- 8 Feb 2021
Date received: 29 Nov 2020
Date responded: 22 Dec 2020
"Did the first minister make a public speech around April and June stating that she was going above the children’s act (The law) and extended all orders made through the children’s hearing system without any parental consent or letters sent to parents will this information in full the children’s reporter did not give any parents any form of information about the 6 month extension on legal orders made by the first minister Scottish children’s hearing system in Glasgow."
The response to the coronavirus pandemic including the movement restrictions and social distancing measures in place since 23rd March meant that the children’s hearings system was working at a much reduced capacity. To enable the system to continue to operate, hearings had to shift to virtual hearings in the first months of the pandemic with a move back to some face to hearings in July of this year. There continues to be a combination of virtual hearings and face to face hearings and it’s likely that this will continue over the coming months. To enable this to happen and to allow some flexibility for agencies to continue to respond to the most urgent cases, the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 (“the 2020 Act”) came into force on 7th April 2020. (https://www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2020/7/contents)
Among a range of measures, there are changes to relax existing requirements for the composition of children’s hearings, and the administration and conduct of children’s hearings. There are extensions to the timescales for when certain legal orders must be reviewed and appeals against legal orders lodged. The timescales for review of children’s cases when they are placed in different forms of accommodation are extended and local authorities enabled to use foster carers more flexibly to look after additional children when necessary. The changes are outlined in schedule 3 of the 2020 Act.
Paragraph 3 of schedule 3 makes provision in relation to the maximum period for which a Compulsory Supervision Order (CSO) has effect. This provides that if a hearing has not taken place to review a CSO before it expires, the order will not expire, unless six months have passed since the expiry date or the child has attained the age of 18 years. However, alongside this, there remains a duty on the Principal Reporter to arrange a hearing before the original expiry date, and if not, to arrange the hearing as soon as practicable thereafter. Prioritisation of cases has been essential to ensure continuity of protections for children and young people and putting in place appropriate legal measures to keep children and young people safe. Throughout the early months of the pandemic the Scottish Children’s Reporters Administration (SCRA) was unable to operate at anywhere near normal capacity as a result of movement restrictions, social distancing and virus prevention measures put in place and enforced.
There is a requirement for a report to be made to the Scottish Parliament every two months on the use of the powers in the Act.
The first two monthly report to Parliament was published on 9 June (https://www.gov.scot/isbn/9781839608179),
the second two monthly report to Parliament was published on 11 August (https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-acts-second-report-scottish-parliament/),
the third two monthly report to Parliament was published on 6 October (https://www.gov.scot/isbn/9781800041370) and
the fourth two monthly report to Parliament was published on 9 December (https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-acts-fourth-report-scottish-parliament/).
The use of the children’s provisions is set out at section 7.1.2 in each of the reports and includes reporting on the maximum time for which a compulsory supervision order has effect.
In relation to the implementation of this power, SCRA have advised that the expectation on children’s reporters is that they will engage with families either directly or indirectly (via social work) to enquire if the family wants the hearing to go ahead within its normal timeframe, that the expiry review should proceed if there is any need to urgently consider changing the terms of the CSO or if the family wish it to proceed, and if the provision is being used, a letter is to be sent to the child and relevant persons to advise them that the CSO will be reviewed within the next 6 months, but importantly that the child and relevant person can request a review at any time.
If you have concerns about how this power has been implemented in an individual case you can contact the SCRA Glasgow Hearings Centre. The telephone number is 0131 244 2100 and the email address is GlasgowMailbox@scra.gov.uk.
The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.
Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrews House