to recognise the incredible support of our volunteer community, who have worked so hard over the course of the pandemic to deliver hearings virtually. They have shown amazing resilience in adapting to a new way of doing things, and we know they will now be looking forward to returning to face to face hearings, as soon as it is safe to do so.

"To Scotland’s young people I say: you are at the heart of this. We will continue to work alongside everyone involved in children's hearings to make sure that your voice, and that of the people who are important to you, are central. We will make sure that physical children’s hearings are safe and welcoming places for you. We know that you might be worried about safety, so we assure you that no one will have to come to a face to face hearing if they don’t feel safe. If you would rather tell us your views in other ways, or have someone speak your views for you, we will do everything we can to make that happen."