Children’s Advocacy in the Children Hearings System: Expert Reference Group Training and CPD Sub-Group minutes: July 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 13 July 2021.



Attendees and apologies


  • (Chair), Scottish Government (SG), Louise Piaskowski
  • Partners in Advocacy (PiA), Tracey McFall
  • Angus Independent Advocacy (AIA), Suzanne Swinton
  • Borders Independent Advocacy Service (BIAS), Lorna Ratky-Smith
  • CAPS Independent Advocacy (CAPS), Jane Crawford
  • East Ayrshire Advocacy Services (EAAS), Annmarie Denny
  • Independent Advocacy Perth and Kinross (IAPK), Clare Gallagher
  • Who Cares? Scotland (WC?S), Brian Houston
  • Advocacy Western Isles (AWI), Birgitta Godhavn
  • Scottish Children’s Report Administration (SCRA), Melissa Hunt
  • Law Society of Scotland (LSoS), Morag Driscoll
  • Children’s Hearings Improvement Partnership (CHIP), Elaine Adams


  • Scottish Government, Pam Semple
  • Barnardo’s, Selwyn McCausland
  • Scottish Child Law Centre, Irina Beaton
  • Advocacy Service Aberdeen, Kevin McBeath
  • Clan Childlaw, Vicki Straiton
  • Children’s Hearings Scotland, Amy Farmer
  • Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance, Meg Wright

Items and actions

Items and actions

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

The meeting took place as a videoconference on Tuesday 13 July 2021. Papers issued for this meeting included the meeting note from 18 March and the draft children’s hearings advocacy skills and knowledge framework. 

Welcome, introductions and apologies

The Chair reminded the group that the invitation for this meeting had been extended to include the full group of children’s advocacy organisations who provide provision under the National Children’s Advocacy in Children’s Hearings Scheme – as agreed at the last Expert Reference Group meeting.

Agenda items discussion

The following two agenda items were discussed together: Draft Skills and Knowledge Framework for advocacy workers within Children’s Hearings; and the vision for developing a professional qualification for children’s advocacy workers within the Children’s Hearings System.

The Chair gave a recount of previous discussions, as captured in the notes, from the previous sub-group meeting (held in March) and from the full Expert Reference Group (held in June).

PiA and CHIP were invited to speak to their joint paper, looking at what has been done before and what future learning might look like. Starting with the fundamentals from the Children’s Hearings Advocacy National Practice Model, the work as set out in the paper highlighted commonalities across frameworks including, with the Core of Skills, Knowledge & Understanding and Values for the “Children’s Workforce” In Scotland, NES National Trauma Framework, and Key Capabilities in Child Care and Protection documents.

PiA and CHIP spoke about the opportunity to develop the draft skills and knowledge framework for children’s hearings advocacy within the broader perspective of the key skills and knowledge for all professionals within children’s hearings, to ensure that the focus remained on the bigger picture.

The paper set out clearly the variety of skills and knowledge required by advocacy workers within children’s hearings (as set out in the National Practice Model), and the authors outlined the next step: to populate the modules/materials that fit with the skills and knowledge requirements for professionals within the hearings system with finer detail in relation to:

  • 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)

Attendees were asked to offer their views on the skills and knowledge framework, in particular in relation to the following questions:

  • are there any strategic elements missing necessary to start developing a workforce plan in relation to the Children’s Hearings System?
  • how might the framework be presented to ensure skills, knowledge and attributes proving competence to carry out the role as an children’s advocacy worker in the Children’s Hearings System are uniformly recognised?
  • should the framework recognise and support access to broader learning (including the key skills and knowledge of all professionals) within the Children’s Hearings System that can support individual CPD for the children’s advocacy workforce?
  • in the longer term what other national strategies, polices, practice and workforce plans may need to be included i.e. The Promise, Additional Support for Learning, etc?

