Publication - Publication

Review of Children (Scotland) Act 1995 consultation: analysis

Published: 22 May 2019
Directorate:
Legal Services (Solicitor to the Scottish Government)
Part of:
Law and order
ISBN:
9781787818163

This report provides an analysis of the consultation responses from the consultation on the Review of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995.

209 page PDF

1.1 MB

209 page PDF

1.1 MB

Contents
Review of Children (Scotland) Act 1995 consultation: analysis
3 Obtaining the Views of a Child

209 page PDF

1.1 MB

3 Obtaining the Views of a Child

3.1.1 Both the main consultation document and the young persons’ survey sought views in relation to how the court obtains the views of a child (and from what age this should be done).  It also sought views on how the court should provide feedback to a child in cases made under section 11 of the 1995 Act.

3.2 Age Child Capable of Giving their Views

3.2.1 The young persons’ survey asked respondents to consider at what age a child should be able to give their views to a judge, while the main consultation document sought views on whether the presumption that a child aged 12 or over is of sufficient age and maturity to form a view should be removed from sections 11(10) and 6(1)(b) of the 1995 Act and section 27 of the 2011 Act.

YP6. At what age should a child be able to give their views to a judge?

Number Percentage
At any age - all children should be able to give their views 73 25%
Only when a child can understand what is happening 111 38%
12 or over 20 7%
Don’t know 7 2%
No response 84 28%
Total 295 100%

3.2.2 Young people were generally split between those who felt that a child should only be able to give their views when they can understand what is happening (38%) and those who felt that a child of any age should give their views (25%).  Only 7% felt that only those aged 12 or over should be able to give their views, while 2% did not know and 28% gave no response.

3.2.3 Those who indicated that a child should be able to give their views only when they understand what is happening suggested that if they did not understand, then they may not grasp the implications of their decisions.  They may also not understand the questions being asked, and may be more easily influenced/susceptible to coercion:

“Young children lack the capacity to understand the full and long-term implications of a decision. A child is also often easily influenced.”  (Young Person, Age 19-25)

3.2.4 Several respondents also suggested that assigning an arbitrary age would not be suitable for all children.  Some children younger than 12 would be capable of understanding what was happening while others may not.  Rather, it should be determined by each situation and the specific child involved:

“Age limits are arbitrary, and level of comprehension is not age-dependent.”  (Young Person, Age 19-25)

3.2.5 Those who suggested that a child of any age should be able to give their views typically felt that all children have views and opinions and that it was important for them to be able to express these.  It was suggested that, where a child is very young, the situation may need to be explained in a way they will understand and they may need to be supported in expressing their views (including to the court).  It was, nonetheless, still important to provide them with the opportunity to be heard:

“All children have right to say what they want and can say if the situation is explained properly.”  (Young Person, Age Undisclosed)

“At any age, but really young children should have help to say their view.”  (Young Person, Age 8-12)

3.2.6 Several also suggested that children often pick up on and understand issues before adults think they can:

“It should always be taken into account what a child has to say about their life. Adults often underestimate how much children pick up, they will know what's going on.”  (Young Person, Age 13-16)

3.2.7 While the young persons’ survey asked respondents to simply consider the age at which a child should be able to share their views with a judge, respondents to the main consultation were asked, more specifically, to consider whether the presumption that a child aged 12 or over is of sufficient age and maturity to form a view should be removed from sections 11(10) and 6(1)(b) of the 1995 Act and section 27 of the 2011 Act.

Q1. Should the presumption that a child aged 12 or over is of sufficient age and maturity to form a view be removed from sections 11(10) and 6(1)(b) of the 1995 Act and section 27 of the 2011 Act?

Number Percentage
Yes - remove the presumption and replace with a new presumption based on a different age 37 15%
Yes - remove the presumption and do not replace it with a different presumption 105 41%
No - leave the presumption as it is 50 20%
No response 62 24%
Total 254 100%

3.2.8 Two in five (41%) respondents supported the removal of the current presumption and felt it should not be replaced with a different presumption.  A further 20% thought the presumption should remain unchanged, and 15% supported replacing it with a new presumption based on a different age.

