Supporting disabled children, young people and their families: guidance

Guidance to help improve the experiences of disabled children, young people, and their families.

Safety and justice

In this section you can find out…

Everyone has the right to feel safe when going about our daily lives, however, we know that some children and young people with disabilities experience discrimination, bullying and even violence because of perceived differences.

I've been a victim or witness of a crime - what do I do?

If you are a witness or a victim of crime you wish to report you should call the police on 999 for emergencies or 101 for non-emergencies.

You may also wish to get in touch with Victim Support Scotland who can give practical and emotional support to victims and witnesses of crime. To get in touch you can call their help line 0345 603 9213 or visit their website.

More advice and support and advice is available through organisations such as:

Anyone who wants to pass on information about crime anonymously can do so by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or via the Crimestoppers website.  Crimestoppers is an independent charity that works with police forces across the UK, including Police Scotland.

Police Scotland has a clear public commitment to the support and protection of all children in Scotland

What is an appropriate adult?

An Appropriate Adult is someone who provides communication support to people during police interviews and other police procedures.

An Appropriate Adult can help you if you are aged 16 and over and need this type of assistance because of a “mental disorder”, which includes learning disabilities, autism, ADHD, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder,  and any other conditions which could make it difficult for you to understand what is happening with the police.

Appropriate Adults are independent to the police and it is their role to make sure that that you are being treated fairly and that you understand your rights. They are not lawyers so cannot give you legal advice or tell you how to answer any questions the police ask, but if they think that you are having difficulty understanding what the police are doing or saying they will let the police know.

If you or the police think that you need this kind of assistance – whether you a victim, witnesses or someone whom the police think may have committed a crime – the police should ask for an Appropriate Adult to come and support you throughout any contact the police have with you.

Police custody healthcare provision now involves partnership between The Scottish Police Authority and individual NHS Boards. Introduction of Custody Nurse Practitioners means that the care needs and safety of vulnerable young people can be recognised so that for example, appropriate support from social services or medical can be obtained. More on the Royal College of Nursing website.

Who Cares? Scotland provide independent advocacy for looked after children and young people.

What is the Victims Code?

The Victims Code was published in 2016, and clearly sets out the rights of victims in one place

This is available in Easy Read.

It includes information on your right to:

  • minimum standards of service – how you'll be treated by criminal justice organisations
  • information – how you'll be updated about your case and what you can ask about
  • participation – being understood, understanding what's happening and telling the court how a crime has affected you
  • protection – feeling safe and protected from intimidation
  • support – whether you report the crime to the police or not
  • compensation and expenses – such as travel expenses, loss of earnings or compensation if you were injured
  • complain – if you're not happy about how an organisation has treated you
More about your rights can be found at the Rights Awareness section of this site. 

What if I’m worried about bullying?

Respectme is Scotland’s anti-bullying service. Call them on 0844 800 8600.

Bullying of any kind including bullying based on any type of disability is unacceptable and must be addressed quickly, whenever it happens.

Respectme have a helpful resource for parents and carers about bullying, as well as a webpage specifically for children and young people. They work with everyone who has a role in the lives of children and young people to give them the practical skills and confidence to deal with bullying behaviour, wherever it happens.

What is Hate Crime and how do I report it?

Hate Crime is wrong. It is against the law and everyone has the right to live their lives free from hate or harassment and without fear.

Hate crime is any crime that is motivated by malice and ill-will towards someone or a group because of a characteristic (Race / Religion / Disability / Sexual Orientation and Transgender Identity). Whether this is true or not doesn’t matter. You don't have to be physically hurt  to be a victim of hate crime - hate crime could be abusive comments made, your belongings stolen or your property vandalised.

Sometimes victims or witnesses of Hate Crime don't want to speak directly to the Police and might be more comfortable reporting it to someone they are familiar with. This is known as Third Party Reporting.

There are Third Party Reporting Centres throughout the country and they are just one of a number of ways to report a hate crime.

You can report a Hate Crime as follows:

General information and support for young people can be found the Police Scotland website

Visit HateCrimeScotland for more information.

How are we tackling Hate Crime?

Keep Safe is a national partnership with I Am Me Scotland and Police Scotland to create a network of Keep Safe places where anyone feeling lost, scared, vulnerable or has been victim of crime can seek assistance. The Keep Safe network are volunteer premises (businesses and community buildings) who receive training to recognise hate crime and know how to report incidents safely.

What do I do if I have a Child Protection Concern?

All children have the right to be cared for and protected from harm, and to grow up in a safe environment in which their rights and needs are respected. 

If you're worried about a child’s safety and wellbeing, in the first instance we would encourage you to contact the child’s local authority and report your concerns. As you may be aware, Child Protection Services are provided by each local authority. The contact details for the relevant local authority can be found online at Care Information Scotland: Find my Council

If you are concerned that a child is at risk of immediate harm or neglect, contact the police by dialing 101 in the first instance or if it's an emergency, call 999. You don’t need to be sure that a child or young person has been abused - it’s OK to report a suspicion.

