Publication - Advice and guidance

Children's hearings training resource manual: volume 1

Published: 26 Apr 2013

Volume 1 contains the Children's Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 and new rules regarding legislation and procedures.

515 page PDF

2.9 MB

515 page PDF

2.9 MB

Contents
Children's hearings training resource manual: volume 1
2 Disposals available to Hearings

515 page PDF

2.9 MB

2 Disposals available to Hearings

The Children's Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 promotes the one order principle. i.e. that there should only be one order made in respect of any child referred to a children's hearing at any given time.

COMPULSORY SUPERVISION ORDER ( CSO)

A children's hearing can make a compulsory supervision order ( CSO) if the hearing considers that it is necessary for the protection, guidance, treatment or control of the child.

A CSO is a legal document which means that the implementation authority must be involved in the child's life and are responsible for ensuring that the child is supported. In reaching a decision that a compulsory supervision order is required for the child, the hearing should focus on what that actually means in practice and what it is intended to achieve. This will also assist panel members when writing their written reasons.

There should be a care plan in the report which deals with the immediate needs of the child as well as that of the longer term needs of the child. The plan should outline the aims of supervision, why this is the best course of action, what the intervention will achieve and what will be expected of the child and family. The hearing must be satisfied that making the order will be more beneficial for the child than not making the order.

A compulsory supervision order

  • Must be necessary for the protection, guidance, treatment or control of the child.
  • Must specify one or more measures noted below. (s 83(3))
  • Must specify within its terms the local authority who is to be the implementation authority.
  • Lasts for a maximum of one year.

Every CSO will as a minimum contain a standard measure that the local authority supervises the child and that the child accepts that supervision.

Relevant period

When making a compulsory supervision order the children's hearing should name the period of time that the order has effect. This provision allows panel members the opportunity to set a date in terms of the duration of the compulsory supervision order. Given the practicalities for professionals of managing differing expiry dates on compulsory supervision orders, panel members should consider specifying a year and calling for an early review if the they wish to have the child returned to a children's hearing. (s 86(1)(c))

Further Measures attached to a compulsory supervision order

Panel members can make their intentions for supervision more specific by adding further specific measures to a compulsory supervision order, an interim compulsory supervision order or an interim variation of a compulsory supervision order.

The measures are as follows:

  • A requirement that the child reside in a specific place.
  • A direction to restrict the child's liberty whilst residing in a specific place.
  • A prohibition on the disclosure of the address of the child where the child is required to reside in a specified place.
  • A movement restriction condition.
  • A secure accommodation authorisation.
  • A requirement for specified medical or other examination for the child- only with the child's consent.
  • A requirement for specified medical or other treatment for the child-only with the child's consent.
  • A direction regulating contact between the child and a specified person or class of persons.
  • A requirement that the child comply with any other condition.
  • A requirement that the local authority carry out specified duties in relation to the child. (s 83(2))

The reasons for any measure attached to an order must be included in the reasons for decision as this may be appealed against this element alone.

No compulsory supervision order should last longer than it is necessary to safeguard or promote the welfare of the child and a children's hearing cannot make a decision about a compulsory supervision order unless there is a report on the child's circumstances.

CONTINUATION, VARIATION OR TERMINATION OF A COMPULSORY SUPERVISION ORDER

When reviewing the situation of a child who is subject to a compulsory supervision order the children's hearing must consider whether the child continues to be in need of a compulsory supervision order, and if so they may:

  • continue the compulsory supervision order
  • continue and vary the compulsory supervision order
  • vary the compulsory supervision order.

If they do not consider that the child is in need of a compulsory supervision order they may:

  • terminate the compulsory supervision order.

Continue the compulsory supervision order

  • If the children's hearing considers that the child continues to be in need of the same form of compulsory supervision, the hearing may continue the order which will last for one year from the date of the continuation. This order has effect for one year although a hearing could specify a different relevant period.

