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Training Resource Manual - Volume 1 - Legislation and Procedures

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1 Referral to the Children's Reporter

The processes where a child may be referred to a children's reporter, the reporter's investigative powers and jurisdiction, the referral of children to hearings and the decision making powers of hearings are outlined below. (s 60(3),66 - 69)

People who must refer a child

The local authority must refer a child to the reporter if they receive information which suggests that the child is in need of protection, guidance, treatment or control and a compulsory supervision order may be necessary. The local authority must make all necessary enquiries into the child's circumstances and give the reporter all information that they have in relation to the situation. The reasons for this may be because the child is being neglected or harmed in some way or that the child's behaviour or their actions require to be addressed. Some instances where a child may be referred to the reporter are as follows:

  • A child who is not being adequately cared for in the home.
  • A child is being abused.
  • A child is becoming involved in offending behaviour.
  • A child is truanting.
  • A child is running away from home.
  • A child is abusing drugs or alcohol.

This is not an exhaustive list and referral to the reporter will very much depend on the individual circumstances of the case. Whilst the duty of referral lies with the local authority and is normally carried out by the social work department, all departments within a local authority, such as housing or education, can also refer a child. (s 60)

Similarly, if a constable considers that the child is in need of protection, guidance, treatment or control and a compulsory supervision order may be necessary, the child must be referred to the children's reporter. The police have a duty to give all relevant information about the child to the reporter. (s 61)

People who may refer a child

Anyone can refer the child to the reporter. There are no criteria on determining who may do this- it may be a doctor, medical practitioner, health visitor, friend, neighbour or even the child or a member of the family or wider community. Whoever makes the referral, the person must feel that the child is in need of protection, guidance, treatment or control and a compulsory supervision order may be required. (s 64)

A court dealing with matters concerning any relevant civil proceedings such as divorce, dissolution of a civil partnership, separation, parental responsibilities or parental rights, adoption, an application for a permanence order or proceedings against a parent for failing to secure the child's regular attendance at school, may, if satisfied that one or more grounds for might apply, refer the child to the reporter. In this way the sheriff who hears something which raises concern about the welfare of the child in a completely separate proceedings, is empowered to refer the child to the reporter. (s 62)

If a child has either admitted to being guilty or been found guilty of an offence in a criminal court, the court may remit the case to the Principal Reporter to make arrangements for the case to be considered by a children's hearing. (s 71)

Initial Investigation by the reporter (s 66)

Having received information about a child the reporter must make a determination about whether there is enough evidence to support one of the section 67 grounds and if so whether it is necessary for a compulsory supervision order to be made or renewed for the child.

To make this determination the reporter is empowered to make further investigation and has an express power to request from the local authority a report on the circumstances of the child. The local authority is obliged to supply such a report including any information given to them by another person. (s 66(2)(6))

Flowchart 1 - Referral Process

Flowchart 1 - Referral Process