Children's hearings training resource manual: volume 2

Volume 2 is a children's hearings handbook, focusing on the problems that some children face, the environment in which they live, their needs and their rights.

4 Responsibilities to Children and Their Families


Every local authority must protect and promote the welfare of children in need in its area. To do this it must work with children and their parents to provide support services that will enable children to be brought up within their own families, as far as this is possible.

Who are "children in need"

Children in need are defined in law as children who are aged under 18 and:

  • need local authority services to achieve or maintain a reasonable standard of health or development, or
  • need local authority services to prevent harm to their health or development, or
  • are disabled, or
  • are affected by the disability of another family member.

Children with disabilities or affected by disability

A child is considered to have a disability if s/he has a mental or physical disability or a chronic health problem.

A child may be affected by the disability of another family member if one of her/his parents has a disability or a brother or sister has a disability.

If a child has a disability, or is affected by the disability of another family member, the local authority must provide an assessment of the child, if the parents ask for one. The local authority must also provide an assessment of the child's carer and her/his ability to provide care for the child.

When a local authority provides services to a child with a disability or to a child who is affected by the disability of another family member, it should aim to help the child to live as normal a life as possible

Children Who Are Looked After By The Local Authority

There are a number of reasons why a child may be 'looked after' by the local authority. Most often it is because the child's parents or the people who have parental responsibilities and rights to look after the child are unable to care for him/her, have been neglecting him/her or the child has committed an offence. The local authority has specific responsibilities and duties towards a child who is being looked after or who has been looked after.

The child may be:

  • in local authority accommodation under a voluntary arrangement, where the child's parents agree to the child being accommodated or
  • in local authority accommodation or at home, on a compulsory supervision order decided by a children's hearing or a court.

Children's Hearings and Court Orders

A child can be subject to an order from a children's hearing and an order from the sheriff court at the same time.

Children's Hearing

A children's hearing is a formal meeting of three children's panel members normally from the local area, a children's reporter, and normally a social worker, who has visited the family and prepared a report. It is called to consider a child's case and whether or not the child is 'at risk' and requires to be supervised and/or protected. A children's hearing may be called after a child has been removed from home to a safe place in an emergency. The types of situations that may mean the children's reporter calls a hearing are when "a section 67 ground" of the Children's Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 applies.

A child can only be called to a children's hearing if s/he is under 16 or under 18 and already subject to an order from a children's hearing. In all cases if the child is old enough, s/he must be given the opportunity to put forward his/her view of the situation.

Legal assistance may be available for a child at a children's hearing when it is likely that the child will be placed away from home or if the case is unusually complex.

Legal assistance may also be available for a parent at a children's hearing where certain directions are part of a compulsory supervision order are likely to be made, for example, requiring that the child is to live in secure accommodation, and where the child or a relevant person is unlikely to be able to participate effectively.

When the hearing has discussed the details of the child's situation, it can either discharge the case or make an order called a 'compulsory supervision order'. In some cases, the CSO will have a direction attached to it that the child must live away from home, either with foster parents, in a children's home or at a special residence where the hearing believes the child will receive the right help or supervision.

A CSO lasts for one year unless the hearing decides it should be reviewed earlier than this. At any time three months after the order begins a relevant person or a child can ask for the children's hearing to review the compulsory supervision order. A social worker can ask for a review at any time.

Relevant persons or a child who is old enough, or the child's safeguarder can appeal against any decision made by a children's hearing. This must be done within 21 days of the decision being made and the appeal is made to the sheriff court. Legal assistance may be available for an appeal.