Continue and vary the compulsory supervision order

  • If the children's hearing considers that the child continues to be in need of a compulsory supervision order but there is a change to be made to the order or one of its measures i.e. change of address, the hearing may make a variation to its terms. This order has effect for one year although a hearing could specify a different relevant period.

Vary the compulsory supervision order

  • This provision allows an element of the compulsory supervision order to be varied. If the CSO is simply varied the expiry date remains the same as it was before the review and there is no extension of this date.

Terminate the compulsory supervision order

  • If a children's hearing considers that a compulsory supervision order is no longer necessary for the child, they may terminate the compulsory supervision order. It is important for panel members to be mindful of the Whole System Approach which promotes vulnerable children remaining on compulsory supervision for an appropriate time after they have reached 16 and potentially up until their eighteenth birthday to ensure that they make as successful transition into adult society as is possible.
  • If the compulsory supervision order is terminated the panel members have to consider whether the child needs supervision or guidance. If the hearing does decide that the child does need supervision or guidance, it is the duty of the local authority to give such guidance and supervision as the child will accept despite the fact that the compulsory supervision order has been terminated.

DEFERRAL OF DECISION

If the children's hearing considers it appropriate to do so, they may defer making a decision on whether to make a compulsory supervision order to a subsequent children's hearing. (s 138)

Deferring making a decision usually means that the hearing has decided to postpone making a decision until a future date to allow something to happen in the interim. However the children's hearing may defer making a decision and continue the compulsory supervision order until the subsequent children's hearing. (s 139(2))

Additionally if the children's hearing considers that the nature of the child's circumstances is such that for their protection, guidance, treatment or control it is necessary as a matter of urgency, the hearing may defer making a decision and at the same time make an interim variation of the compulsory supervision order. (s 139(3))

If a children's hearing excuses either the child or any relevant person and defers the decision of the hearing, that excusal lasts until a dispositive decision is made. (s 138(8/9))

There may be various reasons why a hearing might be deferred including:

To seek further information

If after discussion it is considered that there is not enough information to make a decision, the hearing may be deferred to allow this information to be made available. It could be that the hearing has decided that it requires a further report possibly of a specialist nature or it may be that they wish the child to be accommodated and there are no identified foster carers.

For appointment of a safeguarder

The hearing may be deferred and a safeguarder appointed. The safeguarder's role is to safeguard the interests of the child during the term of the appointment. A safeguarder may be appointed when a hearing is not clear from the available information what course of action would be in the child's best interests and guidance on this matter is requested. A children's hearing:

  • Must consider whether to appoint a person to safeguard the interests of the child.
  • May appoint a safeguarder at any time when the children's hearing is still deciding matters in relation to the child.
  • Must record any appointment made.
  • Must give reasons for its decision to appoint a safeguarder so that the safeguarder has a clear remit on the matters which require investigation.

For the arrangement of legal assistance

Refer to section 12 for more discussion on legal assistance.

To allow someone to attend the hearing

If the child or any relevant person notified to attend the hearing does not appear on the stated date, the hearing may defer making a decision to allow them to attend. The hearing might also be deferred to allow the attendance of someone whose participation will be crucial to the decision, for example, the appointed safeguarder or any person whose input may be instrumental to the decision making process, for example, the allocated social worker or a guidance teacher.

To send the case for proof

Although not a deferral in the technical sense, because there is no guarantee that the sheriff will find a section 67 ground established: if it has been decided to send the statement of grounds to proof, the hearing cannot make a substantive decision at this stage. The only options open to a children's hearing will be to make an interim decision pending the outcome of the application to court.

The application to court must be heard by the sheriff within 28 days after submission but this does not mean that the case will be concluded within this timescale. If the sheriff finds a section 67 ground established, he will remit the case to a children's hearing for a children's hearing to make a decision about whether a compulsory supervision order is required. If he does not find a section 67 ground established, he will discharge the referral and the case will not return to a children's hearing in relation to these grounds.

