Children's advocacy in children's hearings - national scheme: good practice and issues arising

Progress report on the implementation of the children's hearings advocacy provision in the first year March 2020 to March 2021.

Part 2: Children and Young People's Feedback and demonstrating outcomes

One child quoted to the advocacy worker: "It's good to know I've got someone now that's genuinely just for me to help me get through it (the Hearing)"

8. The advocacy organisations are required to evidence how they are following the National Practice Model. The National Practice Model specifies the core values and beliefs informing advocacy in the Children's Hearing System under this scheme and supports them with detailed, practical guidelines for advocacy workers and advocacy organisations. The Principles and Standards express in clear, concise language, the underlying beliefs and behaviours children should be put into practice by those providing advocacy around children's hearings. Each Principle and its underlying Standards and Outcomes are accompanied by a set of Practice Guidelines and a set of Indicators.

Principle 1: Advocacy puts the child or young person first.

Principle 2: Advocacy seeks to understand and explain what is going on.

Principle 3: Advocacy workers only work for the child or young person.

Principle 4: Advocacy is for all children and young people who wish to take up the offer of Advocacy.

9. This section aims to highlight a few examples of the feedback and outcomes reported to the Scottish Government. Potentially identifiable details have been anonymised to protect the identity of children, young people and their families.

Example 1

10. Feedback from a 14 year old who did not agree with the Statement of Facts attached to the Grounds of Referral to the Children's Reporter. The young person was referred for advocacy support after their initial Hearing had taken place and a referral had been made to the Sherriff. The advocacy worker provided information to the young person in respect of his right to instruct a solicitor to represent him in court, and further supported him to instruct and meet with a solicitor. The solicitor was able to negotiate amended Statements of Facts with the Children's Reporter which the young person felt happy to accept and the solicitor presented to the Sherriff. The young person said to the advocacy worker. "I wouldn't have been able to get a solicitor myself".

Example 2

11. Advocacy service was contacted by a head teacher of a school. He wanted to refer a young person aged 15 for advocacy support. The young person was a student and was facing a challenging time within a new kinship placement. The young person was subject to compulsory measures and had social work involvement. Due to recent incidents with the family, he had been moved from one kinship placement to another which the head teacher stated was affecting his mental well-being and behaviour at school. The young person did not have a bed, and was sleeping on the floor of a living room in a house with a number of other young people. This caused concern as the young person had been performing well at school until recent incidents occurred. The head teacher explained that that the young person had consented to the advocacy referral and that he himself had stated that he felt that he was not being listened to by social services.

On meeting the young person the advocacy worker introduced themselves, the service and explained the role of advocacy. The young person's guidance teacher was also present. As the young person was over the age of 12, he was happy to give consent and engaged very well throughout the initial meeting. The worker and young person discussed his kinship placement and the circumstances that led him there. He explained his relationship with his mother, grandfather and aunt had broken down and he would not continue in the kinship placement any longer and had recently absconded.

He explained that aside from not having a bed or privacy, he was having trouble sleeping which is affecting his school performance and is being used as an informal carer for other young people who live in the house. The young person explained that he did at one point have a lawyer a few years prior but did not know who it was. The worker asked if he would like her to help retain a legal representative for his Hearing and the young person said 'yes'.

Another issue was that the young person could not be contacted by social work, school or advocacy, as he did not have access to a mobile phone.

The advocacy worker and the young person arranged to meet again before his virtual Hearing. After the meeting, the advocacy worker called Clan Childlaw and outlined the young person's views on what had been happening for him. A solicitor from Clan Childlaw called back the next day and said she would be happy to represent the young person at his upcoming Hearing but there may be a challenge with the timeframe as she needed time to go through his Hearing papers with him.

Authorisation was sought by the advocacy worker to obtain a mobile phone for the young person so he could be contacted by his advocate, solicitor and social worker.

A positive conversation took place with the social worker. The advocacy worker informed them of her involvement and the involvement of a solicitor. She explained the social work perspective on what had been going on for the young person and what the recommendations were for the Hearing. The young person had mentioned that he had spoken with his solicitor and felt more confident about his upcoming Hearing. The worker and young person then discussed the Hearing process and created a views statement for his Hearing. Although he wanted to attend his Hearing, he wanted the worker to read the statement on his behalf.

At the virtual Hearing, the young person engaged positively. His solicitor asked for a deferment so she and the young person could have more time to prepare for the Hearing. The young person's views were heard and he was given the opportunity to address all panel members and social work which he felt he had not been able to do before then. An interim variation was added to his Compulsory Supervision Order (CSO) where he would reside in a foster placement with carers that he knew and with whom he was comfortable living.

A post-hearing phone call took place with the young person to ensure he understood the decisions made and any jargon used at his Hearing. The young person was happy with the outcome and thanked the advocacy worker for her help.

The young person had another Hearing and the outcome was that he should reside at his foster placement until he is able to get a place in Supported Care. For this Hearing, the advocacy worker met with the young person at his school before and after the Hearing which ensured that he was both prepared and able to understand the outcome.

His advocacy worker was able to discuss with the young person the benefits and drawbacks of his Compulsory Supervision Order (CSO) in preparation for his turning 16. This led him to take an informed view on what he would like to happen in the near future. The advocacy worker and young person's allocated social worker have a positive relationship which allowed for full and frequent communication as well as another referral.