Court Orders

The sheriff court can make a number of orders for the protection and supervision of children. The main orders that can be made are:-

  • a child protection order - an application may be made by any person who is concerned for a child, or by the local authority. The order may state that the child should be removed to a safe place or that the child cannot be removed from the place where s/he is staying. A child protection order lasts for 8 days but must be reviewed within that period either by the court or a children's hearing.
  • a child assessment order - an application can only be made by the local authority. It lasts for a maximum of three days. It may not involve the child being away from home but will mean that the child has to be taken to a particular place to be assessed.
  • an exclusion order - can only be applied for by the local authority. It can last for six months and may mean that a person who is suspected of abusing a child has to leave or stay away from the child and his/her home.
  • a permanence order - can only be applied for by the local authority. It can last until a child reaches the age of 18. It transfers the parental right to have the child living with the parent and to control where the child lives to the local authority. Other parental responsibilities and rights can be shared between the local authority, the birth parents and the carers of the child, for example, foster carers or kinship carers.
  • a parenting order - can by applied for by the local authority or by the children's reporter. It can last for up to twelve months and requires the parent(s) to undertake guidance and counselling and other activities as directed by the court to improve their parenting skills. Breach of a parenting order is a criminal offence.

Rights When A Child Is Being Looked After

The Child's Rights

If a child is being looked after by the local authority they have a right to be consulted about what is happening to them. This does not mean that they will always get what they want, but that their views must be taken seriously.

Some local authorities may appoint children's officers who are responsible for helping children to understand what is happening to them. Voluntary organisations may also be able to provide advice or representation direct to children.

In formal legal procedures, such as children's hearings and courts, the child has the right to be represented independently.

Relevant Persons' Rights

The rights of the parent or relevant person of a child who is being looked after by the local authority will depend on how the child came to be looked after.

If the child is being accommodated by the local authority under voluntary measures, a parent will retain full parental rights.

If the child is subject to a compulsory supervision order or an order of the court, a parent will retain full parental rights, although these may be limited by the children's hearing or the court.

If the local authority has a permanence order for the child, the parents do not have the parental right to have the child living with them or to control where the child lives. The permanence order will set out whether they still have any other parental responsibilities or rights or whether these have been given to the local authority or the carer of the child, for example, a foster carer.

The Care Plan

Every child who is being looked after by the local authority must have a care plan. The child, the parents and the prospective carers (if the child will be living away from home) should be involved in producing the care plan.

The care plan should include information about:-

  • any services to be provided for the child, including any special arrangements to meet any religious, linguistic, racial or cultural needs and
  • care, education and health needs and
  • the local authority's responsibilities and
  • the child's responsibilities and
  • the parents' responsibilities and
  • details of where the child will be living, and who is responsible for the accommodation and
  • the contribution that the parents will make to the child's day-to-day care and
  • the arrangements for involving the parents in decision making and
  • the arrangements for contact between the child and their parents and
  • how long the arrangement is likely to last and details of how the arrangement will come to an end and
  • plans for how the child will be helped to return to their parents or other arrangements that may be made for you at the end of the placement.

The care plan should be clear and easy to understand and the local authority should ensure that everyone affected by it understands what it means. The child and their parents should be given copies of the plan.

Challenging decisions

If a parent or a child is unhappy with some aspect of the way in which they or their child is being looked after they should consult an experienced adviser for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau.

Where the child lives

If they are unhappy with any aspect of the accommodation provided for the child or as a parent, they should consult an experienced adviser for example, again at a Citizens Advice Bureau.


Staying with their parents

Although the child is being looked after by the local authority they might remain at home with their parents under a compulsory supervision order. The local authority has to visit regularly to ensure that the terms of the compulsory supervision order are being met.

Kinship care

When the child is being looked after by the local authority they may stay with close relatives or close friends until their parents are able to care for them. This is known as kinship care.

What is kinship care?

Kinship Care for a looked after child is defined under the Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009 as, " a person who is related to the child (through blood, marriage or civil partnership) or a person with whom the child has a pre-existing relationship"

How does kinship care come to the attention of children's hearings?

There is a broad spectrum of need and reason for referral. Some children will already be placed or living in informal kinship arrangements. Being Looked After in kinship care is not in itself a reason for referral to the reporter.

What forms of kinship care may come to the attention of the children's hearings?

Both formal and informal arrangements may be referred. Shared care is also a possibility.

What information might be expected by hearings in relation to kinship care?

