Publication - Consultation paper

Child contact services - regulation: consultation

Published: 22 Mar 2021

The Children (Scotland) Act 2020 gives the Scottish Ministers the power to regulate child contact centres. This consultation seeks views on various aspects of what regulation of child contact centres would look like.

Child contact services - regulation: consultation
Annex G: Draft Equality Impact Assessment Record (EQIA)

Annex G: Draft Equality Impact Assessment Record (EQIA)

Title of policy/ practice/ strategy/ legislation etc.: Regulation of child contact services to set minimum standards for accommodation and staff training.

Minister: Minister for Community Safety

Lead official: Wendy Georgeson

Officials involved in the EQIA name team:

Justice Analytical Services

Family Law Unit

Parenting, Play and Baby Boxes

Disability & BSL

Directorate: Division: Team Justice: Civil Law and Legal System: Family Law Unit

Is this new policy or revision to an existing policy? New policy

Screening

Policy Aim

The Children (Scotland) Act 2020 (the 2020 Act) gives the Scottish Ministers the power to set by regulations minimum standards for accommodation and staff training at child contact centres. The 2020 Act also gives the Scottish Ministers the power to appoint a body[82] to oversee regulation, including to register services, carry out inspections, issue reports and handle complaints.

Child contact centres are safe venues for conflict-free contact between children, parents, and other people in the child's life. The policy aim is that by establishing minimum standards that will apply consistently across the sector the outcomes for children using child contact centres will be improved and children will be protected where they are referred to a child contact centre.

The most relevant National Outcome is:

We grow up loved, safe and respected so that we realise our full potential.

The proposed standards for child contact centres will contribute to this National Outcome by helping to ensure children grow up in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding, by supporting families when they need it, and ensuring children are not left worried or isolated.

Who will it affect?

The proposed standards will affect a range of people including:

  • children or young people who attend child contact centres to have contact with a parent, family member or other adult that they don't live with, in particular younger children who are more likely to use child contact centres;
  • parents, family members or other adults who attend child contact centres to have contact with a child they don't live with;
  • parents or other adults who bring a child to a child contact centre to have contact with the other parent, another family member or another adult;
  • child contact centre providers in Scotland;
  • child contact centre staff and volunteers;
  • the courts when referring a case to a child contact centre;
  • lawyers who refer clients to child contact centres;
  • lawyers who are acting for parties who use child contact centres;
  • others persons or bodies who refer people to child contact centres;
  • the Care Inspectorate who may be the body appointed to oversee child contact centre regulation.

What might prevent the desired outcomes being achieved?

The cost implications for child contact centre providers in meeting the prescribed standards could pose a barrier. The aim is that the standards will be proportionate and not unreasonably onerous. The Scottish Government will consider what support it can provide to services in meeting the required standards.

The desired outcomes may be impacted if it is not possible to reach agreement with an appropriate body to oversee the regulatory regime.

Stage 1: Framing

Results of framing exercise

The Family Law Unit met with colleagues from Justice Analytical Services, the Parenting, Play and Baby Boxes team, and the Disability & BSL team for the purpose of this framing exercise.

The framing exercise suggested that the following groups of people might potentially be impacted by the regulation of child contact services and identified where further evidence may available:

Age

  • Children and in particular younger children will be positively affected.
  • As regards the age of parents, younger parents will be affected. There may be a number of parents under 18 years of age. In terms of UNCRC a child is defined as under 18.
  • There may be NRS data on parents that are under 18 years of age.
  • Section 11 orders can't commence until a child is born.
  • Some grandparents may use child contact centres, and elderly users may have specific issues, such as physical disability or dementia.
  • However, many grandparents, particularly in relation to families using child contact centres, will be younger. Important to remember that people are individuals.
  • Child contact centre staff, particularly voluntary and temporary staff, may generally be either older and retired, or younger adults such as, for example, students on work experience.

Disability

  • Disabled children and parents will be positively affected by regulation.
  • There is data to suggest that parents of children with a learning disability are 50% more likely to consider divorce or separation.
  • Important as a next step to consult with stakeholders involved in disability support.
  • There is a lack of understanding and awareness of physical access issues.
  • Need to remember disabled parents who are accessing child contact centres as well as children.
  • Introducing minimum standards in training, etc. could provide an opportunity to see how services can promote equality. May be helpful to get evidence on the accessibility of existing premises within the sector.
  • Disability awareness should also cover deafness and visual impairment awareness.
  • Read-across to the new social security benefit system and how disabled people with lived experience were considered as the system was developed.

Sex

  • Non-resident parents are more likely to be male.
  • Gender-based violence could mean that a female child contact centre user may not feel comfortable with a male member of staff.
  • Anecdotally we understand that more women than men work at child contact centres.
  • 2013 research showed that approximately 50% of family court cases involved allegations of domestic abuse.