If you need support and advice, the NSPCC helpline 0808 800 5000 will be able to provide information on reporting concerns about a child at risk of harm and provide advice on child protection. The NSPCC website has more.

Children 1st have a confidential helpline Parentline - 08000 28 22 33.

What are Children’s Hearings?

A Children’s Hearing is a meeting that considers concerns about a child and decides whether a legal order should be made that will put additional supports or arrangements in place to help the child.

Children and young people might need a hearing because some aspect of their life is causing concern. This could be for a variety of reasons, including not attending school or committing offences, but it is generally because there are significant concerns about the child’s safety, health and welfare. They are referred to the Children’s Reporter, who decides whether they need to have a hearing. Children can be referred to a children’s hearing up until the age of 16 (and in certain cases, up until the age of 18).

Children's Hearings during COVID-19

        Read the guidance on coronavirus – attending Children’s Hearings produced by the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration (SCRA).

 How are we making Children’s Hearings more accessible?

SCRA are working to make sure the information they provide is accessible. They are currently trialling Easy Read letters for those who need it. To receive this service from SCRA, you can ask them directly or your social worker can contact them for you. Similarly, their website has an accessibility tool, which allows content to be translated or read aloud. It also has resources which are available in a range of formats, such as Easy Read or for children, young people or parents and carers with a learning disability.

The Scottish Government is also developing a national advocacy service for children attending a Children’s Hearing, which will be a further source of support.

 A number of different agencies work together within the Children’s Hearings System to give care, protection and support services to the children and young people involved. The Scottish Child Law Centre and Community Law Advice Network provide free legal advice and information.

What about children or young people involved in offending behaviour?

Many children and young people who are involved in offending are supported by the use of “Early and Effective Intervention”. This means that the child is offered support which take into account their particular circumstances and are designed to reduce and stop their involvement in offending behaviour.

If it is not possible to prevent them from entering the criminal justice system by utilising Early and Effective Intervention (EEI) or diversion opportunities, children may be referred to a Children’s Hearing on offence grounds. However, it is not the role of a Hearing to impose a punishment in respect of an offence committed by a child. The Children’s Hearing system exists to protect vulnerable children and young people in Scotland. If a child has committed an offence the Hearing will look at the individual child’s risks and needs and identify how these needs, including preventing further offending behaviour.

If the offence is sufficiently serious and the child is over the age of 12, then they may be proceeded against in court.

It is crucial that children and young people are supported so they are aware of their rights and understand the complex legal processes. There are a number of resources to help them with this:

Youth and Criminal Justice in Scotland: the young person’s journey is an online resource that guides young people, their families and professionals through each stage in the youth and criminal justice process for under 18s in Scotland.

Journey through Justice is an interactive guide that will help children and young people understand the journey through the justice system, following being charged with an offence by the police.

If you are under 16 and have been accused of committing a crime you can usually have a parent, guardian or other responsible adult to support you during police procedures, including interviews. You will also be entitled to have a solicitor with you during a police interview. If the police decide that they need to speak to you at the police station then they must let the relevant adult know about this to make sure you can get this support at the police station.

What about speech, language and communication needs?

Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) are extremely common in young people involved in offending. It can mean they are not able to communicate clearly with police, children’s hearings and justice staff. They may also struggle to understand the information they are given or what kind of help and support they can get.  

If any child or young person needs help or advice from the police they can contact them by calling the police non-emergency number 101.  Deaf, deafened, hard of hearing or speech-impaired callers can contact Police Scotland via TextRelay on 1 800 1 101, in a non-emergency situation. 

In any emergency situation - such as where there is a risk of personal injury or loss of life, crime is in progress or someone suspected of a crime is nearby – callers should always dial 999. Deaf, deafened, hard of hearing or speech-impaired callers using a Textphone (minicom) should dial 18000 in an emergency.

The NGT service lets deaf, hard of hearing, or speech-impaired people in the UK alert police, ambulance, fire, or coastguard services by either calling via a relay assistant or texting a message to 999 using our emergencySMS service.

Contact Scotland BSL is Scotland’s British Sign Language Interpreting Video Relay Service (VRS) enabling contact with all of Scotland’s public bodies and third sector organisations 

More information

We updated our anti-bullying guidance: ‘Respect for All: The National Approach to Anti-bullying for Scotland’s Children and Young People

The Whole System Approach (WSA) highlights the importance of supporting children and young people on a multi-agency basis, to provide streamlined and consistent planning, assessment and decision making processes and supports, to ensure they receive the right help at the right time.

Our Youth Justice Strategy includes an action to improve awareness and support of SLCN of children involved in offending.

The Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice has also developed guidance for practitioners and managers who work with children and young people who offend or are at risk of offending. This includes a chapter on Speech Language and Communication Needs in Youth Justice.

Building Safer Communities (BSC) is one of the key areas that contributes to achieving the vision of a safe, just and resilient Scotland, where people live in communities that feel safe and are safe, allowing individuals, families and businesses to thrive.

The Children’s Reporter is supported by an organisation known as ‘The Scottish Children’s Reporters Administration (SCRA)’.

The 2016 Better Hearings Report outlined a number of ways in which Children’s Hearings could be improved

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