The local authority assessment of kinship care may include information which they do not have a right or permission to share with parents in a hearing, and therefore when kinship reports are submitted to a hearing it is possible that some information has had to be withheld. However, panel members could reasonably expect a report which indicates how assessment of a proposed kinship placement has been progressed or is being progressed in line with the Looked after Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009.

If a hearing makes an order placing a child with a kinship carer, should the local authority approve the placement first?

Preferably, yes. Any placement that has gone on for longer than 12 weeks should have been assessed and approved by the local authority. The hearing can make the order naming place of residence with a kinship carer, but the local authority must still go on and ensure by assessment and approval processes that the placement can meet the child's needs.

When may kinship carers attend hearings?

The normal rules and discretion apply as regards recognition by the hearing of carers as Relevant Persons. There may be circumstances in which kinship carers who are not relatives may be invited/permitted to attend alongside parents.


Fostering means that the local authority arranges for the child to live with foster carers in their own home It enables the child to be cared for in a family environment. The fostering may be for a brief period, for example when their parents are temporarily unable to look after them because of illness in the family. The intention will be that the child returns to their parents as soon as possible. If it is not going to be possible for the child to return to their parents the child may remain with foster carers for a longer period.

Foster carers are recruited and selected by the social work authority. Relatives and friends of children can be used as foster carers but they will also have to be assessed and approved by the local authority.

Children's homes

Children's homes can either be administered by local authorities or by private or voluntary organisations such as Barnardo's. They are run by paid staff. In general, children placed in children's homes tend to be older. If the child is under 12 they will be placed wherever possible in foster homes.

Residential schools

The child might be placed in a residential school for a variety of reasons such as a problem of persistent truanting or difficult behaviour in school or criminal offences. These homes tend to be larger than children's homes and provide a more structured and disciplined environment, similar to that of a boarding school.


What Is Contact?

When the child is living away from home the local authority has a duty to promote contact between the child and their parents and other members of the family, so long as this is consistent with the child's welfare. Parents also have a responsibility to

Voluntary Arrangements

If the child is accommodated under voluntary arrangements, all the people involved should try to agree the terms of contact. The local authority cannot stop contact between the child and their parents. If the local authority is concerned that contact should be restricted or stopped it must refer the case to the children's hearing for consideration, or apply to court.

Compulsory Supervision Order

If the child is being looked after away from home under compulsory supervision order, arrangements for contact may have been made by the children's hearing or court. If arrangements for contact have not been made by the children's hearing or the court, the arrangements will have to be agreed with the local authority.

Disputes About Contact

Any arrangements for contact should only be changed, stopped, increased or restricted after they have been considered at a regular review meeting, unless the local authority considers that there is an emergency.

If, after a review, a local authority considers that arrangements for contact should be changed for whatever reason, it must refer the matter to the children's hearing or court for consideration.

If the child or their parents are unhappy with the decision of the children's hearing or court, they can appeal.

Practical Problems With Contact

Local authorities have a responsibility to encourage contact between the child and their parents. They have powers to help overcome difficulties with the practical arrangements, for example by making payments for travel expenses. A parent who needs practical help with keeping contact should ask her/his social worker for help.

Aftercare Services

Young people can leave care at 16 but, if it is in their best interests, should not have to leave before they are 18. There are special arrangements for young people leaving care. Most young people over school-leaving age are not entitled to benefits and instead are supported by the local authority. The local authority should plan from the beginning of the placement for what will happen when the young person stops being looked after.

A young person leaving care must be consulted about what will happen and should be given information and advice about making choices about their future. If the young person is not going to return to live with their parents the local authority should consider how the young person can plan for living independently, or in supported accommodation.

The local authority should draw up a Pathway Plan which draws up the support and guidance provision for the young person. This may include:

  • advice and information
  • assistance in cash or in kind
  • help with the costs of education and training
  • the local authority may be able to help find a place in supported accommodation.
  • help in making or maintaining contact with their family.

