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The Children's Panel - life changing

Information for parents and carers

The Children's Hearings System exists to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children and young people through a legal decision making tribunal called the Children's Panel.

This section provides information for parents, carers and/or family members on the role of Children's Panel Members in children's hearings.

Who are Panel Members?
What is a children's hearing?
What will happen at the children’s hearing?
What decisions can be made?
What is a compulsory supervision order?
What is a pre-hearing panel?
What is a Children’s Reporter?
What if I’m not happy with the decision of the children's hearing?
Can I get legal advice or Legal Aid for children's hearings proceedings?

Who are Panel Members?

Panel Members are people from the local community. they need to either live or work in the local authority area in which they are sittin gon children's hearings. This is to make sure that they are familiar with the local area in which the children or young people attending hearings live.

All Panel Members follow a set of National Standards which are a set of core values, principles and expectations in relation to the behaviours and practice of everyone involved with the Children's Panel.

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What is a children’s hearing?

A children's hearing (also known as a children's panel) is a legal meeting arranged to consider and make legally binding decisions about children and young people who may be in need of support. 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, will be present.

Childrens Panel Illustrated Graphic

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What will happen at the children’s hearing?

The child or young person is at the heart of every children's hearing. Panel Members will listen to everyone and consider all the information. The hearing will then make a legally binding decision and the Panel Members must give reasons for their decision. Both the child or young person and their parents and/or carer(s), if they are relevant persons, will be sent a copy of the decision and reasons for the decision in writing.

At evern children's hearing three volunteer Panel Members will be present alongside a Children's Reporter. The role of the Children’s Reporter is to attend the hearing to support fair process and keep a record of the decisions which the Panel Members make.

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What decisions can be made?

  • That formal, compulsory supervision measures are not required and discharge the case
  • That Panel Members need more information to help them make a decision about what is best and they can defer the hearing until a later date
  • The hearing can decide to make an interim decision before the next hearing but only if this is necessary
  • The hearing can decide that compulsory measures of supervision are needed to help the child, and can make a compulsory supervision order.

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What is a compulsory supervision order?

A compulsory supervision order can be made at a children's hearing. It can contain measures stating where the child is to live and/or other measures with which they must comply.

The local authority (called ‘the implementation authority’) is responsible for making sure that what is stated in the compulsory supervision order is happening, and that the child 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.

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What is a pre-hearing panel?

You may receive a letter telling you that a pre-hearing panel is to take place. The child or young person and relevant persons have the right to attend a pre-hearing panel but do not have to attend if they do not want to. 

Pre-hearing panels consist of three volunteer Panel Membres who may meet to consider:

  • Whether the child or young person or a relevant person needs to attend the children’s hearing
  • Whether a person should be considered (called ‘deemed’) a relevant person
  • Whether it is likely that the children’s hearing will be considering secure authorisation for the child - this will help the child to have the assistance of a solicitor at the hearing if they wish to have one

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What is a Children’s Reporter?

The Children’s Reporter is the first contact a child or family will have with the Children’s Hearings System. They will investigate a referral about your child by getting information from a number of sources – they might speak to a social worker if your child has one, or their teacher. You can also provide the Children’s Reporter with information about your child. After that the Children’s Reporter will decide if your child has to attend a children’s hearing.

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What if I’m not happy with the decision of the children's hearing?

If you are a ‘relevant person’ you have the right to appeal to the Sheriff against the decision of your child’s hearing.  You are a relevant person if you received a formal notification of the children’s hearing and copies of all the papers which were considered by the hearing.

A child or young person can also appeal against the decision. There has to be a reason in law for the basis of any appeal. If you disagree with the decision of a hearing, you should consult a solicitor as soon as possible.

A safeguarder who may be appointed to you or your child’s case also has the right to appeal against the decision.

Any appeal should be in writing to the Sheriff at the Sheriff Court, and must be made within 21 days of the decision unless you are appealing against a decision about a relevant person in which case this must be made within 7 days.

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Can I get legal advice or Legal Aid for children's hearings proceedings?

Prior to and at the hearing, legal advice and legal aid may be available free of charge or at a reduced cost under the legal advice and assistance scheme in some circumstances. Similarly, legal aid may be available for preparation for appearance in the Sheriff Court either when the case has been referred for establishment of the fact or in appeal cases. 

Further information can be found on the Scottish Legal Aid Board website

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You can find additional support resources on the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration's website.