Children’s Advocacy in the Children Hearings System: Expert Reference Group Training and CPD Sub-Group minutes: November 2020

Minutes from the meeting of the Children's Advocacy in the Children's Hearing System: Expert Reference Group Training and CPD Sub-Group on 24 November 2020.

Items and actions

Items and actions

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

The meeting took place as a videoconference on 24 November 2020.

Welcome, introductions and apologies

In attendance: Tracey McFall from Partners in Advocacy, Elaine Adams from Children’s Hearings Improvement Partnership (CHIP), Vicki Straiton from Clan Childlaw, Jennifer Orren from SCRA, Amy Farmer Children’s Hearings Scotland (CHS), Lindsey Isaacs from SIAA, Lorna Ratky-Smith from BIAS, Irina Beaton from Scottish Child Law Centre, and Pam Semple and Louise Piaskowski from Scottish Government. Apologies received from Morag Driscoll, Law Society of Scotland.

Appraisal of pre-appointment training delivered by Clan Childlaw

A paper was provided to all ERG members in advance of the meeting. The paper set out the progress made so far regarding the training on legal obligations surrounding children’s hearings that all advocacy workers providing services under this provision must undertake. A summary of the feedback received from participants and the Scottish Government’s appraisal of this was included in the paper. The feedback has been considered and used to inform the plans which will ensure all advocacy workers are adequately trained to the same consistent, high standard which will allow them to fulfil the children’s advocacy in children’s hearings role. All ERG members received this paper.

Scottish Government proposals are set out for both pre-appointment training and on-going refresher training in legal matters.

The group were satisfied with the proposals for pre-appointment training. A key consideration discussed by the group was that it is right to ensure all advocacy workers, regardless of experience level, complete the same training. This stipulation will result in the sharing of practice insight, which should be preserved. However, it would also be beneficial for new starts to be given more time, between the immediate self-study element of the training (perhaps three months), and a facilitated practice reflection session.

With regards to refresher training in legal matters, suggestions were made regarding focus on ‘relevant person status’. The group also want to consider how to best build case studies that reflect reality into the on-going refresher training.

It was recognised that the mandated one day training on the legal aspects and an annual update, is one small part of the wider training framework advocacy workers will be undertaking. This lead on to discussion about developing a workforce framework that would align with already developed resources. The purpose would be to identify the core competencies (as are described in the National Practice Model) required by advocacy workers for children’s hearings advocacy and as part of the wider children’s services sector. This should set out the levels from basic training through to specialisms, and the places to access this training and/or qualification. 

The group then moved on to a discussion about the development of a qualification for advocacy workers within children’s hearings. It was acknowledged this should remain the big vision and would be a longer-term ambition. It was suggested that perhaps a two to three year period to properly consider and develop options may be necessary. It was also noted that professionalisation of the advocacy profession is not supported by all of the workforce so this really needs to be carefully considered and worked through with the sector. 

It was agreed that a first step towards developing a workforce plan would be to undertake a mapping exercise. This would identify all the relevant sources of training available, and frequently undertaken by advocacy organisations working with children, and the other professionals/bodies operating within children’s hearings.

CHS informed the group that they have launched an advocacy module including a 'talking heads' style advocacy video and will share this, if useful.

For mapping, it was also mentioned that CHS learning academy has made some resources available to safeguarders as mentioned in the paper - modules on child development, ACEs, diversity and inclusion, neglect etc. Children 1st provided various training throughout the year for safeguarders so it would be useful to liaise with Children 1st and establish if these resources can be used/adapted.

Key frameworks identified to draw from are:


  • Scottish Government to share the full induction training materials with the group
  • organisations to ensure advocacy workers are supported to have regular reflective practice sessions/peer support. This will help to reinforce learning from the self-study induction training.
  • consideration to be given as how to best build case studies versus reality into the on-going refresher training
  • consideration to be given as to how to ensure there is a robust feedback loop ensuring the gather intelligence and from all system partners about training needs and how gaps are best addressed
  • group members to provide Scottish Government (SG) with any relevant information which will help to map existing resources and training opportunities undertaken by advocacy workers and other professionals within the children’s hearings system. Any workforce planning documents would provide a rich source of material. Contributions should be shared by 24 December so SG can work on a paper for the next ERG meeting in the New Year – (date to be arranged, but likely to be mid-January)
  • CHS will share the content of their advocacy module including a 'talking heads' style advocacy video
  • Scottish Government will speak to Children 1st about possibilities for joint training – linked with safeguarders roles
  • Scottish Government to identify suitable date for the next meeting of this sub-group
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