Role of the safeguarder in the children's hearing system: executive summary

Summary of the research that examines the role of the safeguarder in the children’s hearings system from the perspectives of six key stakeholder groups.


This research was commissioned by the Scottish Government in September 2016 to examine the role of the safeguarder in the children's hearings system from the perspectives of six key stakeholder groups: safeguarders, sheriffs, panel members, reporters, social workers and solicitors who represent children and parents / carers. Its aims were:

1. "to identify and quantify the added value that safeguarders bring to decisions relating to children and young people in children's hearings proceedings from the perspective of practitioners and professionals (including safeguarders themselves)"; and

2. "to inform future development and support requirements for the role of safeguarder within the children's hearings system through delivering an understanding of how the role of a safeguarder is perceived in practice and how the role impacts on decision-making, both positively and negatively".

The specific research questions were:

  • to explore how the current system of safeguarding operates, and is managed, from all agency perspectives;
  • to elicit safeguarder and other agency perspectives of the role and effectiveness of safeguarders and how that role interacts/overlaps with other key roles in the children's hearings system;
  • to identify the skills and qualifications deemed essential to the effectiveness of the safeguarder role; and
  • to identify the type and extent of management, support and training needs currently in place and potentially required to ensure the future effectiveness of the safeguarder role and safeguarder panel.

The rationale for the research was to gather evidence to inform the future development of the role of the safeguarder and its place within the overall hearings system by identifying the added value of the role in promoting better decisions, and outcomes, for children.

In 2013, under the auspices of the Children's Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 ('the 2011 Act') responsibility for safeguarder recruitment, appointment and administration was transferred from local authorities to the Scottish Ministers and a national voluntary organisation, Children 1 st, was contracted to set up and administer a national Safeguarders Panel. In September 2016, the Scottish Government commissioned the University of Strathclyde to undertake this study.

There have been two such previous studies: The Role of the Safeguarder in Scotland (Hill et al, 2000) and Safeguarders Research (Gadda et al, 2015). As in the 2000 study, the current research team was able to conduct interviews with sheriffs and to include them in the data collected through a questionnaire, thereby offering some further information on the safeguarder role in court proceedings. This current project has also been able to consider some aspects of the framework put in place by Children 1 st to promote consistency and quality in performance of the role. Other than those two previous research reports, there is little academic discussion of the role. The Scottish Government has also published Practice Notes on the Role of the Safeguarder (Scottish Government, 2016) which is a comprehensive statement, for safeguarders themselves, of the work which they should undertake and a statement on the Practice Standards for Safeguarders (Scottish Government, 2015).


Back to top