Children’s Advocacy in the Children Hearings System: Expert Reference Group Training and CPD sub-group minutes: March 2021

Agenda items, actions, and supporting paper for the virtual meeting, held on 18 March 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Elaine Adams, Children’s Hearings Improvement Partnership (CHIP)
  • Lorna Ratky-Smith, Borders Independent Advocacy Service (BIAS)
  • Jane Crawford, CAPS Independent Advocacy
  • Amy Farmer, Children’s Hearings Scotland (CHS)
  • Pam Semple, Scottish Government (SG)
  • Louise Piaskowski, Scottish Government (SG)


  • Morag Driscoll, Law Society of Scotland
  • Tracey McFall, Partners in Advocacy
  • Vicki Straiton, Clan Childlaw
  • Melissa Hunt, Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA)
  • Moira Nicholson, Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance (SIAA)
  • Irina Beaton, Scottish Child Law Centre

Items and actions

Items and actions

This note provides an overview of the discussion and key action points from the Training and CPD sub-group meeting of the Children Hearings Advocacy Expert Reference Group (ERG).

The meeting took place as a videoconference on 18 March 2021. 

Welcome, introduction and apologies

Attendees were welcomed to the meeting and apologies were noted.

Draft skills and knowledge framework for advocacy workers within children’s hearings

The draft paper presenting initial ideas for a workforce development strategy prepared by Elaine and Tracey was previously shared with all ERG members and a brief overview provided at the meeting on 12 February.

This paper was shared again with the sub-group ahead of the meeting. The group discussion covered the thinking behind seeing an opportunity to develop this framework within the broader perspective of the key skills and knowledge that all professionals working with children’s hearings need to know and practice.

The initial piece of work has highlighted commonalities, starting with the fundamentals from the Children’s Hearings Advocacy National Practice Model. This states the qualifications, skills and training elements that are central to ensuring independent advocacy is meaningful, empowering and successful, and that the common core ‘essential characteristics’ are expected to be threaded through the training for advocacy workers in the children’s hearings system.

Some views were shared that the presentation of a levels based/tiered framework, such as the NES trauma lenses approach - from basic training through to specialisms, and the places to access this training and/or qualification - could give the unintended perception of creating a hierarchy of advocacy workers and label of ‘being better’. This could wrongly give the message to children/young people and other professionals of advocacy workers not being seen as equals. In terms of skills and knowledge proving competence to carry out their role as an children’s advocacy worker in the Children’s Hearings System, all staff should be operating at the same “level” to the same set of skills and attributes. However, it was also recognised a framework to access broader learning supporting individual CPD for the children’s advocacy workforce would be helpful.

Focusing on the variety of skills and knowledge that advocacy workers with in Children’s Hearings require, as set out in the National Practice Model, the group agreed as a next step to start to populate these with the detail of modules/materials that fit with the skills and knowledge requirements that professionals working within hearings require: These are:

  • listening (skills)

  • ethics (skills)

  • rights (knowledge)

  • law (knowledge)

  • The Children’s Hearings System (knowledge)

  • Working with other Professionals (skills / knowledge)

  • sharing information (skills / knowledge)

  • sensitivity (skills / knowledge)

  • equality (skills / knowledge)

How this is presented, for example, as a baseline of skills and attributes or necessity for all, and its purpose specifically understood by children’s advocacy workers within the Children’s Hearings System and recognised as part of the wider children’s services sector, will be the focus of further attention and discussion. Particular consideration will be given to the concerns raised around perception of a “levels” style framework giving the impression there is a hierarchy of advocacy worker. 

In considering the development of a qualification for advocacy workers, it was highlighted again that this has previously raised a split in opinion. There is, however agreement that the development of a niche qualification for children’s advocacy in the Children Hearings System qualification for advocacy workers can be realised and should be worked up collaboratively with those involved in this area of work. The pathway to obtaining an ‘optional’ professionally recognised qualification will be more fully considered in due course.


  • Scottish Government (SG) will make arrangements for the sub-group to meet again after the Easter holiday period. For this meeting, a question set will be developed to help guide the next discussion and the work to populate the framework with more details
  • SG will start to populate the framework with relevant sources of training available, and frequently undertaken by advocacy organisations working with children, and the other professionals/bodies operating within Children’s Hearings – from the information requested from ERG members in December, to our call/action for support with the mapping exercise and any appropriate information from the advocacy organisations Grant monitoring reports
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