1. The Children (Scotland) Act 2020 (the 2020 Act) received Royal Assent on 1 October 2020. This builds upon the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. The 2020 Act gives Scottish Ministers the power to make provision about the regulation of a contact service provided in relation to the requirements of a contact order, including minimum standards for the training of contact centre staff and for child contact centre accommodation. The 2020 Act also gives Scottish Ministers the power to appoint a body for the purposes of administering the registration of contact service providers and contact centres. The Care Inspectorate is the Scottish Government’s preferred option for this regulatory role.
2. Child contact centres are safe places for conflict-free contact between children, parents, and other people in the child’s life. The child contact services the consultation focussed on are those that deal principally with separated parents and families who are referred in private law cases. For example, in situations where contact is ordered at a contact centre by the courts, where a referral is made to a contact centre by a solicitor on their client’s behalf, or where parents self-refer. There are currently 44 child centres in Scotland, 42 of which are members of the Relationships Scotland network; the other two are independent centres.
3. Local authorities also often facilitate child contact in public law cases involving looked after children. However this did not fall within the scope of changes introduced by the 2020 Act and is not considered as part of this consultation.
4. Child contact centres play an important role in allowing a child to have a relationship with a parent. Child contact centres are not intended to be a long term solution for maintaining contact between a parent and child, although in some instances handover services can be facilitated on a longer-term basis so as to provide a stress-free environment where contact can continue.
5. The 2020 Act will take time to implement but it is expected that the regulation of child contact services will be fully operational in 2023.
Background to the consultation
6. During the passage of the 2020 Act through the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Government committed to a full and public consultation on the regulation of child contact services. This consultation sought views on what should be covered in the minimum standards for child contact services, how these standards should be monitored and what the complaints procedures should be.
7. The Scottish Government launched a consultation which ended on 12 July 2021. Findings from this consultation will be used to inform the Scottish Government in decisions relating to the regulation of child contact services.
8. In total, there were 59 responses to the consultation, of which 28 were from organisations and 31 from individuals.
9. Respondents were assigned to respondent groupings in order to enable analysis of any differences or commonalities across or within the various different types of organisations and individuals that responded. Table 2 shows the number of respondents in each organisational category.
|Child contact service (5)||5||8|
|Local authority (4)||4||7|
|Public body (1)||1||2|
|Representative body (2)||2||3|
|Third sector / advocacy (11)||11||19|
|Total organisations (28)||28||47|
|Total respondents (59)||59||100|
10. A list of all those organisations that submitted a response to the consultation and agreed to have their name published is included in Appendix 1.
11. Responses to the consultation were submitted using the Scottish Government consultation platform Citizen Space or by post, although most respondents submitted their views via Citizen Space. Where responses were submitted in hard copy, these were entered manually onto the Citizen Space system to create a complete database of responses.
12. It should be borne in mind that the number responding at each question is not always the same as the number presented in the respondent group table. This is because not all respondents addressed all questions. This report indicates the number of respondents who commented at each question.
13. Some of the consultation questions were closed with specific options to choose from. Where respondents did not follow the questions but mentioned clearly within their text that they supported one of the options, these have been included in the relevant counts.
14. The researchers examined all comments made by respondents and noted the range of issues mentioned in responses, including reasons for opinions, specific examples or explanations, alternative suggestions or other comments. Grouping these issues together into similar themes allowed the researchers to identify whether any particular theme was specific to any particular respondent group or groups.
15. When considering group differences however, it must also be recognised that where a specific opinion has been identified in relation to a particular group or groups, this does not indicate that other groups did not share this opinion, but rather that they simply did not comment on that particular point.
Analysis of responses
16. The analysis of responses is presented in the following chapters which follow the order of the questions raised in the consultation paper. While the consultation gave all who wished to comment an opportunity to do so, given the self-selecting nature of this type of exercise, any figures quoted here cannot be extrapolated to a wider population outwith the respondent sample.
17. The Citizen Space database was exported to an Excel working database for detailed analysis. Where respondents requested anonymity and / or confidentiality, their views have been taken into account in the analysis but quotations have not been taken from their responses. Quotations have been included where they illustrate a point of view clearly and have been selected across the range of respondent sub-groups.