To seek advice from the National Convener

On occasion, a hearing may decide to seek advice from the National Convener about any matter arising out of the functions of a children's hearing and this may include:

  • Legal advice.
  • Advice about procedural matters.
  • Advice about the consequences of a decision.
  • Advice about how decisions of hearings are implemented. (s 8)

In these situations, the hearing must defer making a decision until the advice has been received. It is expected that panel members will use this option as a last resort and should in the first instance have considered and exhausted all sources of information. The National Convener must provide written advice if requested in writing to do so within 14 days of the request.

DEFERRING A DECISION AND AN INTERIM COMPULSORY SUPERVISION ORDER ( ICSO)

If a decision is deferred and the child is not subject to a compulsory supervision order, the hearing may make or continue an ICSO if they are satisfied having considered the child's case that it is necessary as a matter of urgency for the protection, guidance, treatment or control of the child. (s 120)

Some things to remember about ICSOs are:

  • The same measures which apply to a compulsory supervision order can also be applied to an interim compulsory supervision order and again at least one measure must be attached.
  • The implementation authority must be specified.
  • The child can remain at home and be subject to an interim compulsory supervision order.
  • The child may be required to reside in a specified place or in a place of safety.

The ICSO can until the earliest of the following:

  • Until the next children's hearing.
  • The disposal of the proof application.
  • The date specified in the order.
  • 22 days (s 86)

A hearing can issue a further ICSO for a maximum of 66 days prior to a proof hearing in court. (s 96(4))

On application by the Principal Reporter, a sheriff may make further extensions to the order if satisfied that it is necessary to do so and that the nature of the child's circumstances is such that an extension is needed for the protection, guidance, treatment and control of the child. (s 98-99)

DEFERRING A DECISION AND AN INTERIM VARIATION OF A COMPULSORY SUPERVISION ORDER

If a child is subject to a compulsory supervision order and as a matter of urgency, there needs to be a change to the terms of that order, the hearing may make an interim variation of the compulsory supervision order ( IVCSO) if it is necessary, as a matter of urgency, for the protection, guidance, control or treatment of the child. An interim variation may order that the child resides in a place of safety away from the place where the child predominantly resides and may include secure accommodation authorisation.

Some things to remember about IVCSOs are:

  • The same measures which apply to a compulsory supervision order can also be applied to an interim variation of a compulsory supervision order and again at least one measure should be attached.
  • The implementation authority must be specified and the relevant period.
  • The child can remain at home and be subject to an interim variation of their compulsory supervision order.
  • The child may be required to reside in a specified place or in a place of safety.

The interim variation of a compulsory supervision order lasts until the earliest of the following:

  • Until the next children's hearing.
  • The disposal of the proof application.
  • The date specified in the order.
  • 22 days.

The interim variation can last for up to 22 days but there can be further interim variations. (s 140)

DISCHARGE THE REFERRAL

If after careful consideration of an accepted or established s 67 ground, the hearing considers that the child is not in need of a compulsory supervision order, the referral may be discharged. Panel members may feel that they would want to suggest to the family the possibility of working with the local authority on a voluntary basis. There is however, no obligation on the child and family to accept this advice. If the case is discharged, the child cannot be re-referred to a children's hearing on the basis of this information on its own.

MEDICAL EXAMINATION ORDER

When either at least one ground has been accepted at a children's hearing or established in court and the hearing considers it necessary to do so, they may make a medical examination order in relation to the child for the purpose of obtaining further information or carrying out any further investigation. (s 92)

A children's hearing may only make the order if they consider that it is better for the child that the order is in force than not. (s 28)

Where the child has capacity or sufficient understanding to consent under the Age of Legal Capacity (Scotland) Act 1991- a child of 12 years and over, the medical examination order involving surgical, medical (including psychological)or dental procedure or treatment may only be carried out if the child consents to this procedure or treatment. (s 186)

A qualified medical practitioner would need to be satisfied that there is an understanding on the part of the child of the nature and possible consequences of the treatment.

A medical examination order in relation to a child means an order for a relevant period authorising any of the following measures;

  • A requirement that the child attend or reside at a clinic, hospital or other establishment.
  • A requirement that a local authority arrange a specified medical examination of the child but only with that child's consent.
  • A prohibition on the disclosure (direct or indirect) of the clinic, hospital or establishment.
  • A secure accommodation authorisation - if the child meets at least one of the secure and MRC criteria.
  • A direction regulating contact between the child and any person or class of persons.
  • Any other condition which the children's hearing feels is appropriate for ensuring that the child complies with the order. (s 87)

This option is only available as a disposal to a children's hearing in extremely limited circumstances. i.e. after a section 67 ground has been accepted or established and not at any other subsequent review.

The maximum duration of the individual order is 22 days.

MOVEMENT RESTRICTION CONDITION ( MRC)

Where a children's hearing are making, varying, continuing or continuing and varying a compulsory supervision order and they consider that the child meets at least one of the following secure and MRC criteria applies, the hearing must first consider all other options available to them before making a secure authorisation. (s 83)

Secure and MRC Criteria

The secure and MRC criteria are as follows:

  • That the child has previously absconded and is likely to abscond again and, if the child were to abscond, it is likely that the child's physical, mental or moral welfare would be at risk. or
  • That the child is likely to engage in self harming conduct .or
  • That the child is likely to cause injury to another person. (s 83(6))

One of the options open to the hearing is to make a movement restriction condition which restricts the movements of the child in a way specified in the movement restriction condition and requires the child to comply with the arrangements made for monitoring compliance of the restriction. (s 84)

An MRC restricts the movement of the young person and can specify that he/she

  • Remain at a certain address between certain hours (not more than 12 hours in 24 hours).

and/or

  • Prohibit that young person from entering a certain area or address.

When a movement restriction condition is made, the hearing must set a review. (s 125)

WARRANT TO SECURE ATTENDANCE OF THE CHILD

The reporter can make an application to a children's hearing for a warrant to secure the attendance of the child at a children's hearing. The hearing does not have the power to make a warrant on their own initiative therefore if the children's hearing feels that such a warrant may be necessary to secure the child's attendance, they may ask the reporter to consider making an application for a warrant at that hearing. However, the reporter is not obliged to do so. The powers of this warrant are quite wide ranging and include authorisation for an officer of the law to:

  • Search for and apprehend the child.
  • To take the child and keep them in a place of safety.
  • To bring the child before a children's hearing.

The officer is also empowered to break open shut and lockfast places in order to execute the warrant. The warrant may also include a secure authorisation if the child meets one or more of the secure and MRC criteria which are (s 88)

  • That the child has previously absconded and is likely to abscond again and, if the child were to abscond, it is likely that the child's physical, mental or moral welfare would be at risk. or
  • That the child is likely to engage in self harming conduct. or
  • That the child is likely to cause injury to another person. (s 83(6))

COMPULSORY SUPERVISION ORDER- A CHILD'S PLACE OF RESIDENCE

Child's place of residence

A compulsory supervision order may specify where the child should live. This could be with both parents in the family home, one parent rather than the other, with any person who holds parental responsibilities and rights in relation to the child, with a kinship carer (a person who is related to the child or who is known the child and has a pre-existing relationship with the child), with an approved foster carer, with a carer deemed by the local authority to be suitable on an emergency basis only (for a time limited period) or in a residential establishment such as a children's home, a residential school or in certain circumstances, secure accommodation.

Panel members must not make a compulsory supervision order specifying residence with persons other than relevant persons unless they have received from the local authority or fostering agency information that:

(a) the place where the child is to reside and the persons who are to look after the child are suitable to meet the needs of the child; and

(b) the necessary checks have been carried out in compliance with the Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009.