Example 3

12. A 14 year old girl was initially referred to the Reporter by a social worker on the grounds that "her conduct has had, or is likely to have, a serious adverse effect on the health, safety or development of her or another person." The girl had suffered several periods of exclusion from school due to failure to attend, volatility and non-compliance. The girl did not like her original social worker and refused to engage, resulting in the referral to the Reporter with a recommendation that she be placed on a Compulsory Supervision Order (CSO). By the time the Hearing was called, the girl had been allocated a new social worker who she liked and respected more. When the Grounds Hearing was conducted, the girl became so upset and agitated that the Hearing decided to defer, sending her case to the Sheriff for Proof.

It was at this point her new social worker, with the girl's agreement, referred the case to the advocacy service. Although initially somewhat hesitant, she engaged with her advocacy worker during several meetings and as her trust grew, she was able to share her views and explain the issues she felt she faced within school. In turn, her advocacy worker was able to represent her views at the Hearing negating the stress she felt on the previous occasion. The social worker stated, "The young person struggles to trust adults but after meeting [her advocacy worker] for the first time she advised "she's actually really nice". The advocacy worker represented the young person's views at a subsequent Hearing, meaning she did not need to attend. This has produced a positive outcome for the young person, where her views have been heard without her having to be put through unnecessary distress. This is in line with the GIRFEC principles, ensuring we get it right for every child".

The girl told her advocacy worker that she "felt that social work was against me. I can trust you because you say what I want". The decision of the Hearing was influenced by the young person's views being heard and acknowledged. She was discharged from supervision under the Children's Hearing System with a recommendation of voluntary measures to better support her at school.

Example 4

13. A referral was received by an advocacy service for a boy aged 9 who had a Hearing due in two days. The advocacy worker visited him at school to ask him if he wanted advocacy support and if so, what his views were for his Hearing. The boy said that he would like to attend the Hearing and "tell them" himself what he wanted. He asked if they both could go (boy and the advocacy worker), and the advocacy worker confirmed that this was possible and she would arrange it by either seeing if he could use a computer at school. If not, she would bring him a computer for him to use for the meeting. The boy said he would like to try and tell the Hearing what he wanted, and he would like his advocacy worker to add anything he had forgotten. The advocacy worker arranged for the boy to attend the Hearing from the head teacher's office using her computer and arranged that on the day the head teacher would help him to join the meeting while the advocacy worker joined from her computer at home. The advocacy worker provided contact details for the school to the Reporter and got the Chair's permission to share the link with the head teacher. On the morning of the Hearing, the boy successfully joined and told the Hearing himself what it was like living where he was, and that he wanted to see more of his mum. The advocacy worker was able to ask the boy questions to help him share his view at the Hearing. This was a good example of the child, advocacy worker, school and the children's hearing working together to enable the child to give his views himself at the Hearing.

Example 5

14. A young person was supported by an advocacy worker to convey their views at their Hearing in relation to letterbox contact with a family member. As a result of advocacy support, a decision aligning with the wishes of the young person was made.

Example 6

15. At a Hearing, a young person was able to return, with support, to living at the family home. During a follow-up call with the advocacy worker after the Hearing the young person requested counselling. The advocacy worker was able to discuss this with the school and a go-to teacher that the young person could talk to was identified. This support requested through advocacy will be instrumental for the young person being able to remain in the family home.

A young person commented to their advocacy worker that she knew she could speak up for herself but having them at the Hearing was good, just in case.

A written compliment received from a local panel member said

"I've never been so clear on what a child wanted from their Hearing! It was one of those moments where the penny dropped and I thought this is just brilliant! The views of the child were absolutely at the centre of our discussion."

Verbal feedback from Reporters in another area stated that having views of children and young people through advocacy has made a huge difference to the children's hearing panel members' confidence to decide without deferring.

Supportive work of Our Hearings, Our Voice Board Members

16. In November 2020, the Scottish Government made a successful project bid to Our Hearings, Our Voice (OHOV) to support parts of the programme of work to develop the children's hearings advocacy scheme. We asked the Board for help to improve and develop child/young person appropriate information about children's advocacy for children's hearings.

17. The feedback we received from the OHOV Board Members who joined the workshops included:

  • the dedicated website about children's hearings advocacy. It was good (cheery, colourful, visual, simple, organised, informative, helped you understand what advocacy is) but it could be better. Put the website in Gaelic, make sure the colours are right for people with dyslexia or visual impairments, make the language easier to read for young ones, add a section for young people's own experiences to hear how it works from them.
  • the leaflet. These were not good for children and young people – boring, needed fun fonts, more input from children and young people, not something children/young people would pick up, not easy for younger children.
  • promoting independent advocacy to children and young people. They told us the best ways to promote could include – adverts to reach larger audience, mention it in hearings and in schools, put posters in schools, social work buildings, children's health clinics, and interactive media e.g. video and social media.

18. We used this feedback and made the website better, making changes to keep it clear and simple, and the OHOV Board Members shared their experiences of what advocacy means to them. This features on the children's hearings advocacy website here: How advocacy can help - Hearings Advocacy (

19. The OHOV Board Members ideas helped to develop posters that have been printed and distributed to the children's hearing centres and we are working on getting the posters to the other places suggested.

20. The resources developed, including the poster in a downloadable and printable format, are available on the children's hearings advocacy website resources tab: Resources - Hearings Advocacy (

21. There is more to do around evaluating how well things are working. Views of children and young people will be an essential part of this and we will ask the OHOV if they would be interested in helping to design evaluation tools. The OHOV Board Members also reminded us that Champions' Boards and other children and young people's networks could help too. We want to find ways to do this well and will explore opportunities.



Back to top