Views of Younger Children are Important

3.2.9 Many individuals and organisations across all response categories suggested that children younger than 12 can often have the maturity and understanding required to form a view regarding their situation, and that their views should be taken into account:

“Children are capable of expressing views at much younger age than 12.”  (Individual) 

3.2.10 Several individuals felt that it was important that the views of younger children were heard, both where non-resident parents considered that contact was being limited unfairly, and where young children wanted reduced/no contact with non-resident parents.  It was suggested (by both individuals and organisations) that, in situations where the child’s voice was not heard this could be damaging to their emotional wellbeing, mental health, relationships, or their safety.

3.2.11 While many appeared to support a lower age limit being implemented, few offered a specific age which they considered to be appropriate to be included.  One suggested nursery age, another age 6, another age 9, two suggested age 8, and two suggested age 10.

Decided on a Case-by-Case Basis

3.2.12 Some felt that the decision around whether a child has the maturity to form a view should be flexible, and made on an individual basis in each case as maturity and ability in this respect would be different for different children.  This view was held by both individuals and organisations alike:

“It should be based on the individual child. Some younger children can express their views and understand a court process, while some 12-year olds may not.”  (Individual)

“It is crucial that children who are capable of forming their own views are able to express them in proceedings relating to them, and that their views are given due weight in accordance with their age and maturity. This should be assessed on a case-by-case basis in an appropriate manner.”  (Domestic Abuse Support Service)

All Children Should Have the Opportunity to Express Their Views

3.2.13 All organisations and many individuals who suggested the presumption should be replaced with a new one, felt that children of all ages should have a voice in such proceedings (regardless of maturity levels).  Many organisations (and a few individuals) cited a need for greater consistency with Article 12 and General Comments of the UNCRC:

“[Article 12, General Comment 12 of the UNCRC] States parties cannot begin with the assumption that a child is incapable of expressing her or his own views… States parties should presume that a child has the capacity to form her or his own views and recognise that she or he has the right to express them; it is not up to the child to first prove her or his capacity.”  (Children's Organisation)

3.2.14 For the same reason, it was also suggested by some that there should be no ‘tests’ of a child’s capacity, or that these should not be overly restrictive.

3.2.15 Some suggested that including any age limit within the presumption could lead to assumptions that any child below that age is not capable of giving their view.  This may become a practical barrier:

“It is important to ensure that children of all ages may have their views taken into account. Putting an age limit may mean that children under that age are not consulted.”  (Individual)

“…we agree that the existing presumption has the practical effect of stopping children under 12 with capacity from expressing their views when they are capable of doing so.  The existence of the presumption creates an unnecessary barrier for younger children who wish to express a view.  It also may discourage courts from accepting views from children under 12 or from seeking them out.”  (Legal Profession)

3.2.16 Some felt that a more child friendly system was required to facilitate and support children to give their views, including very young children who do not yet talk.  It was suggested that more creative methods may be required along with training for Sheriffs, solicitors and others involved, as well as input from support/advocacy services to elicit and interpret a child’s views.  Those tasked with representing children’s views would be expected to be able to work with very young children, and be experienced in issues related to external influences/manipulation, abuse, child distress, mental and physical disabilities, etc.  It was also felt that it was not sufficient to simply allow a child to provide their views, but that due weight and consideration had to be given to such views.  However, the welfare/best interests of the child must always be paramount, and where it is considered this does not match the child’s views, a clear and understandable explanation should be provided.      

3.2.17 Some also highlighted the importance of not conflating the rights of all children to express a view with their legal capacity, for instance, to instruct a solicitor.  It was considered important that these remain separate concepts, potentially with separate age limits.  However, it was felt that the similarity in the language used could risk changes to one impacting on perceptions of the other.