It will obviously be essential to seek the views of the child and family about any proposed placement away from home and to make sure that the plans are explained to them in as much detail as possible. It is important for panel members to remember that the child and or the family may want to propose as an alternative potential carer, a member of the extended family or a close friend. In these circumstances the local authority would have to carry out an assessment of the suitability of the placement before a decision is made. In particular the question of contact will become crucial when a child is to be removed from his birth parents or extended family.

Kinship carer

The local authority may approve a person who, is related to the child or a person who is known to the child and who the child has a relationship with the child, as a suitable carer for the child. In these circumstances, this person will be called a 'kinship carer'. Any kinship carers must enter into a written agreement with the local authority regarding their obligations to the child and the local authority must be satisfied that the placement is in the best interests of the child following a full assessment in compliance with the Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009

Foster care

Under the Looked After Children's (Scotland) Regulations 2009, a child may only be placed with a foster carer who has been approved by the fostering panel of the relevant local authority. The local authority must be satisfied that the placement is in the best interests of the child and that the placement with the prospective approved foster carers is in the best interests of the child. The local authority, before recommending any placement must have fully considered the possibility of placing the child with parents or kinship carers.

In terms of the assessment of either a foster kinship carer, foster carer, the local authority must have obtained a range of information about the carers including

  • age, marital status, health and personality
  • particulars of the carers house and other members of the household (adults and children)
  • religious persuasion, racial origin, cultural and linguistic background
  • employment, standard of living and leisure activities and interests
  • previous experience of caring for children
  • any past criminal convictions
  • the outcome of any previous applications to foster a child
  • references from third parties as to their character.

In recommending the placement of a child with a particular foster carer, the local authority must satisfy panel members that the checks have been made and that this placement is in the child's best interests in writing and within the legal timescales.

Emergency foster placements

In emergency circumstances, the best solution for a child may be a temporary placement in the home of a close relative, a member of extended family or close family friend who has not been approved under the regulations. In this situation, if the carer appears to be the most suitable way of meeting the child's needs, a temporary placement may be made once the social work department have interviewed the prospective carer and made an assessment of the home situation. The carer must give written agreement to carry out specific duties in relation to the care of the child. If the placement is deemed to be appropriate and to continue in the longer term, a full assessment would need to be completed as noted above.

Secure accommodation

A children's hearing may only make a secure accommodation authorisation if they have first considered all other alternatives including a movement restriction condition. Where a children's hearing is satisfied that the child meets the conditions set down for secure accommodation and as such the decision is necessary to include an authorisation in the order the children's hearing can either:

  • Issue an interim compulsory supervision order.
  • Make a compulsory supervision order with a condition of secure accommodation naming the unit.

A compulsory supervision order may include a secure accommodation authorisation only if

  • the hearing are satisfied that it would be better for the child if the order or warrant were in place than not (s 28(2))
  • the hearing have considered other options including a movement restriction condition and are satisfied that it is necessary to include the authorisation in the order.

The secure residential establishment must provide both secure accommodation and accommodation which is not secure whether or not this is in the same building and both would need to be specified in the order.

As detention in secure accommodation is a restriction of liberty, the child must meet one or more of the conditions set out below:

  • That the child has previously absconded and is likely to abscond again and, if the child were to abscond, it is likely that the child's physical, mental or moral welfare would be at risk. or
  • That the child is likely to engage in self harming conduct. or
  • That the child is likely to cause injury to another person. (s 83(6))

Where a compulsory supervision order is made with secure authorisation, the reporter is under an obligation to initiate a review within a three month period beginning the date that the compulsory order was made. (s 135)

When an order or warrant is made containing secure accommodation authorisation, the chief social work officer may only implement the authorisation with the consent of the person who is in charge of the residential establishment containing the secure accommodation. (s 151(4))

Because a secure accommodation authorisation deprives a child of their liberty, there is a legal duty on the chief social work officer to remove the child from secure accommodation if he/she considers it unnecessary for the child to be kept there and if a child is removed from secure accommodation, the authorisation ceases to have effect. (s 151(4/5))

Appeal against secure authorisation

A child, any relevant person or safeguarder can appeal against the decision:

  • to implement the secure authorisation
  • not implement the secure authorisation
  • to remove the child from secure accommodation .

in addition to the hearing decision to make the secure authorisation.