To qualify for aftercare support, the child must still be "looked after" on the date they reach school leaving age - this is not exactly on their 16th birthday.

If 16 between 1 March and 30 September - school leaving date is 31 May of that year - therefore entitled if "looked after" on or after 31 May

If 16 between 1 October and the following 28 February - school leaving age is the first day of the Christmas holidays - therefore entitled if still "looked after" on or after the first day of the Christmas holidays.

Note: This means there is approximately 3 months when, by law, the child is not automatically entitled to aftercare support

Children's hearings should therefore not terminate compulsory supervision too early as it might have the practical effect of denying the child aftercare services.


The Children's Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 specifies that a Compulsory Supervision Order may include measures taken for the protection, guidance, treatment or control of the child. The child's circumstances established through assessment and discussion at the hearing will dictate whether all or some of these aspects will be the focus of the work with the child.

A local authority must give effect to a compulsory supervision order made by a hearing. This means that it is the whole authority that carries the responsibility and not just one department. Social work and education in effect are the two main services who will be involved but others may have some relevance, for example, housing and leisure and recreation. Housing is particularly relevant for young people of 16 and over who are in need of accommodation. The leisure and recreation service may be able to provide a diversionary provision.

The objectives of supervision whilst the child is living at home are to:

  • provide effective measures of care for children living at home with their families
  • enable children and their families to recognise and tackle successfully the difficulties and problems which led to the child being referred to a children's hearing
  • reduce offending behaviour where this is an issue
  • provide protective measures for the child where this is an issue
  • help ensure school attendance where this is an issue
  • provide programmes of supervision which will maintain the confidence of panel members and the public in the effectiveness of supervision as a decision of a hearing
  • provide programmes of supervision which aim to integrate the child in the community and maintain the confidence of the community.

Compulsory Supervision Orders ( CSO)

In assessing the child's and the family's circumstances a social worker should consider whether the objectives can be achieved by voluntary provision of services rather than by a compulsory supervision order. The role of the hearing is to consider options in the light of discussions and to decide on whether or not to make a Compulsory Supervision Order.

A hearing must decide whether:

  • the voluntary co-operation of the child and family with services offered by the social worker and other agencies is unlikely to be sufficient and that a compulsory supervision order would be better for the child than no order being made
  • the child's needs can best be met at home or in another setting
  • a direction relating to contact between the child and any other person should be attached to any compulsory supervision order
  • there is significant risk by the child continuing to live at home.

Interim Compulsory Supervision Orders ( ICSO)

If the section 67 ground hearing considers that the nature of the child's circumstances is such that for the guidance, treatment, control or protection of the child it is necessary as a matter of urgency that an interim compulsory supervision order be made, the hearing may make an interim compulsory supervision order in relation to the child which lasts for 22 days.

Further interim compulsory supervision orders may be made by the children's hearing for a continuous period up to 66 days maximum.

After 66 days any further extension/s or variations are required, the Principal Reporter must apply for that extension or variation to the sheriff for their determination.

What Is The Purpose Of Supervision?

The programme for supervision should be linked to the statement of reasons for the Hearing's decision so that the child, parents and social worker are clear about the basis for it. A plan should be drawn up by the social worker in conjunction with the child and family (together with other professionals where appropriate) and should set out:

  • the purpose and specific issues to be addressed through supervision with the child and family
  • the proposed methods by which the supervisor and others will approach these issues
  • what the parents undertake to do
  • what the child undertakes to do
  • the timescale for the plan
  • the process for reviewing progress.

How Is Supervision Carried Out?

Supervision objectives are achieved through the choice of the right techniques and services. A range of different approaches can be used in any supervision programme and it is the responsibility of the social worker to ensure that they are properly coordinated and effective in their delivery. Collaboration between agencies and within the authority is essential. It does not mean that the social worker will be the person who is undertaking all the work with the child and family. It may be that the majority of contact will be with another professional or service, e.g. educational psychologist and school, but the social worker will probably act as the co-ordinator.