The following comments were made during the discussion:

LSoS – suggested that the skills and knowledge framework should include law and procedure around the Courts including the children’s hearings court process, grounds of referrals and appeals, legal aid for children etc. It would also be useful to consider more opportunities to develop and deliver joint training to discourage silo working and avoiding duplication, which would bring together a community of practitioners.

EAAS – have a good experience of accessing joint training. They can access the local authority calendar of training giving opportunities for all professionals. This provides opportunities for training and learning with a wide range of workers, for example, with woman’s aid, health visitors, etc. However, it was noted by other meeting attendees that this is not replicated across all local authority areas.

BIAS – would welcome the principles and approaches [outlined in the framework] to be more consistently available across Scotland; the more that people can work together and access facilitated joint training, the better.

PiA – questioned at a strategic level, if there was any gaps in the draft framework paper, noting this work should link in with Additional Support for Learning, The Promise, and UNCRC as implementation develops. Views from children and young people about what they want from the workforce are also important to capture and are core to everything, so we shouldn’t lose sight of this. The Our Hearing’s Our Voice (OHOV) 40 calls to action for change and improvement in the Children’s Hearings System includes some views around this that should be reflected.

CHIP – on the presentation of the framework there has been a diversity of views shared, can these be nailed today?

IAPK – considers a tiered approach is workable. The higher level being a qualification where skills and expertise is evidenced and accessed. Whilst a worker can attend training, this does not evidence skills. Developing an SVQ-benchmarked qualification would provide this evidence. Each organisation will have a core competency and skills base. But questioned who makes sure they are implemented correctly?  The mandatory training on the law around the Children’s Hearings System is a good basis for new and existing staff. Evidencing a skilled workforce, this can be built on in next few years.  

Response offered, that governance of the scheme sits with Scottish Ministers. 

WC?S – there have been parallel discussions around outcomes, workforce training and qualification for advocacy workers dating from before the Children’s Hearings System advocacy provision was established. Previously, when thinking about a qualification in relation to advocacy for children and young people, the space had been emptier. There is now the opportunity to move towards addressing this issue, with a move towards accredited disciplines and expertise.

The legal support service developed and provided by Clan Childlaw will be a useful addition to help develop skills and expertise in a legally informed way. The new induction and refresher training is beneficial and the content for the brothers / sisters rights and participation in hearings will be enhanced. It was also pointed out that there is not the same access to the Clan Childlaw training for workers’ who are not funded by SG under this national scheme. However it was discussed that approaches can be made to Clan Childlaw to provide related training for workers funded under other contracts.

An advocacy qualification would need to be co-developed with an accredited learning partner. The content for the qualification would need to consider the core components for working with children and young people, which is far broader than the Children’s Hearing System.

IAPK - a tiered structure around informed, skilled, enhanced specialised route of a qualification makes sense. 

CHIP – felt three tiers could work, reflecting commonality on what everyone working with children in the hearings system need to know as a basic level, skilled advocacy workers above this, and a specialised qualification being the next level above.

CAPS – the discussion has informed a better understanding around this. The framework is looking to consolidate the same recognised skills, not to create a ranking system of qualifications (as previously thought / considered). Developing a qualification for children’s advocacy is separate piece of work and would be considered as a specialism.

WC?S – UNCRC implementation and The Promise will remedy a fundamental opportunity to equip the workforce on rights-based practice. Rights are not always realised, advocacy has a role in supporting this. Learning from implementing the Children’s Hearings System National Advocacy Scheme will help this broader work.

AIA – some things might be forced for example local authorities requiring staff to be qualified. Peer learning support across organisations could be taken forward quickly. 

Group - Considering gaps in the framework, questions and suggestions were made around how to skill advocacy workers and other professionals around complex matters, for example, female genital mutilation.

WC?S / IAPK - much work has been put into the day to day of staff training developing knowledge and the craft of how advocacy workers operate. The workforce framework supports this. A bigger discussion remains to be had around developing a qualification including detail of roll out, including accredited assessors etc.

