1.1 The Consultation Exercise
1.1.1 The Scottish Government is committed to improving family law and how the child's voice is heard within cases, and to ensure that the child's best interests are at the centre of the system. To assist the Scottish Government to target any necessary changes, a public consultation ran between May and September 2018 seeking views on potential changes to Part 1 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (the 1995 Act).
1.1.2 The 1995 Act focuses on the needs of children and their families. This defines parental responsibilities and rights in relation to children, as well as setting out the duties and powers available to public authorities. Part 1 of the 1995 Act specifically covers parental responsibilities and rights. The consultation also sought views to assist with the development of a Family Justice Modernisation Strategy and other matters related to family law. Specifically, views were sought in relation to wide ranging topics, including:
- Obtaining the views of a child;
- Commission and diligence;
- Cross border cases within the UK: jurisdictional issues;
- Parental Responsibilities and Rights;
- Child abduction by parents;
- Domestic abuse;
- Court procedure;
- Alternatives to court;
- Birth registration;
- Children's Hearings;
- Domicile of persons under the age of 16; and
- Various Impact Assessments.
1.1.3 Two versions of the consultation document were available - a main document containing 54 questions, and a child friendly version (henceforth referred to as the young persons' survey, with survey questions identified by the prefix YP) containing 16 questions. Both documents contained a mix of closed and open questions.
1.1.4 The Scottish Government designed the questions for the consultation documents, and sought views from a range of stakeholders on areas that should be covered. A draft of the consultation was shared with the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service and the Scottish Legal Aid Board in advance.
1.1.5 Similarly, questions drafted for the young persons' survey were piloted with young people via several partners/forums, including Young Scot, the Scottish Youth Parliament and Scottish Women's Aid before being finalised.
1.1.6 The consultation launched on 15 May 2018 and closed on 28 September 2018.
1.1.7 In addition to the written consultation, the Scottish Government held a series of 28 separate events across the country to seek views and feedback on the main consultation themes. Results from these events are not included within this report.
1.2.1 A total of 549 substantive responses were received - 254 responses to the main consultation and 295 responses to the young persons' survey.
1.2.2 A total of 171 individuals responded to the main consultation document, along with 83 organisations. For analysis purposes, these organisations were further categorised based on the organisation type, with the numbers of respondents in each category detailed in the table below.
|Domestic Abuse Support Services||5||6%|
|Family Support Organisations||15||18%|
|The Legal Profession||11||13%|
1.2.3 Respondents to the main consultation were also asked to identify their geographic residence, with most coming from Scotland (n=238, 94%). A further 10 (4%) respondents came from the 'Rest of the UK', and only 2 (1%) respondents came from the 'Rest of the World', while 4 (1%) respondents did not provide an answer.
1.2.4 The young persons' survey asked respondents to identify which age category they belonged to. Nearly half (46%) were aged 16 or under, 12% were aged 17-18, and 17% were aged 19-25. The table below provides a detailed breakdown of the age of respondents who answered the young persons' survey. It should be noted that some of the respondents who preferred not to say their age may have been over the age of 25.
|Under 8 years old||7||2%|
|8 - 12 years old||45||15%|
|13 - 16 years old||85||29%|
|17 - 18 years old||35||12%|
|19 - 25 years old||50||17%|
|Prefer not to say||68||23%|
1.2.5 Across both consultation modes, all questions were answered by at least one respondent. Responses were read and logged into a database, and all were screened to ensure that they were appropriate/valid. None were removed for analysis purposes. Although some responses to individual questions did not directly address what was being asked, all feedback was analysed and is presented under the appropriate sections below.
1.2.6 Closed question responses were quantified and the number of respondents who agreed/disagreed with each proposal is reported below. Comments given at each open question were examined and, where questions elicited a positive or negative response, they were categorised as such. For most of the questions, respondents were also asked to state the reasons for their views, or to explain their answers. The main reasons presented by respondents both for and against the proposals set out across the consultation were reviewed, alongside specific examples or explanations, alternative suggestions, caveats to support, and other related comments.
1.2.7 Verbatim quotes were extracted in some cases to highlight the main themes that emerged. Respondents to the main consultation document completed a Respondent Information Form (RIF) which allowed them to specify their publishing preferences. Only extracts where the respondent indicated that they were content for their response to be published were quoted. Respondents to the young persons' survey were not asked about publishing preferences, although completion was anonymous. As such, suitably anonymised quotes have also been presented from this respondent group.
1.2.8 All consultation responses were analysed, across both the main consultation document and the young persons' survey, to identify the main themes and issues arising. Given the large volume of responses, however, this report focuses primarily on the dominant issues raised rather than providing a summary of all comments and concerns. Full consultation responses are published separately by the Scottish Government meaning that no data is lost.
1.3 Report Presentation and Research Caveats
1.3.1 Findings are presented as they relate to each question contained under the core sections of the consultation document.
1.3.2 The tables below show the difference in views expressed by the respondent group as a whole, however, where responses have been heavily influenced by one respondent type (i.e. by individuals or organisations) this has been highlighted in the descriptive text. Given the differing sizes of some of the organisation groupings and the relatively small number of organisations present within some categories, it was decided that disaggregated analysis by organisation typology would be unreliable. However, in any cases where organisation type correlated clearly with the views expressed, this is picked up narratively in the report. Similarly, any differences in opinions between individuals and organisations, or between consultation mediums is highlighted in the discursive narrative.
1.3.3 As a guide, where reference is made in the report to 'a few' respondents, this relates to five or less respondents. The term 'several' refers to more than five, and typically less than ten.
1.3.4 It should also be noted that, while some adults may have completed the young persons' survey, it was not possible to reliably identify such participants and remove them from the analysis. There is also a risk that some respondents may have contributed via both consultation formats (i.e. the main consultation and the young persons' survey). Again, however, due to the anonymous nature of the child friendly instrument, it was not possible to identify such individuals and remove them from the analysis, so some double counting may exist.
1.3.5 Finally, the views presented here should not be taken as representative of the wide range of stakeholders invited to respond to this consultation, nor should they be generalised too broadly. Rather, they reflect the views of those individuals and organisations who responded.