The chief social work officer can place a child in secure accommodation if the child is subject to an order or warrant which does not contain secure accommodation authorisation in certain specific circumstances. (s 152)

Medical examination or treatment

If a hearing believes that some particular medical examination or treatment is necessary for the child but for some reason the child is being prevented from receiving it, a requirement can be attached to the order. However the Age of Legal Capacity (Scotland) Act 1991 gives children under the age of sixteen legal capacity to consent (or refuse) any surgical, medical or dental treatment or procedure provided that they are mature enough to understand the nature and consequences of that procedure. A child therefore cannot be compelled to undergo treatment even when it is a requirement in an order.

Prohibition on the disclosure of the child's address

A hearing may prohibit the child's address being disclosed to any person or class of persons. The hearing should be aware that this provision should only be used if there is a real or potential threat to the child's safety. For example, if there is evidence that a person has threatened to remove the child from a placement or has threatened to abduct the child, there would be a real risk to the safety of that child and a justifiable reason to prohibit disclosure of the address. It would not be an appropriate use of this provision to prohibit the disclosure of the child's address because this may suit the person offering care to the child. The presumption should be that a relevant person should have information about the child's address. If the hearing has decided to withhold this information, they will have to fully justify this when delivering their verbal reasons and record these factors when compiling the written reasons.

Contact

When a children's hearing is making, continuing or varying a compulsory supervision order or any interim order, it must always consider whether a direction regulating contact between the child and another person is required.

There are numerous references to the issue of contact between a child and their parent.

Article 9(3) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child ( UNCRC) sets out the child's right to personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis. The maintenance of regular contact is expressed in Part 1 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 as both a parental right and a parental responsibility. The presumption is that contact between child and parents is a basic right which should be promoted and protected unless the child's welfare dictates otherwise. Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights ( ECHR) relates to private and family life and this must also be taken into account when decision are made on whether contact should be restricted.

Where a child is removed from their home, in the majority of cases, the long term aim will be to return the child to the family and it will be crucial for the child and family to maintain contact.

When a child cannot return home, in most circumstances, some form of contact may be in the child's best interests whether this is direct contact or indirect contact.

Panel members must also be alert to any potential difficulties which may arise in contact taking place and they need to ensure that any contact direction that they make is, in fact, achievable. For example, placing the child away from home and at a great distance will make any direct contact difficult to achieve. The hearing would have to satisfy themselves that all necessary arrangements were available to the child and family so that they could exercise what is stipulated in the contact direction. Panel members should not take into account resources available to the implementation authority when making their decision.

Duty of local authority to promote contact

s 17 of 1995 Act

Where a child is being looked after by a local authority, they have a duty to take steps to promote regular contact between the child and any relevant person provided this is consistent with the child's welfare. Duties in relation to contact remain an important part of the implementing authority's duty to give effect to the compulsory supervision order and its measures.

Arrangements for contact

When considering the case of a child, a children's hearing has a duty to consider whether to include within the order, a contact direction which specifies the contact the child should have with his or her parents or any other person. The presumption should always be that every child should have contact with their parent (reasonable contact is implicit in every compulsory supervision order). If there is some reason for contact being restricted or not happening, the hearing must give very clear and robust reasons for this decision both in their verbal reasons and their supporting written reasons. A compulsory supervision order or any measure attached to it may be appealed by the child and any relevant person.

A contact direction may:

  • Limit contact between the child and any named person.
  • Terminate contact between the child and any named individual.
  • Introduce contact between the child and any named person.
  • Specify the type of contact i.e. direct or indirect contact.
  • Specify how often contact should take place.
  • Specify the length of contact.
  • Specify whether direct contact is supervised, supported or unsupervised.
  • Specify where the contact should take place.

