Family Justice Modernisation Strategy

Sets out our work to improve the family justice system in Scotland.

Part 11 Children’s Hearings Background

11.1 The consultation on the review of the 1995 Act sought views on a number of areas in relation to Children’s Hearings including:

  • whether changes should be made to allow further modernisation of the Children’s Hearing System through enhanced use of available technology; and
  • local authorities as recipient of certain papers. Modernisation of the Children’s Hearing System

11.2 Children’s Hearings take place every day across the country and usually involve children and their parents attending their local hearing centre in person and receiving information in paper form.

11.3 Due to advances in technology, it may in future be possible for young people and their families to be able to better participate in hearings using tools such as remote-link and sharing digitally pre-recorded views.

11.4 The responses to the consultation were supportive of the use of technology to ensure that the hearing process is responding to the evolving opportunities this offers.

Local authorities as recipient of certain papers

11.5 The consultation asked if safeguarder reports and other independent reports should be provided to local authorities in advance of Children’s Hearings in line with other participants.

11.6 Currently in Children’s Hearings, a local authority will provide a report to the hearing setting out a summary of the child’s circumstances taking account of information known to them.

11.7 Children’s Hearings, but not local authorities, may also receive reports from others that will include information that could be relevant and material to their decision about the child including safeguarder reports and other independent reports.

11.8 This means that a child’s social worker may only learn of new information, assessments and recommendations made by other professionals as the hearing takes place. This can lead to deferred hearings and delay to decisions for a child.

11.9 Consultation responses were overwhelmingly in favour of local authorities receiving reports to allow local authorities to be fully informed of all the information available to the hearing.


Modernisation of the Children’s Hearing System

11.10 The Scottish Government wants to maximise the use of technology where this is beneficial for children and their families whilst keeping the child at the centre of the decision making.

Local authorities as recipient of certain papers

11.11 The Scottish Government wants to ensure that local authority recommendations to hearings are based on all available relevant information and assessments.


Modernisation of the Children’s Hearing System

11.12 The Children’s Hearings System Digital Strategy[58] is being taken forward by the SCRA and Children’s Hearings Scotland (CHS). The strategy aims to improve meaningful participation at and around Children’s Hearings and to transform how we think, engage and interact with those involved in Children’s Hearings through the use of digital tools.

11.13 The Scottish Government, through the Children’s Hearing Improvement Partnership, is funding Our Hearings Our Voice[59], a board of children and young people with user experience of the hearing system, to ensure any improvements are beneficial for young people.

11.14 SCRA and CHS also aim to reduce the timescales for the administration of Children’s Hearing decisions by using electronic signatures in this process.

11.15 Scottish Government will introduce the necessary secondary legislation to amend the procedural rules to ensure the digital developments are managed appropriately.

11.16 In addition, in supporting developments, the Scottish Government will ensure policies are in place to safeguard data protection, information security, information retention and confidentiality.

Local authorities as recipient of certain papers

11.17 The Scottish Government intends to amend the procedural rules for Children’s Hearings to give the relevant local authority in a child’s case an entitlement to receive the reports shared with the hearing and parties, which includes reports by safeguarders and any other independent professionals. This would be subject to parliamentary approval.



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