Movement restriction conditions in the children's hearing system: guidance
Information for social workers who have a statutory responsibility to present information to children’s panel members.
4.0 Assessment is a fundamental task that is a daily feature of social work practice and it is rightly recognised as a process rather than an event. The assessment process that should precede the recommendation of an MRC ought not to be a discrete, standalone activity.
4.1 In accordance with Getting It Right For Every Child ( GIRFEC) and the related adoption of the SHANARRI indicators as outcome measures for young people, most implementation authorities have now developed standardised reporting templates for Children's Hearings. These assessment reports, along with chronologies and the Child's Plan should provide a satisfactory template for providing information about the suitability and appropriateness of an MRC for a young person. As such, a separate MRC Assessment Report or equivalent need not necessarily be produced (although practice in individual implementation authorities will vary).
4.2 There is no specified minimum length of time that an assessment, which ultimately leads to a recommendation for an MRC to a Children's Hearing, should take. The priority for Lead Professionals should be to provide sufficient, well-evidenced information to enable a Children's Hearing to make an informed and defensible decision. In situations where a Lead Professional has a longstanding relationship with a young person and his parent(s)/carer(s), it may be that such information can be collated relatively rapidly.
4.3 While it is not possible to provide a definitive list of all of the issues that ought to be addressed in a report to a Children's Hearing which recommends including an MRC in an order, the following points merit consideration:
- Age: There is no lower age limit for an MRC. However, we would not expect that young people aged under 12 years would be made subject to an MRC given their likely capacity to engage with interventions.
- Gender: There is no strong evidence base to suggest outcomes are radically different (better or worse) for young people subject to an MRC if they are female as opposed to male. However the package of support in place and the focus of any interventions to promote desistance delivered in conjunction with the MRC may be tailored to the gender of the young person.
- Views of the young person: The importance of taking into account the young person's views in relation to the imposition of an MRC and reflecting these views in any report cannot be overstated. Aside from the need to comply with s.27 of the Act, the prospect of an MRC contributing to positive behaviour change is likely to be extremely low if the young person has not articulated some degree of commitment to adhere to the disposal. It is incumbent on the lead professional to articulate clearly what an order with an MRC requirement would entail for a young person. It is also necessary for the Lead Professional to be clear about the reality of the alternatives to an MRC, including the potential for recourse to secure accommodation. Whilst it is competent to make an MRC without the consent of the child, it is important to distinguish between the competence of a disposal and its ethical and practical viability. There would appear to be little merit in a Children's Hearing pursuing the option of an MRC if a young person is opposed to the proposal.
- Views of the parent(s)/carer(s)/family: As with the informed consent of the young person, the absence of parental/carer consent to the imposition of an MRC is likely to make any such disposal unworkable. The Lead Professional must ascertain the views of the parent(s)/carer(s) at any address to which a young person may be restricted as part of a curfew. Furthermore, it is important that the Lead Professional gives meaningful consideration to the manner in which the young person's presence at an address for a specified number of hours may have a negative impact on relationship dynamics in the home e.g. if the young person has a volatile relationship with a sibling at the address.
- Exhaustion of alternatives: While a Children's Hearing has the authority to include an MRC in an order it should only do so if there is satisfactory evidence presented that all reasonable alternatives have been exhausted. Individual implementation authorities will vary in terms of the breadth and diversity of services available to young people and their families who present with troubled and troubling behaviour, from services available on a voluntary basis to those services to which access is restricted subject to assessments of risk and need. To claim that alternatives to an MRC have been exhausted, the Lead Professional should be in a position to provide evidence that other unsuccessful strategies had been in place for a sufficient length of time and had been appropriately targeted and sequenced without producing a positive outcome.
- Public protection: Decisions by a Children's Hearing inconsistent with the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of a young person as a paramount consideration  may be made when it is necessary to protect members of the public from harm  . If a young person's behaviour has reached the level where concerns about serious harm to others are identified as imminent and credible, it seems doubtful that a community-based disposal of any form would be deemed sufficiently robust to address the assessed risks and needs.
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