Gender reassignment

  • It is important for staff to have awareness of transgender children and parents.
  • Staff may need training/awareness of cases where a child is uncertain about their own gender.
  • No robust data on the Scottish trans population currently exists.

Sexual orientation

  • Staff and volunteers at child contact centres should be aware of diversity with regard to sexual orientation.
  • Staff and volunteers shouldn't make assumptions about how a child has been conceived.

Race

  • May need to be an awareness of language barriers between parents and children.
  • Training on cultural sensitivity would be helpful.
  • Have Gypsy/Travellers been considered?
  • If there is a lack of data in child contact services sector, how can this be improved?
  • Useful to understand how child contact centres make translators and interpreters available.
  • Useful to get more information from child contact services on any cultural barriers.

Religion or belief

  • One child contact centre has been supported by the Church of Scotland and we understand that two other centres use religious buildings.
  • In some religions women may not be able to use centre run by men.

Pregnancy and maternity

  • There is some data on the number of children using child contact services who are aged 0-4.
  • In terms of court ordered contact, parental responsibilities and rights do not start until the child is born.

Extent/Level of EQIA required

Following the framing exercise, the Scottish Government believes that the extent of the EQIA required was high.

A draft Child Rights & Wellbeing Impact Assessment (CRWIA) has been prepared separately and will be cross referred to in this EQIA.

The Scottish Government engaged with the Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland about the requirement that may be conferred on the body appointed to oversee child contact centre regulation, to report any failure by a contact service provider to comply with the Equality Act 2010, and in particular any duty on the provider to make reasonable adjustments to premises to facilitate their use by disabled people.

The Scottish Government engaged with the Fair Justice System for Scotland Group (FJSS) to assess the impact on diversity and equality of policy development within family law. This included how the Scottish Government should engage with BAME groups during the consultation process for child contact centre regulation.

Stage 2: Data and evidence gathering, involvement and consultation

Include here the results of your evidence gathering (including framing exercise), including qualitative and quantitative data and the source of that information, whether national statistics, surveys or consultations with relevant equality groups.

Characteristic[83] Evidence gathered and strength/quality of evidence Source Data gaps identified and action taken
Age

1. The draft Child Rights & Wellbeing Impact Assessment (CRWIA) sets out the evidence gathered in relation to children and young people.

2. Younger parents may be affected. Unpublished data from Relationships Scotland suggests that in 2018/19, 3,615 adults used a child contact centre. Of these, 48% were aged 20-29, 29% were aged 30-39, 12% were aged 40-49 and 11% were aged 50-64. At the independent contact centre in Glasgow 38% of individuals who gave their age were between 20 and 29. NRS statistics for 2019 shows that of the 49,863 births in Scotland the mother was aged 18 and under in 433 cases, 17 and under in 214 cases and 16 and under in 121 cases.

3. Regulation of contact centres will affect children. In 2018/19, 2,572 children were able to maintain contact with a non-resident parent by using Relationships Scotland Network contact centres. The VSA Child Contact Centre provides support for up to 12 families per year at their centre. In 2019 the Inverclyde Family Contact Centre supported 65 children from 54 families. In 2018 they supported 72 children from 60 families. In 2017 they supported 76 children from 58 families and they supported 60 children from 53 families in 2016. In 2018, Promoting Positive Contact supported 200 families.

. Younger children may be affected. Relationships Scotland suggests that in 2018/19, 65% of children using child contact centres were aged 0-4 and 24% were aged 5-8. 21 of the children using the Inverclyde Family Contact Centre in 2018 were aged 3 and under. In 2016-17, 25 children were 3 and under, 20 were 4-6, 17 were 7-10 and 6 were aged 11 and over.

2. Relationships Scotland and Promoting Positive Contact.

2. NRS statistics[84] for live births, stillbirths and maternities, by sex of child, marital status of parents and age of mother, Scotland and administrative areas, 2019

3. Relationships Scotland, VSA Child Contact Centre, Inverclyde Family Contact Centre and Promoting Positive Contact.

4. Relationships Scotland and Inverclyde Family Contact Centre.

2. There is no information from VSA Child Contact Centre and the Inverclyde Family Contact Centre.

There is no information on the number of grandparents using child contact centres.

4. There is no information from Promoting Positive Contact or VSA Child Contact Centre. There is no information on the age of child contact centre staff and volunteers.

Disability 1. Figures from 2017 across the UK suggest that parents of children with a learning disability are 50% more likely to consider divorce or separation. 1. The Way We Are Now 2016[85] – an annual study of the relationships of over 5000 people across the UK by Relate and Relationships Scotland. There is no data on the number of children or parents with a disability that use child contact centres.
Sex

1. In 2018-19, Relationships Scotland figures suggest non-resident parents having contact tend to be dads (85%) and resident parents tend to be mums (89%). 53 families used the Inverclyde Child Contact Centre in 2016, of which three were to facilitate contact with the mother. In 2017, 58 families used the centre, of which nine were to facilitate contact with the mother.

2. Anecdotally we understand that more women than men work at child contact centres.

3. Research shows that domestic abuse was alleged in half of all court actions over contact. When a child was not seeing their non-resident parent this was allegedly due to violence upon the child in 18% of the cases.

4. Statistics show that in 2018/2019 where the information was recorded, around four out of every five incidents of domestic abuse in 2018-19 had a female victim and a male accused. 16% of domestic abuse incidents involved a male victim and a female accused (where this was recorded).

1. Relationships Scotland and Inverclyde Family Contact Centre.

3. Research undertaken by Kirsteen Mackay in 2013[86]. 4

. Scottish Government statistics.

1. No information from Promoting Positive Contact or VSA Child Contact Centre.

2. There is no hard information on the numbers of women and men that work and volunteer at child contact centres.

Pregnancy and Maternity

1. Relationships Scotland suggests that in 2018/19, 65% of children using child contact centres were aged 0-4. Inverclyde Family Contact Centre said in 2018, 21 of the 72 children using the centre were 3 years and under, the youngest was 3 weeks. In 2016-17, 25 children were under 3 years, including four under a year old. The youngest was 4 weeks old.

2. Child contact cases under section 11 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 are only likely to be initiated once a child has been born.

1. Relationships Scotland and Inverclyde Family Contact Centre.

1. There is no information from Relationships Scotland on the number of children aged under one year using child contact centres. There is no information from Promoting Positive Contact or VSA Child Contact Centre.

2. There is no information available on the age of a child when an order under section 11 of the 1995 Act is sought.

Gender Reassignment 1. No robust data on the Scottish trans population currently exists. There is no information on the number of people using child contact services who have this protected characteristic.
Sexual Orientation There is no information available on the number of same sex couples using child contact centres.
Race

1. NRS statistic suggest that in 2018 the most common non-British nationalities in Scotland were: Poland – 87,000 Republic of Ireland – 20,000 Lithuania – 15,000 Pakistan – 15,000 Italy – 12,000 France – 12,000 India – 12,000

2. NRS statistics suggest that in 2018 the most common non-UK countries of birth in Scotland were:
Poland – 78,000 Pakistan – 25,000 Germany – 23,000 India – 22,000
Republic of Ireland – 21,000

3. There may be cultural barriers regarding approaches to child contact issues for those in the BAME community.

1. & 2. Population by country of birth and nationality[87]

3. Engagement with Fair Justice System for Scotland group.

There is no information available on the race of individuals using child contact centres There is no hard information on the cultural barriers that exist, for example, for the BAME community.

There is no information on the number of gypsy/traveller families that use child contact services. There is no information on the use of translators and interpreters.

Religion or Belief

1. The Inverclyde Family Contact Centre is supported by the Church of Scotland Presbytery of Greenock and Paisley.

2. Two contact centres that are members/associate members of the Relationships Scotland network usually use religious establishments as a venue for facilitating contact.

1. Inverclyde Family Contact Centre. 2. Unpublished data from Relationships Scotland. There is no data on the religion or belief of children or parents using child contact centres.
Marriage and Civil Partnership (the Scottish Government does not require assessment against this protected characteristic unless the policy or practice relates to work, for example HR policies and practices - refer to Definitions of Protected Characteristics document for details) The proposed regulations will establish minimum standards for staff training at child contact centres, but the requirements would be the same regardless of whether staff and volunteers are married, in a civil partnership or single. There is no data on the number of staff and volunteers working at child contact centres who are married, in a civil partnership or singe.

Stage 3: Assessing the impacts and identifying opportunities to promote equality

Having considered the data and evidence you have gathered, this section requires you to consider the potential impacts – negative and positive – that your policy might have on each of the protected characteristics. It is important to remember the duty is also a positive one – that we must explore whether the policy offers the opportunity to promote equality and/or foster good relations.

Do you think that the policy impacts on people because of their age?

Age Positive Negative None Reasons for your decision
Eliminating unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation X There are benefits to children and adults using child contact services from the proposed regulation of child contact centres. However, these benefits seem to relate to other areas rather than the elimination of unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation.
Advancing equality of opportunity X Policy is not designed for this.
Promoting good relations among and between different age groups X The policy will have a positive impact on promoting relations between different age groups as contact centres are used by adults and children to maintain contact. Ensuring contact takes place in a safe and secure environment could help promote relations.

Do you think that the policy impacts disabled people?