The methods used in supervision may include:

  • Family based work which may encompass family casework, family therapy, mediation and behavioural problems in support of the more effective functioning of all members of the family together.
  • One-to-one approaches involving casework, counselling, problem-solving, personal learning (of skills and knowledge), and work aimed at behavioural change or attitudinal change where the emphasis is on the support and development of the individual.
  • Groupwork techniques for children, parents or for whole families focusing on mutual support, problem solving, skills development. They can also be used for confidence building, project development or similar goals where the contribution of other people facing similar difficulties can be productive.
  • Resources in the community for instance family centres, day care, befriending, specialist schooling, home care, community education, youth services, and voluntary groups.

The Role Of The Social Worker In Supervision

The role of the social worker in home supervision is to:

  • maintain contact at the level agreed in the care plan
  • undertake direct work with the child and ensure that the child's views are sought and listened to concerning intervention in his or her life
  • work closely with the child's family, listen to their views and to ensure the child's needs are met and welfare ensured
  • oversee the implementation of the care plan and ensure the focus of work is on achieving its objectives
  • co-ordinate the work of other professionals with the child and family as agreed in the care plan
  • ensure a review of the plan is undertaken to meet the statutory requirements.

Whatever the key issue may be in the compulsory supervision order (e.g. offending behaviour; child protection; failure to attend school) the role of the social worker is to focus on matters related to the key issues.

Children's Services Plans

To ensure that services are tailored to meet the particular needs of children in their area, each local authority is required, in consultation with health authorities and trusts, voluntary organisations, housing agencies, the reporter and a representative from the local Area Support Team, to prepare and publish plans for the provision and development of services for children. The authority also has a duty to publish information about the children's services which it makes available. Whilst the social work department will inevitably constitute a major part of the plan, contributions from other departments, particularly education but also housing and recreation and leisure will have an important part to play.

Social Work Services Resources

There is a range of resources available for children and families. Included here is some information about those generally provided. However, not every authority will have access to all and some will have others not mentioned here.

Child or Family Centres

Child or family centres encompass a very wide range of projects. Most have a specific focus on children in need, with some providing specialist services for children with disabilities. The age range will vary, although many cater for children below their teenage years and some take only children below school age. The aims are also varied, although they will usually include some of the following: encouraging improvements in the child's health and development; preventing abuse or alleviating the effects of abuse; improving parenting skills; and providing respite for parents. Some will offer an outreach service to families in their own homes.

Family Helpers

These are people employed by the social work service to give assistance to families. This may include help with the care of children, budgeting or home making skills.

Day Care

Day care covers various services for both pre-school and older children. The primary role is one of enhancing the development of young children but also contributing to a child's well-being by providing support and to help carers. After school provision is a good example of this. Such schemes not only provide a safe environment for children whose parents may be at work but also enable children to develop a broad range of interests and adopt a positive approach to the use of leisure time. Day care also fulfils an important preventive role by providing a range of resources from mutual self-help to parent-craft training and health education. The local authority has a duty to provide day care for pre-school children in their area who are in need. In practice, this usually means day nurseries, play groups and daily minders.


All children aged three and four years old are eligible for a free part-time pre-school place. Local authorities have a duty to ensure that enough places are available for all three and four year olds whose parents want them to attend. The entitlement starts from the beginning of the school term immediately following the child's third birthday and continues until the end of the school term before they are eligible to start primary school.

The nurseries offer structured and unstructured play and help promote the child's social, emotional, physical and cognitive development. A nursery can also relieve stress on the parents/carers. Some nurseries offer their facilities for supervised and unsupervised contact visits between a child and parent specified by a court or children's hearing.

Befriending Schemes

Children may be befriended by volunteers on an individual basis. Children are matched to selected and screened volunteers who spend time with them and involve them in recreational activities. Most of the schemes require local authority support and funding. The aim is to provide the child with an additional non-professional form of adult support.


