Children (Care and Justice) Bill passed

Landmark bill passes Stage 3.

MSPs have backed Stage 3 of the Children (Care and Justice) Bill, enshrining in law age-appropriate care and justice for vulnerable young people across the country.

As part of wider work to embed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in law and to Keep the Promise, the Bill contains a series of measures to improve children’s experiences of the care and justice systems, whether victims, witnesses or children who have caused harm. It ensures children are kept out of prison, ending the placement of under 18s in Young Offenders Institutions, with secure accommodation being the normal place of detention instead.

The Bill also provides new reforms to support victims, including providing a clearer understanding of their right to request information from the Children’s Reporter and a new single point service for victims in the hearings system.

Further measures include:

  • strengthened referral arrangements between courts and children’s hearings
  • enhancements around secure and residential care, including secure transport
  • improved regulation for cross-border placements, to ensure that these happen only in exceptional cases where a move is in the child’s best interests
  • enabling secure care to support a young person past their 18th birthday, in appropriate circumstances

Minister for Children, Young People and Keeping the Promise Natalie Don said:

“Scotland is taking a big step forward in embedding UNCRC principles and Keeping the Promise by passing this Bill. It contains wide ranging measures to ensure age-appropriate justice is delivered, ensuring children in Scotland are kept out of prison and supporting safe, proven care-based alternatives.

“The integrated, welfare-based, Kilbrandon ethos of our children’s hearings system is something Scotland can rightly take pride in and all children - whether in need, at risk or in trouble - deserve our concern and support. This Bill will help ensure they get it. It equally provides a robust package of support for victims and their families, strengthened during Stage 2 and Stage 3 of the Bill.

“This landmark Bill is proof of the progress Scotland is making to Keep the Promise by 2030 and will be transformational for the most vulnerable children and young people in the country.”

The Promise Scotland Chief Executive Fraser McKinlay said:

“The Promise Scotland is pleased that the Children (Care and Justice) (Scotland) Bill has passed the final stage of parliamentary scrutiny. Effective implementation of the Bill will be critical. It must be accompanied by significant support for the workforce, along with adequate investment and resourcing.

“These important changes represent a significant step forward in Scotland’s efforts to Keep the Promise by 2030. It is clear that Scotland's approach to care and protection must be based on early help and support alongside a more progressive, rights-based approach to youth justice that builds on the Kilbrandon principles, upholding children's rights and increasing access to Scotland's unique, welfare-based Children's Hearings System.”

Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice Director Fiona Dyer said:

“This is a momentous day for children in conflict with the law in Scotland. It marks the culmination of years of hard work and campaigning from many across the sector, including from children and young people themselves, to rightly recognise all children under 18 in the care and justice systems as children, in need of care and support. 

“Nearly all children who harm have also been the victim of significant harm themselves and this Bill guarantees a compassionate, trauma-informed, and rights-respecting approach to ensure they are given the support needed to prevent future offending.” 


Children (Care and Justice) Bill

The Promise is the outcome of the Independent Care Review and was published in 2020. The Scottish Government signed up to all of the conclusions set out in the review and set out the actions we would take in The Promise Implementation Plan published in March 2022. 


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