Disability Positive Negative None Reasons for your decision
Eliminating unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation X 1. Under the 2020 Act the Scottish Ministers may confer on the body appointed to oversee child contact centre regulation, a function to issue reports on any failure, or possible failure, by a contact service provider to comply with the provider's duties under the Equality Act 2010, and in particular any duty to make reasonable adjustments to premises in order to facilitate their use by disabled people.
Advancing equality of opportunity X

1. Under the 2020 Act the Scottish Ministers may confer on the body appointed to oversee child contact centre regulation, a function to issue reports on any failure, or possible failure, by a contact service provider to comply with the provider's duties under the Equality Act 2010, and in particular any duty to make reasonable adjustments to premises in order to facilitate their use by disabled people.

2. It is proposed that child contact centre staff should be trained in child development, including learning disabilities and developmental disorders, as a minimum standard under the regulations.

Promoting good relations among and between disabled and non-disabled people X It is proposed that child contact centre staff should be trained in child development, including learning disabilities and developmental disorders, as a minimum standard under the regulations

Do you think that the policy impacts on men and women in different ways?

Sex Positive Negative None Reasons for your decision
Eliminating unlawful discrimination X Policy is not designed for this.
Advancing equality of opportunity X Policy is not designed for this.
Promoting good relations between men and women X An aim of the regulations is to ensure relationships between children and a person they do not live with can be maintained in a safe and child-friendly environment. It is proposed that child contact centre staff should have training in areas including working with families in conflict and parental mental health. Providing support for parents when contact is being facilitated at a contact centre may help promote relations between mums and dads.

Do you think that the policy impacts on women because of pregnancy and maternity?

Pregnancy and Maternity Positive Negative None Reasons for your decision
Eliminating unlawful discrimination X Policy is not designed for this.
Advancing equality of opportunity X Policy is not designed for this.
Promoting good relations X The purpose of the regulations is to ensuring contact takes place in a safe and secure environment. This could help promote good relations in relation to this protected characteristic.

Do you think your policy impacts on people proposing to undergo, undergoing, or who have undergone a process for the purpose of reassigning their sex? (NB: the Equality Act 2010 uses the term 'transsexual people' but 'trans people' is more commonly used)

Gender reassignment Positive Negative None Reasons for your decision
Eliminating unlawful discrimination X Policy is not designed for this
Advancing equality of opportunity X Policy is not designed for this,
Promoting good relations X Policy is not designed for this.

Do you think that the policy impacts on people because of their sexual orientation?

Sexual orientation Positive Negative None Reasons for your decision
Eliminating unlawful discrimination X Policy is not designed for this.
Advancing equality of opportunity X Policy is not designed for this
Promoting good relations X Enhanced training for child contact centre staff and volunteers may help to raise awareness of different types of families.

Do you think the policy impacts on people on the grounds of their race?

Race Positive Negative None Reasons for your decision
Eliminating unlawful discrimination X Policy is not designed for this.
Advancing equality of opportunity X The consultation is seeking views on whether as a minimum standard some child contact centre staff should have training in working with families where English is not their first language.
Promoting good race relations X The consultation is seeking views on whether as a minimum standard some child contact centre staff should have training in working with families where English is not their first language.

Do you think the policy impacts on people because of their religion or belief?

Religion or belief Positive Negative None Reasons for your decision
Eliminating unlawful discrimination X Policy is not designed for this.
Advancing equality of opportunity X Policy is not designed for this.
Promoting good relations X Policy is not designed for this.

Do you think the policy impacts on people because of their marriage or civil partnership?

Marriage and Civil Partnership[88] Positive Negative None Reasons for your decision
Eliminating unlawful discrimination X Policy is not designed for this.

Stage 4: Decision making and monitoring

Identifying and establishing any required mitigating action

Have positive or negative impacts been identified for any of the equality groups? Yes, positive for a number of groups.
Is the policy directly or indirectly discriminatory under the Equality Act 2010? No.
If the policy is indirectly discriminatory, how is it justified under the relevant legislation? N/A
If not justified, what mitigating action will be undertaken? N/A

Describing how Equality Impact analysis has shaped the policy making process

This is a draft EQIA and the Scottish Government is seeking views on this as part of a consultation exercise.

The EQIA has helped identify areas where further evidence will be useful and we will discuss this with Justice Analytical Services, other colleagues and child contact service providers.

The EQIA has helped identify other areas that the minimum standards for child contact services should cover and views will be sought on these as part of the consultation exercise.

The final EQIA will be published alongside any regulations that are introduced into the Scottish Parliament in relation to child contact centres.

Monitoring and Review

This is a draft EQIA and will be revised following comments received from stakeholders during the consultation period.

Stage 5 - Authorisation of EQIA – to be completed in final EQIA


Contact

Email: family.law@gov.scot