If a hearing considers it necessary that contact needs to be regulated, they may specify the arrangement. It will be important for panel members to make specification only where it is needed. If a contact direction is very specific this may in fact become unworkable and be counterproductive.

Consider the following contact directions:

1. The child must have contact with Ms Smith, the child's mother, every Thursday between 4.30pm and 6.30pm at the Family Centre at Anytown and be supervised by the social work department.

2. The child must have contact with Ms Smith, the child's mother, on one occasion per week for a two hour period. The contact may be either supervised or supported by a person deemed suitable by the social work department.

The first contact direction is so specific in its terms that it may become unmanageable. The second contact direction offers the flexibility to promote the contact actually taking place.

There will be some cases where the child has suffered significant child abuse perhaps over a number of years and where the hearing's main responsibility will be the absolute protection of the child. As previously stated, the presumption is that contact should take place and if a hearing wishes to severely restrict or terminate contact between the child and a named individual, they must evidence why this course of action is necessary. A children's hearing must be satisfied that contact is not in the child's best interests and is having a negative impact on the child. It will be important to consider all the reports and information available, supplemented by the discussion and views of the child and family within the hearing.

Discussion of contact at the hearing

Panel members must make sure that the question of contact is fully discussed and all options are explored at the hearing. The professionals should be asked to explain any recommendations made about contact and what they would actually mean in practice. The child and their family must be included in discussing the situation and offering their views about any options which are being tabled. The hearing should fully explore the expectations about contact and what the arrangements are likely to be and should not leave the contact arrangements to the discretion of the social work department. A summary of what has been agreed (even if there is no specific contact direction contained within the order) should be noted and recorded in the reasons so that any failure to meet the expectations can be taken up by the next hearing.

Decisions about contact are often very difficult. There needs to be a balance between the importance of maintaining relationships between the child and the family against potential risk to the child's welfare. The best interests of the child, on occasion, may override the wishes and rights of parents. Hearings focussing on the removal of children from home can be fraught. Panel members need to guard against the high level of emotions exhibited by parties when dealing with the issue of contact. It is the panel member's role to reach a decision in the child's best interests and often this will not be the same as what is wanted by the parents. Once the decision has been made, it needs to be explained clearly so the family leave the hearing understanding what is going to happen even if they are not happy with the arrangements. The chairing member will also explain the right of appeal against the decision and the direction regulating contact if one has been set in place and the right to request a review of the compulsory supervision order including any measures attached after three months.

Early review (s 125(3))

The children's hearing may require the reporter to arrange an early review of the compulsory supervision order. The Act is silent on when this provision should be used and it is a matter of discretion for the hearing. It may be helpful in situations such as where a particular timeframe has been set down for a specified piece of work to take place and a review of the compulsory supervision order is needed to make decisions as a result of this. In addition, it may be used when a particular event has taken place such as an application of parental rights and responsibilities is being heard or a parent being released from prison and further decisions may flow from this event. Panel members should guard against the over use of this provision and should not use this as a means of monitoring the case as this is the responsibility of the implementation authority. The implementation authority may ask for a review at any time and in addition the child and relevant person also have the ability to bring matters back to a children's hearing.

Attending a children's hearing is in itself intervention in the child's life and applying the principle of only intervening when necessary in the best interests of the child should help panel members decide when, and when not, to set an early review date.

Communicating the decision and the reasons

During the course of the hearing, options for decision should be fully explored and views sought as to their appropriateness. When panel members are ready to make a decision, the chairing member will ask the other members in turn to give his or her decision and the reasons for that decision. The chairing member will give his or her decision and reasons. The chairing member must then state the decision of the hearing (whether unanimous or by a majority) and the reasons, drawing on whatever has been said. To ensure that written reasons reflect those given verbally, it is helpful for the chairing member or one of the other panel members to note down the key points in the reasons as they are given (first explaining to the family what is being done and why).