As part of the Scottish Government's strategy to reduce offending behaviour in young people, local commitment is encouraged to the overall aims for Scotland's Youth Justice Services, which are to:

  • implement the Whole System Approach
    • the whole system approach aims to achieve positive outcomes for some of our most vulnerable young peoples, helping them to fulfil their potential and become valuable contributors to their communities
  • deliver services in line with the Youth Justice Standards and Getting it Right for every Child
  • operate on a multi-agency basis with each organisation taking appropriate responsibility as corporate parent

Young People Who Offend

The debate around young people who offend is often unhelpfully polarised: needs and deeds; victim and offender; individual and community; prevention and intervention. In reality, the evidence shows the only way to prevent "deeds" is to address needs. Young people who offend are often victims themselves and each aspect needs to be addressed. Prevention is the most cost-effective cure, but prevention demands that we intervene to stop the cycle of offending.

The offending behaviour of young people needs to be considered as part of a broader picture of who they are. Interventions need to be designed to be early, holistic and with a presumption that children stay in their communities. We need to ensure that in everything we do, we are protecting and promoting the rights of children, in line with the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Kilbrandon and Getting it Right for Every Child - all of which recognise that a child is defined as a young person under age 18, including when that young person has committed an offence.

It is only a very small minority of young people that get involved in offending, and an even smaller minority of them that cause the most serious problems.

Evidence shows that, of those young people who do get into trouble, 4 out of 5 learn their lesson and do not reoffend. That is good news - but rarely heard - and proves that appropriate intervention at the right stage is the best way to reduce even further the very small minority of young people who pose a real risk to themselves and others, and present a greater challenge to us all.

Young people must be held to account, but in a way that is appropriate to their individual circumstances. Assessment of needs and risk is paramount in understanding what needs to be done to ensure young people meet their full potential and to protect the public from harm. There is no quick or easy solution but there is a need to challenge the root causes of these problems - often the pervasive effects of drink, drugs and deprivation.

Children's Hearings and Young People Who Offend

The Scottish Government is implementing the 'whole system approach' throughout Scotland. This approach involves putting in place a streamlined and consistent planning, assessment and decision making process for young people who offend to ensure they receive the right service at the right time. The ethos of this approach suggests that we should be seeking to avoid young people entering the criminal justice system unless absolutely necessary.

Early and Effective Intervention

Effective responses to young offending involve recognition of needs and strengths, as well as attention to risks.

In this respect, this agenda is closely connected to "Getting it right for every child", the programme which should guide and underpin the principles of work by all relevant agencies. The Getting it right for every child programme is founded on acting on the principles of early intervention, through appropriate, proportionate and timely intervention and provides a framework for putting them into action for all children and young people at the individual level.

Where the need for intervention has been identified, relevant agencies must act promptly, and in line with what other agencies are doing, to provide responses that are timely, proportionate, and effective and that inspire community confidence. It is crucial that all agencies are able to provide early and effective responses based on an appropriate assessment of the individual's circumstances, not least so that children and young people can relate their actions to the impact and consequences and learn from this experience.

All agencies, including the third sector, should plan and work together in partnership with children, their families and others, to do everything possible to provide early and effective responses to problematic behaviour that best fits the circumstances of each individual case.

The Scottish Government is committed to:

  • embedding the principles and practice of Getting It Right For Every Child across our agencies
  • ensuring that all our systems are more effective in sharing information to support identification and intervention for young people at risk
  • developing evidence based around what works in early and effective intervention
  • identifying and disseminating good practice, including supporting local learning partners to develop knowledge and understanding around applying the principles and practice of "Getting It Right For Every Child" to young people who offend.