Creating a New Presumption

3.2.18 It was suggested (by both organisations and individuals) that simply removing the age presumption may be inappropriate as it risked no children’s views being heard.  Rather respondents felt that either a new presumption was needed to clarify that all children possess the ability to form and express rational and informed views about their family situation, or that a firmer requirement was included to seek all children’s views:

“Failing to replace the presumption if removed will cause confusion about the intention behind the removal. It might give the impression that children over the age of 12 can no longer be presumed to have the maturity to express a view, and must be treated the same as children below the age of 12.  The new presumption should acknowledge that even very young children are capable of forming and expressing a rational and informed view about their family situation.”  (Individual)

“…the presumption should be that all children will have a view about their situation and circumstances, regardless of their age/maturity/ability to explain what their view is… It is the effective communication of the child’s view which is critical - not the age at which the child is deemed able to have a view.”  (Public Body)

3.2.19 Only a few respondents felt that the age limit should be increased, with one suggesting that those aged 12 may not be mature enough, while another suggested the age limit should be increased to 18.

Maintaining the Current Presumption

3.2.20 Reasons given for supporting the current presumption included that age 12 was a suitable age and that the removal of such a presumption could result in views not being taken at all.  Removal may also result in increased assessments required for those age 12 and over in order to obtain their views.

3.2.21 Some respondents also felt that the current presumption was suitable as it did not preclude children younger than this from being able to contribute views.  Indeed, several respondents indicated that, in practice, the courts regularly sought the views of children younger than this (although a few respondents felt that it was important/necessary to reinforce good practice in this respect to ensure views of younger children are sought when appropriate):

“…they embody a positive presumption of capacity, empowering children of 12 or older, while not precluding younger children from expressing views.”  (Individual)

3.2.22 A few also highlighted that the current presumption was consistent (and should remain so) with other legislation, particularly around making a will, instructing a solicitor, and consenting to adoption and permanence, etc. 

Influencing a Child’s Views

3.2.23 Many respondents across all respondent types raised concerns over the risk that one party may have negatively influenced the views of the child.  It was suggested that a child could be influenced in such a way at any age, and therefore it was important that personnel gathering the views of children were trained to identify and deal with such situations/parental alienation:

“Children's views at all ages can be coloured by the situation they find themselves [in]. In particular, alienated children can hold a negative view of one parent unjustifiably.”  (Individual)

3.2.24 Some considered this as a reason for not seeking (or giving weight to) a child’s views, while others felt the child’s views should be sought/considered on a case-by-case basis.  For some, they felt that seeking (or giving weight to) the child’s views in such circumstances could be counter-productive.

3.2.25 In addition, some suggested that gathering views from children could place them in an unfair and stressful position, where they may feel forced to choose between their parents.  It was considered important that children are not made to feel they are responsible for the final case outcome. 

3.2.26 A few other respondents also felt that insufficient information had been provided in the consultation over who and how a child’s views would be sought.

Hearing Children’s Views

3.2.27 Both the main consultation and the young persons’ survey asked respondents to consider how best children’s views can be heard in court/by a judge.

Q2. How can we best ensure children’s views are heard in court cases?

Number Percentage
The F9 Form 54 21%
Child Welfare Reporters 74 29%
Speaking directly to the judge or Sheriff 70 27%
Child support workers 64 25%
Another Way 71 28%
No response 106 42%
Total Respondents 254*

* Note: Multiple Responses were possible at this question.

3.2.28 Respondents to the main consultation were permitted to select all options they felt were appropriate.  Each option received similar levels of support, ranging from 29% who selected child welfare reporters, to 21% who selected the F9 form.  Most respondents selected more than one option, with many selecting all available options.

