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Keeping Children at the Heart of the Hearing System

A recent report by the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee has concluded that improvements are needed to ensure that children remain at the heart of the system designed to protect them. 

The Children’s Hearing system was first introduced in Scotland in 1971 to safeguard the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable children and young people. A number of changes to the system have taken place since then, most recently via the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011.

While the Committee welcomed these improvements, it found there is now a danger that some of the current procedures and the way that some Hearings run in practice are making it more difficult for children and young people to be heard.

The Committee has called for a number of changes to protect this vital system. These include bringing into force the right for all children to have an advocate and ensuring the rules around the number of people attending hearings are more strictly enforced. The Committee also calls for more multi-agency training so that all present (e.g. social workers, teachers, solicitors etc.) understand each other’s role.

“Our Committee met with young people who had been through the children’s hearing system,” explained James Dornan MSP, Committee Convener. “Although we heard of many positive experiences for many there was isolation, confusion and even fear about the process taking place.”

“A system intended to put children at its heart must do just that,” he added. “Provisions aimed at ensuring each young person can have an advocate are a positive step but the fact that this is not yet enacted could mean that some young people still don’t have a voice. This needs resolved as soon as possible. We must work harder to ensure all those taking part in the process understand what is happening and understand that they have a voice and a right to be heard.”

Contains information licenced under the Scottish Parliament Copyright License.

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