Compulsory Supervision Order vs Throughcare and Aftercare

A common reason for terminating a compulsory supervision order between the ages of 15-17 is the need for the young person to move on, for example, leaving the residence of family, or corporate parent. This often requires independent living arrangements and finances. A compulsory supervision order is often cited as a reason to terminate as it prevents the young person acquiring their own accommodation and finances. This should not be the case, as a corporate parent, local authorities can remain responsible, as the Throughcare and Aftercare guidance sets out that:

  • the general principle is that young people should continue to be looked after until 18 if it is in their best interests. However, compulsory supervision orders are often terminated before that age. If a young person's supervision order ceases before their school leaving date, they may become ineligible to receive financial support, which those still in care at their school leaving date are able to access.
    • (to qualify, the child must still be "looked after" on the date they reach school leaving age - this is not exactly on their 16th birthday
    • If 16 between 1 March and 30 September - school leaving date is 31 May of that year - therefore entitled if "looked after" on or after 31 May
    • If 16 between 1 October and the following 28 February - school leaving age is the first day of the Christmas holidays - therefore entitled if still "looked after" on or after the first day of the Christmas holidays
    • Note: This means there is approximately 3 months when, by law, the child is not automatically entitled to aftercare support)
  • local authorities have a duty to carry out an assessment of the needs of all young people over school age leaving their care, including those looked after at home. This assessment should determine what advice, assistance and support the authority should provide. The success of throughcare and aftercare depends on a shared sense of corporate parenthood across an authority. Children and Families and throughcare and aftercare services should work together to support the young person leaving care.
  • children who have been looked after away from home may also be entitled to financial assistance from their local authority up to age 25. Where the compulsory supervision order is removed before the young person reaches school leaving age, this can have a detrimental effect on their ability to access that assistance. The financial support social services can provide is very important as care leavers can only claim DWP benefits at 16 or 17 if they are single parents or unable to work because of disability or illness.
  • the hearing may request that the local authority continue to work with the child on a voluntary basis after a CSO has been terminated.

It may be that the young person cannot access some supported accommodation but there are other options available that can be developed with local authority housing or accommodation supported by third sector organisations. The Scottish Government is working with Local Authorities to support the development of such alternatives.

It is recognised that it is integral to the children's hearings system that panel members listen to the child, their family and professionals in order to make a decision based on evidence. To help in this decision making process, the Scottish Government is supporting social work departments to ensure that advice put to panel members is not of a negative nature and that appropriate resources to support single plans are in place. It will also highlight the need for their professional influence on decisions to be based on the Getting it Right For Every Child principles, the needs of the child, accurate assessments, and not influenced by any other issues, such as resources.

What works?

There is a consensus within literature that a certain level of involvement in trivial offending behaviour by youths can be considered a normal part of the process of growing up. It has been argued that adolescent offending is often 'linked to a range of other risk taking behaviours which in turn are associated with the search for identity in the transition from adolescence to adulthood'.

Key messages from the 'what works?' literature in relation to preventing a range of poor outcomes for children and young people (including offending) focus on providing early and effective intervention and a strategic approach to provision of services tiered according to levels of need and the age and stage of development of the young person. The criminological literature indicates that trends in antisocial and offending behaviour tend to be age-related which suggests that different forms of intervention will be required at different stages of the life-course. In addition, it is unlikely that tackling offending itself will be successful without a range of measures aimed at addressing wider 'psychosocial disorders' that generally accompany offending (including substance misuse, mental health problems, eating disorders, self harming, etc).

Young people change and learn in different ways and not surprisingly there is evidence to support the importance of matching the delivery of programmes and practitioner skills to the characteristics of the individual young person and their needs, including communication or learning disabilities and more complex needs.

In line with the Whole system Approach it is necessary to have a range of interventions available for young people who offend ranging from Early and Effective Intervention (e.g. restorative justice, voluntary social work intervention) to the most intensive intervention for those young people at risk of entering secure care or the criminal justice system.

Gender differences

A longitudinal survey conducted for the Home Office compared gender differences in risk factors for offending. Across a cohort of 397 families in Cambridge, they found that factors that predicted offending more strongly for girls were related to socio-economic and child rearing factors such as; low social class and income, poor housing, poor parental supervision, lack of praise, erratic discipline, parental conflict and a general lack of interest in the child's development.

In contrast factors predicting offending more strongly for boys were related to actual parental characteristics, including having nervous and poorly educated parents.