Questions with regards to the vision for developing a professional qualification for children’s advocacy workers within the Children’s Hearings System questions were also considered within the discussion:

  • should the vision be to develop a niche qualification for children’s advocacy workers within children’s hearings or a broader qualification for advocacy workers working with children and/or adults?
  • what are the key components of this qualification?
  • is there anything else to consider at this stage e.g. who needs to be involved?

IAPK - the foundation of good training needs refreshed and updated on an ongoing basis. A tiered system could work those working in children’s care and protection. An opportunity would be missed if a route for a qualification for advocacy workers was not explored. Learning can be taken from the REACH qualification, and Advocacy Project and possible an affordable option could be worked on.

SCRA - accreditation awards already exist for Reporter and Children’s Hearings Panel Members. Content from these could form the basis for the children's hearing elements of any professional award – it could be supplemented with other specific areas of advocacy practice.

AIA – a qualification is an important part of workforce development frameworks. Experience with in the organisation, for staff who have completed one of the two different qualifications, REACH and the Advocacy Project, this had noticeably built staff confidence and competence. Peer learning is also an important aspect of supporting each other to develop. Coaching and sharing examples should all be considered within a system of skills and knowledge development.

AWI – all staff start with a basic level of competence and training. The pathway to gain a status through an accredited qualification of evidence based practice as a professional development tool would be valued.

LSoS – training on the law practices and rights is a fundamental but advocacy specialism also covers a range of other specialised areas including disabilities, additional support for learning, child psychology, trauma etc. and other formal training is also needed for this. The more professionalised the practice, the better supported the workforce will be.

IAPK – there are limited professional development opportunities (such as progression) within small organisations. Support to complete a qualification builds confidence. This is about all advocacy workers being supported to be informed, skilled with experience and dedicated to the role. The framework should be a baseline for advocacy practice (in general) not just within the Children’s Hearings System.


  • PiA and CHIP to populate the gaps identified in the framework and develop this in more detail
  • a small group, WC?S and IAPK to take forward exploratory work on what would be required to develop a qualification for children’s advocacy workers: what might it look like, feel like and who would need to be involved
  • plans to set up peer learning support of workers across the organisations will be put on the agenda for the next National Provider Network meeting

Training needs of advocacy workers supporting siblings rights to participate in hearings on contact matters

The Chair asked for views about immediate information or training needs that SG and others could help with, and what else might be needed on a longer-term to support practice, highlighting that this issue could be revisited at a future meeting.

LSoS – these changes need to be seen in context, firstly around the parent and child relationship in law. In the case of contact, individuals with parental rights and responsibilities sit alongside sibling’s rights but do not dominate over the parents’ rights. This has been raised in case law, by way of an example of a breach in regard to contact.

IAPK – once the peer learning groups have been established, they will be able to consider the training needs in relation to siblings’ rights to participate in hearings.

WC?S – are taking a three level approach to supporting the workforce: 1) promoting rights, providing briefings to raise understanding across the whole organisation; 2) looked after children, promotion and understanding of the national guidance developed on behalf of Scottish Government by Centre of Excellence for Children’s Care and Protection (CELCIS); 3) Children’s Hearings area, broader learning and sharing. Support for advocacy workers in practice discussions will help to explore what this feels like and what help/support may be needed. Staff induction training has also been refreshed to include components on the new legislation.

SCRA – are developing information rights (including the new legislation), which will go online later this year. Happy to work with CHIP on an information paper around participation rights and procedure within children’s hearings.


  • SG to speak to Clan Childlaw about sharing information developed as part of the training on the basic changes in law relating to siblings’ rights
  • SCRA and CHIP to develop a paper on the new sibling participation rights and procedure within children’s hearings, which SG will share with children’s advocacy workers and other ERG members
  • SG to seek to reconvene another meeting of the group in August
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