Children's Hearings Advocacy Expert Reference Group minutes: June 2020

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 24 June 2020.

1. Items and actions

This note provides an overview of the discussion and key action points from the meeting of the Children Hearings System: Expert Reference Group (ERG).

The meeting took place as a videoconference on 24 June 2020.  A detailed updated paper covering all agenda items was issued in advance of the meeting.

2. Welcome

Apologies were noted.  Changes to membership were explained, including: the withdrawal of Advocard; change in representative from Who Cares? Scotland; and a welcome extended to the 3 new advocacy organisations joining, East Ayrshire Advocacy Service, Angus Independent Advocacy and Advocacy Western Isles.

ACTION: Scottish Government to update membership information. 

3. Members update and Introductions

Members were all invited to provide a 2-3 minute update on their activity.  Updates were given from all 9 advocacy providers about the progression made regarding recruitment, induction and training of advocacy workers. Updates were also given from Children’s Hearings Scotland (CHS), Children’s Hearings Improvement Partnership (CHIP) and Law Society of Scotland.

Key points made:

Good progress is being made by all advocacy organisations. 

Gathering experiences of Children’s Hearings in Scotland during COVID-19 - Members were encouraged to feed into the survey.  The researchers ‘‘are interested in hearing from young people, parents, other family members, carers, social workers, reporters, advocates, solicitors, safeguarders, panel members, or anybody else who might want to share their views and experience” (of virtual hearings).  Please find a link to a questionnaire and more information about taking part here: survey closes on 29 June 2020.

It could be beneficial to consider what more could be done to develop greater understanding and working relationships between local children’s solicitors and advocacy workers.  It is important to understand where each other’s roles could really help a child and be able to support referrals/ introductions quickly where appropriate.

It is important to continue considering the impact of Children’s Hearings System fast moving timeframes on balance with giving the child time to prepare and workers to support them effectively.  Clarification on who receives paperwork from SCRA would also be helpful. 

An important element of connecting with the Children’s Hearings Improvement Partnership (CHIP) will be ensuring consistency in the approach to training children’s hearings advocacy workers.

Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance offered to support the development of guidance, or to give advice regarding partnership working between advocacy workers and solicitors, having done similar work before in areas of mental health etc.

Who Cares? Scotland suggested it may be useful to explore developing two Corporate Parenting practice notes about Children’s Hearings advocacy, one for CHS and Panel Members and another for Scottish Children’s Reporters Administration (SCRA).  Who Cares? Scotland also mentioned building advocacy in to the training they deliver for Panel Members annually.

ACTION: Scottish Children’s Reporters Administration (SCRA) will provide a written update to Scottish Government to share with members.

Children’s Hearings Scotland, Laura will remain the main point of contact for national improvement support and contact details for local support improvement partners will be shared so that local relationships can be formed too should any particular local issues arise.

Contact details for Law Society of Scotland Child and Family Law Sub-Committee Convener to be shared with advocacy provider organisations for support to enable better local level links.  This matter will also be considered within the national level training and guidance planning.

4. Regulations

Scottish Government continues to work on timetabling the legislation.  It was noted this should not prevent services starting.

ACTION: All members will be informed and updated as and when dates are set.

5. Alternate Provision

Noted that alternate provision is confirmed Scotland-wide.

Progress in being made on drafting guidance for providers about how and when the provision should be provided, and the policy rationale for the funding models.  Scottish Government will work on this, with input from the advocacy organisations, with a view to finalising it by end August.

Alongside this, there will be work continuing refining key messaging for local authorities and other key partners about when alternate provision may be needed and how to access it.  The Scottish Government’s intention to convene the Communications and Engagement sub-group to progress this was agreed. 

ACTION: Members interested in being part of the Communications and Engagement sub-group should let the Scottish Government know.

Scottish Government will inform members of the alternate provision coverage.

Guidance will be developed for providers about the expected arrangements between primary and alternate provision and the funding arrangements in place.

6. Training and CPD

Brief overview provided, re-capping on information in the update paper.  These will be half day sessions delivered via Vscene.  Pre-read material and voice over presentations will be issued in advance.  The sessions will focus on discussion practice and ideas, guided by case scenarios.  The content will cover the five key topical areas. 

Any final views on the content and structure invited from advocacy organisations and other partners.

It was noted that feedback on accessing legal support is also welcomed by Clan Childlaw as they have funding to support improvement work in this area.  Any issues raised through the recent consultation with regards to Children’s Hearings will be considered and incorporated into the training.

ACTION: Scottish Government and Clan Childlaw will be in touch offering a choice of dates over July-August which advocacy organisations may book their staff onto.  In addition, Scottish Government will be seeking information to assist with the practicalities and facilitation, such as numbers of staff attending, job roles and their level of experience of the Children’s Hearings System. 

7. Communications and Engagement

The Group noted the Communications and Engagement Strategy and updates were invited from members.

Scottish Government will set up Communications and Engagement sub-group meeting to assist with refining key messaging for local authorities and other key partners about the children’s hearings advocacy provision – and specifically on when alternate provision may be needed and how to access it. 

Views invited on the draft publicity guidance paper in writing following the meeting.  These will be considered and incorporated into materials for the sub-group to use to come to an informed position. 

ACTIONScottish Government to set up a meeting in July to convene the Communications and Engagement Sub-group.  Papers will be prepared for consideration in advance.

8. AOB

Agreement reached that the Providers Network should be established.  Scottish Government should facilitate the first meeting and the organisations will set their agenda.  Partners in Advocacy offered to help with the coordination to identify suitable dates etc.

ACTION: Scottish Government and Partners in Advocacy will work together to set-up a first meeting. 

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