Justice social work - reports and court-based services: practice guidance

This revised version of the Justice Social Work (JSW) practice guidance provides social workers and para-professionals working within JSW settings with guidance to carry out their duties in relation to court reports (JSWR) and court based JSW services.

This document is part of a collection

1. Introduction

The purpose of this guidance is to provide social workers and para-professionals working within justice social work (JSW) settings with guidance to carry out their duties at this crucial point of a person’s entry into the justice system. Whether this is the person’s first appearance in court or not, their contact with the court based justice worker or the social worker preparing their court report represents an opportunity to consider the circumstances leading up to their appearance and what they could do differently to avoid it happening in the future. This guidance will be relevant whether within the court setting or in the preparation of justice social work reports for the court and will address developments in current practice, changes in legislation and reflections on service delivery.

The information provided by a justice social work practitioner in court or within a court report can provide information to assist the court in identifying issues relevant to disposal of a case. The skills and knowledge offered by justice social work practitioners can assist the court to identify potential risks to victims and highlight the need to promote victim safety. In turn this enables consideration of disposals that can reduce risks of recidivism, promote social inclusion and may lead those impacted by the behaviour to feel safer whether that be individuals or communities. This guidance will cross reference to other pieces of JSW practice guidance held on the Scottish Government website with links provided.

Within the guidance there is an amended template for the preparation of justice social work reports (JSWRs). This was updated following a pilot in four local authority areas which concluded in March 2023 and should be adopted by all local authorities. It is intended that the revised template will reduce duplication of information and offer a more analytical presentation of the information required. This will contribute to a level of quality and consistency of assessments contained within the reports. Additional annexes also offer suggested pro-forma which can be utilised or amended to suit local practices.

The guidance has been produced in collaboration with a reference group consisting of justice social work managers, sheriffs and other key stakeholders such as Community Justice Scotland, Social Work Scotland, Care Inspectorate, Risk Management Authority, and Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice. There has also been consultation with groups representing victims and the third sector to ensure the guidance reflects the experience of those impacted by the justice system. The contribution from all those who have given their time to consider the content of this guidance has been invaluable.

It is noted that there are a number of relevant legislative changes currently subject to parliamentary process which might have a potential impact on the JSW role but are not yet enacted. This guidance will therefore be updated in due course in order to reflect those changes as they are implemented. The most up to date version will be available on the Scottish Government website which hosts all justice social work guidance and can be found at https://www.gov.scot/collections/justice-social-work-guidance/


Email: cpo@gov.scot

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