3.2.29 Suggestions for other ways to ensure that children’s views were heard in court included:

  • For the child to prepare a letter or email, video, audio recording for the court, or have a phone call with the judge;
  • Online platforms, apps (including Mind Of My Own (MOMO)), avatars, art, written stories, emoji sheet, and play rooms for interviews;
  • Speak with others who know the child well (e.g. extended family members and friends) and/or a known responsible adult (e.g. a teacher);
  • Engage a highly qualified specialist (trained to identify parental alienation) to listen to the child (suggestions included child/educational psychologists, child behaviour experts, family/child therapists, safeguarder);
  • Child advocacy;
  • Social work reports;
  • A system similar to CAFCASS in England;
  • A system similar to Children’s Hearings;
  • Draw on some of the principles of the Barnahus model which supports vulnerable child witnesses to provide evidence in the criminal justice system;
  • A new, specific type of panel, made only for these cases with representatives present who are experts in this area;
  • Establish a special inquisitorial tribunal (similar to mental health tribunals) to look after the best interests of the child; and
  • Videos submitted by the parents.

3.2.30 It was suggested that the situation of the child must be taken into account, with respondents highlighting that children will respond differently depending on their setting and when they last saw the non-resident parent.  Many commented that a variety or combination of options was needed to both meet the needs and preferences of different children and to provide a broader understanding of a child’s views:

“I have selected all available boxes to indicate that what is needed is a holistic approach that is able to recognise that a 'one-size-fits-all' solution is not appropriate and is therefore able to respond dynamically to the needs and capacities of individual children.”  (Individual)

“The method for finding out the views of the child would be on a case-by-case basis and children and young people should be asked about their preferred method for sharing their views.”  (Children’s Organisation)

3.2.31 It was also suggested that the child should be afforded the choice, both whether to share their views and how they do so.

3.2.32 Any system was required to be child focused and flexible to suit the needs and preferences of different children.  It was suggested that whoever is responsible for taking children’s views should be independent and impartial, qualified to elicit views from children (including observing non-verbalised views and behaviour), trauma informed, and trained in identifying and understanding where a child’s views may have been influenced.  Building a rapport and trust with the child was also considered important (and therefore may require more than one meeting), both in order to encourage them to give open and honest views and to ensure they do not find the process intimidating.  It was also suggested by several respondents that consideration needed to be given to the weight that will be attributed to children’s views and for this not to be tokenistic.  

3.2.33 In relation to the specific options outlined in the consultation document, some felt that the F9 form was helpful for children that might not want to/feel comfortable speaking with a stranger about their situation.  However, many felt the current form was not child-friendly, that it was an inappropriate method to be used with children, and/or unreliable as there was a lack of control for influencing factors.  It was felt that some children would prefer to speak directly to the Sheriff while others may be intimidated by this.  A few respondents also suggested Sheriffs were not suitably trained in communicating with children, or that they do not have sufficient time to give this the thoroughness it requires.  Child support workers were endorsed by some as they were felt to have a more child focused approach, however, others were concerned that they lacked enough understanding of the law.  Some suggested that existing support workers already working with the child could assist in this process (and provide cost savings over setting up an entirely new service).  A few suggested it would be important not to introduce additional personnel requiring children to repeat their views with different workers.  Child welfare reporters were similarly supported as a good way to seek views but some recounted perceived shortcomings or issues experienced (personally), some felt that the report and recommendation process acted as a filter to children’s views, while others raised concern over the current lack of training for people in these roles.  As the child welfare reporters system was already established, some felt that introducing formal training and quality assurance could provide both time and cost savings compared to introducing a new child support worker service.

3.2.34 Many respondents also suggested that child advocacy may be an appropriate option to consider.  Some felt that the description on child support workers was very similar to that of advocacy workers, and so this role could usefully be combined.  Others indicated the forthcoming advocacy role within the Children’s Hearings system, again suggesting an extension of the role into the civil courts.      

3.2.35 The young persons’ survey also asked respondents what they perceived was the best way for a child to tell a judge who they want to live with, speak to and visit.  Similar options to those in the main consultation document were provided, although the wording was different.

YP7. What is the best way for a child to tell a judge who the child wants to live with, speak to and visit?

Number Percentage
Fill in a child-friendly form 61 21%
A person chosen by the judge to speak to the child and then provide a report to the judge (a child welfare reporter) 75 25%
The child telling the judge face to face what the child thinks 77 26%
Be given options for communication which suit their age and ability to understand 120 41%
Having a person whose job it is to help the child give their views (a child support worker) 92 31%
Another way 24 8%
No response 88 30%
Total Respondents 295*

* Note: Multiple Responses were possible at this question.

3.2.36 The most popular responses for young people were being given options for communication which suits their age and ability to understand[2] (selected by 41% of respondents), and having a person whose job it is to help the child give their views (a child support worker) (31% of respondents).  As with the main consultation, the least popular option for young people was to fill in a child-friendly form, although this was still selected by 21% of respondents.

3.2.37 Of those who specified ‘another way’, many used this opportunity to explain the reasoning behind their choice(s).  Some suggested that a range of options would ensure that each child’s preference and stage of development/level of understanding was catered for.  Others suggested that having a person to discuss things with the child was better than a form as, again, this was felt to be more adaptable for different ages and literacy/comprehension levels.  It was hoped this would help to identify and limit any external influence/coercion of the child’s views, as well as provide reassurances to the child that there would be no negative repercussions from giving an honest view:

“A child may feel uncomfortable to say exactly what they are thinking, and they may find it difficult to get their point across. It’s also important to remember that young children have limited writing skills. Therefore, there should be options.”  (Young Person, Age 13-16)

“Speaking to an actual person will always be better in those circumstances as they will be able to read the child and see that they are happy with the way the child is thinking through the situation.”  (Young Person, Age 13-16)

3.2.38 Other people who were suggested by individual respondents as options to allow a child to tell a judge who they want to live with, speak to and visit included:

  • A child psychologist;
  • Teacher; and
  • A trusted adult/older sibling.

3.3 Explaining Court Decisions to a Child

3.3.1 Again, both the main consultation document and the young persons’ survey sought views on how the court’s decision should best be explained to a child.

Preferred Options from the Main Consultation

Q3. How should the court’s decision best be explained to a child?

Number Percentage
Child welfare reporter 34 13%
Child support worker 59 23%
Another option 90 36%
No response 71 28%
Total 254 100%

3.3.2 Nearly one quarter (23%) of respondents to the main consultation indicated that a child support worker should explain the decision to the child, while 13% felt responsibility should lie with a child welfare reporter.  Over a third of respondents (36%) felt that another option was more suitable, while 28% did not provide a response.

3.3.3 Other suggestions included the Sheriff/decision maker (n=16), a parent/main caregiver (or to have them there to support the child during the explanation) (n=14), a trusted adult (including family members or teachers) (n=14) or a trained professional (n=12) that may have supported the child through the court process.  Some felt that a qualified family therapist or child psychologist/therapist (n=4) should be involved in preparing and/or delivering the explanation.  Other options suggested by one respondent each included a mediator, a solicitor appointed to represent the child’s views, and advocacy services.  Several (n=14) also suggested that this should not be a prescribed role, but rather a range of options should be available to meet the different needs and preferences of the situation/child.

Preferred Options from the Young Persons’ Survey

YP8. After a judge has made the decision how should a child be told about this?  This could include someone working for the court or one of the child's parents.

3.3.4 Respondents to the young persons’ survey were also asked how a child should be told about the court’s decision.  A total of 162 young people provided a response, many of which were similar to those identified within the main consultation.  The most common suggestions from young people included:

  • One or both parents (n=54);
  • The judge or someone who works for the court (n=39);
  • A child welfare or child support worker (n=25);
  • Someone the child trusts and/or that has been supporting/working with the child during the case (n=22); and
  • A close family member (n=13).

3.3.5 Young people often suggested a combination of people would be preferable, including some mix of the judge, both parents, and a child support worker in order to provide a balance between information provision (in an age appropriate way), and support for the child.