It is essential that reasons are explained as clearly as possible: the child and the family may not agree with the decision, but at least they should be clear why it has been made. One of the most impressive features of children's hearings is that the decisions are made openly and communicated to the child and family at the hearing: panel members do not retire to consider their decision. This is part of the spirit of openness and participation which lies at the heart of the children's hearings system.

When the hearing has made their decision disposing of the case, the chairing member must inform the child and any relevant person, safeguarder and representative of:

  • the decision of the hearing
  • the reasons for the decision
  • the right of the child and any relevant person to appeal against the decision

and

  • where an appeal has been lodged against the decision, of the right to apply for the suspension of the hearing's decision pending the outcome of the appeal.

Duration and review of compulsory supervision order

As a matter of best practice, the chairing member should also inform the child, any relevant person and other parties about the duration of the compulsory supervision order, arrangements for review and the appeal rights.

The chairing member will advise the child and any relevant person in relation to the child:

  • That the compulsory supervision order cannot last longer than one year unless there is a review and the reporter must initiate a review of the compulsory supervision order within three months of the expiry of the order. (s 133)
  • That the implementation authority has a duty to ask for a review hearing if there is a change of circumstances and the compulsory supervision order ought to be terminated or varied. (s 131(2)(a))
  • That the implementation authority has a duty to ask for a review if there is a measure attached to the compulsory supervision order which is not being complied with. (s 131(2)(b))
  • That the child or any relevant person may request a review of the compulsory supervision order at any time after three months after it has been made or reviewed. (s 132)

The child and any relevant person should leave the hearing knowing:

  • What decision has been made.
  • Why it has been made.
  • What the decision will mean in practice- i.e. what is expected of them and what supports will be made available from the agencies involved.
  • What the compulsory supervision order aims to achieve.
  • When any party can ask for a review of the compulsory supervision order.
  • Appeal rights.

Written Reasons

As soon as is reasonably practicable after the decision has been made, the chairing member is required to make a report of the decision and a written statement of the decision and the reasons for it.

Any order, warrant or record required to be made in writing by a children's hearing or pre-hearing panel will be sufficiently authenticated if it is signed by the chairing member of the hearing or the pre-hearing panel. (Rule 98)

It is considered best practice:

  • to record any minority decision and the reasons for this
  • for the writing of the reasons to be undertaken by the chairing member with assistance and co operation from the other two panel members working as a team.

It is essential that the reasons are clear and robust reflecting the discussion which took place during the hearing. The written reasons must be substantially the same as those given to the family although they may be expanded where appropriate. All three panel members contribute to the writing of reasons which explain the decision of the hearing as a whole. The reasons will then be signed by the chairing member.

The reasons should indicate why a compulsory supervision order was considered to be necessary - and in what form the supervision will take. The reasons should also indicate any decision taken during the course of the hearing for example to exclude certain people and why this was necessary or if the hearing became violent or the hearing had to be adjourned.

The chairing member should advise the child and any relevant person that they will receive a copy of the written reasons in due course from the reporter usually within five days of the hearing.

Suspension of decision pending outcome of an appeal

At the end of the hearing, the chairing member must inform the child, any relevant person and any appointed safeguarder of their right of appeal and also, should they appeal, of their right to apply to the reporter to have a hearing to consider the suspension of the hearing's decision, where the decision relates to a compulsory supervision order, pending the outcome of the appeal. The reporter has a duty to arrange a children's hearing as soon as is reasonably practicable to consider this request. (s 158)

Notifications of decisions

The reporter is required as soon as reasonably practicable after the hearing but within five days of the children's hearing to send to the child, any relevant persons, any safeguarder, and the local authority a notice of the decision and the right to appeal. (Rule 88)

The reporter should also give notice of the decision to any person with whom the child is residing and where the information was given by a police officer, to the chief constable of the police area.

If a compulsory supervision order is made in respect of a child who is 16, or if a compulsory supervision order relating to a child of that age is terminated, the chief constable of the area in which the child lives must be informed.


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