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Children’s Hearings Scotland response to Sunday Times articles

This statement is in response to two articles published on 23rd January which criticised the care system, including the lack of transparency and process within a children’s hearing.

Elliot Jackson, National Convener and Chief Executive, at Children’s Hearing Scotland said:

At Children’s Hearings Scotland, our staff and volunteer community are committed to delivering the best possible outcomes for children and young people attending children’s hearings in Scotland. 

Panel Members have a vital role in protecting infants, children and young people in our communities across Scotland. These highly trained and dedicated lay tribunal members put the best interests of the child at the centre of everything they do. They are responsible for making decisions with and for children and young people in hearings. Some of the decisions they have to make, are the most difficult that anyone might have to take in public life in Scotland.

I can assure you that Panel Members take the weight of these decisions seriously. To ensure that they are fully equipped to make important decisions in hearings, our Panel Members are highly trained. They are required to complete a Professional Development Award as benchmarked by the Scottish Qualification Authority. This award takes 24 months to fully complete. It is a vocational qualification that ensures Panel Members demonstrate the key educational competencies needed to take part in hearings. It also ensures that they have the values and skills which are essential for getting it right for our young people. Once this Professional Development Award is completed, they are then required to complete a variety of mandatory training. This training is focused on evolving legislative and practice developments within the children’s hearing system, many of these coming from recommendations from The Promise.

Children’s hearings are rights-based tribunals. Every child, young person and parent has rights within a hearing. In fact, children’s hearings go further and apply these rights to everyone with a significant involvement in the upbringing of the child. They can bring any representative of their choosing to a hearing, whether that be a friend or advocate, and they can also bring a legal representative too.

Panel Member decision-making is informed by a range of different people and professionals that know the child or young person. This could include: family members, carers, advocates who represent the child or young person, a safeguarder who is assigned to protect the rights of the child or young person, social workers and a family’s legal representative. At every hearing, the views of the child or young person have a central role in informing the decision-making process. 

Decisions are made openly, and transparently, in front of all parties. After decisions are made, the child or young person and their parents have the right to appeal the decision of the hearing to the Sheriff Court and a right to request a review hearing after three months. The separation of fact-finding from decision making and appeals to a Sheriff, provide checks and balances within the system and refute any suggestion that there is not due process within a children’s hearing.

Children’s Hearings Scotland, our staff and our volunteers are committed to keeping The Promise to Scotland’s children and young people. To make the improvements identified in the Independent Care Review. At the heart of this commitment is having a deep understanding of what matters to children and their families, listening to them, understanding the impact of trauma and poverty and enshrining children’s rights in everything that we do.