3.3.6 Some young people appear to have misunderstood the question and rather than identifying who should provide the information they outlined how the information should be delivered.  Most suggested this needed to be done in person, face-to-face.  Some suggested it should be done in private while others felt that the child should be taken to do something fun and told then.

Reasons for Option Choice

3.3.7 It should be noted that only those respondents to the main consultation were invited to specifically outline the reasons for their choice.  As such, the summary below is based on responses to the main consultation only, unless otherwise stated.

3.3.8 Where child welfare reporters (typically preferred by the legal profession) and child support workers (typically preferred by children’s organisations) were considered the best option, it was generally felt that they would have built a rapport with the child throughout the process and that they would be able to provide support and answer any questions the child may have.  It was felt this would also assist in providing consistency/continuity in which professionals the child has contact with.  A few, however, felt that neither child welfare reporters nor child support workers were suitably qualified or experienced currently to undertake such a role.  It was also noted that such professionals would not be appointed in every case, and that the benefits in introducing them purely to explain the court’s decision were unclear given they would be unfamiliar to the child.

3.3.9 Others felt that parents or other family members would be more appropriate to discuss the outcome with the child.  Some suggested that professional support could be provided in order to answer the child’s questions and provide support to the child/guidance to the parents if necessary.  However, some suggested it was important that an impartial person informed the child in order to avoid any blame being attributed or misinformation being given.

3.3.10 Some suggested that the information should come directly from the judge who made the decision.  Both suitably worded (and age appropriate) letters and speaking in person were suggested as options, although some respondents also felt that a letter alone would not be suitable in all circumstances.  It was felt that the judge should be accountable for their decisions, and that telling the child directly would provide them with reassurances that their views had been taken into account:

“The judge/Sheriff should do this because it shows investment in the case as well as displaying to the child that they have taken their views into consideration and acknowledged them as a person and not a case number.”  (Individual)   

3.3.11 Many suggested that a range of options should be provided in order to meet the needs and preferences of different children/situations/outcomes, with all options being equally accessible across Scotland.  Some felt that the judge should ultimately decide (on a case-by-case basis) how/who will provide feedback to the child, while others felt that the child should be given a choice in who and how the decision is explained to them:

“We would also support flexibility in how feedback is given, as the most appropriate way will vary depending on the needs of the child.”  (Children’s Organisation) 

3.3.12 Similarly, some young people (n=9) did not identify a specific person to have responsibility for telling a child about a judge’s decision, rather they considered it would depend on the age and nature of the child and the specific situation:

“I would assume that it would depend on the child. Who they are close to and how they are more likely to react.”  (Young Person, Age 19-25)

3.3.13 Several respondents felt that a formal duty needed to be placed upon the court to ensure that the outcome and any orders are explained to children.  It was also suggested that greater training and guidance was needed for any personnel responsible for speaking with children.

3.3.14 The lack of any real consensus (both via the main consultation and the young persons’ survey) over who should tell a child suggests that there is no single option that will be suitable in all circumstances.  The important message, however, is that the information should be provided by someone the child knows/has met previously, and who they feel comfortable with/trust.  It should be delivered in a way the child can understand, and the child should have the opportunity to ask questions and be supported throughout the process.

3.4 Arrangement for Child Welfare Reporters and Curators Ad Litem

3.4.1 Respondents to the main consultation only were asked about their views and opinions on the best arrangements for child welfare reporters and curators ad litem.

Q4. What are the best arrangements for child welfare reporters and curators ad litem?

Number Percentage
A new set of arrangements should be put in place that would manage and provide training for child welfare reporters 71 28%
The existing arrangements should be modified to set out minimum standards for child welfare reporters and allow the Lord President and Sheriffs Principal to remove them from the lists if the reporters cease to meet the necessary standards 60 24%
There should be no change to the current arrangements 8 3%
Another option 35 14%
Not answered 80 31%
Total 254 100%

3.4.2 Just over half of respondents felt that there needed to be some type of change to the arrangements.  Overall, 28% indicated that a new set of arrangements should be put in place and 24% indicated that the existing arrangements should be modified.  Only 3% suggested that there should be no change to the current arrangements, while 14% suggested another option, and 31% did not give a response.

3.4.3 Those who suggested another option gave mixed responses.  Some considered that a combined approach between the new and modified arrangements would be appropriate.  Several respondents felt that solicitors were not appropriate personnel to provide child welfare reporting services, with some suggesting that additional training was required in child development and child welfare, and others suggesting that child welfare reporters should be replaced with child support workers.  Widening the scope for child welfare reporters was also suggested, i.e. to include professionals with a wide range of backgrounds (including social workers, psychologists, and mental health professionals).  Child support workers were also suggested as a possible alternative/addition to help the child articulate what they want to say.

3.4.4 A few local authorities also highlighted that, in some areas, child welfare reports are prepared by local authority social work staff, and therefore the proposals to either amend or create new arrangements would have implications beyond legal professionals.  It was felt that any new agency set up to manage the completion of child welfare reports could result in local authority staff being managed and trained by a separate agency (in relation to the completion of reports).  Modified arrangements which allow the Lord President and Sheriffs Principal to manage a list of reporters would require social workers to submit information to them in order to be included on the list.  Both options were considered unworkable as it was felt that the local authorities’ staff and resources could be controlled and affected by a separate agency.  It was suggested, therefore, that local authority reporters should be excluded from any new regulations.

Need for a Standardised System

3.4.5 Respondents who felt that a new set of arrangements should be put in place typically suggested that a more standardised/regulated system was required, where child welfare reporters would be regularly evaluated and the list of reporters would be under constant review.  Some (typically individuals) recounted bad experiences and detrimental impacts of a child welfare report/er in their case, resulting in them considering the current arrangements not to work/be suitable.  Others (including individuals and organisations) suggested that the current system was not child friendly and did not always operate in the best interest of the child, and therefore needed to be reformed to provide a child centred approach.

3.4.6 Some suggested that there was a need for transparent and consistent recruitment, selection, appraisal/monitoring and complaints systems, as well as the need for accreditation and accountability of practitioners.  Many also identified a need for significant levels of training, all of which should be standardised across the country.  Specific areas identified for training included child development, child welfare, child protection, children’s and human rights, engaging with children, attachment, resilience theory, family dynamics, coercive control, parental alienation, and domestic and sexual abuse:

“Training, minimum standards, and appraisal as well as a support system for peer review of child welfare reporters must be in place to ensure a standardised system of justice for all children.”  (Individual)

“We believe that regulation of child welfare reporters and curators ad litem is essential to promote quality and best practice amongst practitioners, and also to ensure consistency of experience for all children who have contact with child welfare reporters or curators ad litem.”  (Children’s Organisation)

3.4.7 The current funding structure for the provision of child welfare reports, i.e. where parties pay for this, was also considered by some to result in inequalities of access, (particularly for those who do not qualify for legal aid but are on a low income who therefore struggle to pay for these).  There were also perceptions around a lack of independence (where one party pays for the report).  As such, it was felt that centralised funding should be provided.

Modified Arrangements

3.4.8 Those who agreed with the proposal to modify the existing arrangements suggested that specifying standards for child welfare reporters would enable the existing system to continue in a more formalised and regulated way, and would deal with perceived problems of inexperienced, inefficient or poorly trained reporters being instructed.  It was felt that this would lead to increased/improved training (both initially and for continuing professional development), and would provide consistency in approach and quality both within and between jurisdictions/ Sheriffdoms.

No Change Required

3.4.9 Those who suggested that no change was necessary generally felt that the current arrangements worked well.  One individual did note the need to be mindful of costs, however, suggesting that reports are currently too costly.  Another respondent (from the legal profession) suggested that Sheriffs Principal consult locally and/or issue a practice note on the arrangements for appointment of reporters and the form and standards expected in relation to any such report in order to tackle perceived inconsistencies in the appointment of and quality of reports around the country.


Contact

Email: family.law@gov.scot