Explanations for why girls offend less than boys point to situational factors. It is argued that in comparison with boys, girls have less exposure to risk factors. Girls tend to be more closely supervised by parents, have less unstructured leisure time and therefore less opportunity to associate with anti-social peers.

Research also shows that girls and boys respond differently to risk factors. Whilst girls tend to 'internalise' emotional problems and display their distress via depression and self-harm, it is argued that boys are much more likely to respond to problems by 'overtly acting out behaviours, including various manifestations of criminal behaviour.

Recent Statistics

  • offence referrals to the children's reporter have reduced year on year, down by over 50% in the last 4 years.
  • the number of recorded crimes and offences committed by children and young people (8-17 year olds) decreased by 12% between 2008-09 and 2009-10 and by 18.9% between 2009-10 and 2010-11.
  • the number of children and young people (8-17) who committed crimes and offences decreased by 9% between 2008-09 and 2009-10, and by 16.7% between 2009-10 and 2010-11
  • the number of 16 to 21 year olds in the prison estate has decreased for both remand and direct sentenced prisoners by 14% and 17% respectively over 2010 - 11
  • August 2011 - Only 13% of the Under 21 prison population were serving their first custodial sentence.

New National Youth Justice Standards

Objectives of Youth Justice Provision in Scotland aim to:

  • provide quality youth justice processes and practice
  • provide an appropriate range and availability of interventions for children and young people involved in offending behaviour
  • promote early and effective intervention
  • ease the transition between the children's hearing and adult criminal justice systems
  • ensure that secure accommodation and detention is used only when it is the most appropriate disposal and that consideration has been given to alternatives
  • improve information and assistance provided to victims of youth offending and local communities
  • provide strategic direction and co-ordination of multi-disciplinary services for Children and young people who offend through locality planning and performance improvement.

Note: National Standards for Youth Justice Provision in Scotland are detailed in Appendix 2 of this section. With thanks to the Reducing Reoffending Programme (Young People) at Scottish Government for this information on Youth Justice.

National Youth Justice Practice Guidance can be found at:

Children Away From Home

While the services and support described above may meet the needs of some children and their families, other children will benefit from additional care outwith their family. Local authorities are obliged to assist children in such situations and they can accommodate children in a wide range of circumstances. This may be with another family or in a residential home or school. For some, this will be a short-term requirement, but others may require substitute care for many years. Whilst it is very important that young people and children should not be in care any longer than it is necessary, it is also important that their experience of care should be a beneficial one. If the decision of the hearing is that a child should live away from home it is the responsibility of the local authority to put this into effect. Before making a recommendation to a hearing that a child should reside in a particular residential establishment, the local authority must be satisfied that the residential placement proposed is appropriate to the child's needs.

Children's Homes And Hostels

These are often provided and maintained by the social work service of the local authority but in addition use is made of the resources of the voluntary organisations to meet the demands. Often voluntary organisations can provide a specialist service which the authority is unable to provide. Establishments vary in size. Some specialise in a particular age range of children, e.g. preparing young people about 16 years old for living independently. Each establishment will have a statement of its functions and objectives which will be readily available. Children entering residential care should have a clear understanding of what is involved and it is important that they should be aware of their rights and responsibilities.

The number of children and young people in residential care has decreased over the years as more emphasis has been placed on keeping children in their own homes with appropriate support or by placing them with foster or community carers.

Foster Care

Foster care is one of the services which local authorities provide or commission voluntary agencies to provide under their duties to looked after children. Foster carers are recruited locally and are assessed, trained and formally approved as foster carers before they begin to care for children. Applicants, assessments take account of the following:

  • experience, attitudes, expectations, understanding and perception of fostering
  • capacity to work in partnership with the child's family
  • capacity to provide a foster child with protection, nurture and opportunities for development
  • ability to work with the fostering agency
  • preferences and suitability as a foster carer for any particular group of children or for any particular fostering tasks.

Many children live temporarily, or sometimes permanently with their relatives or a family friend without any intervention by the local authority. Where, however, a child is looked after by the local authority, and is placed with a friend or relative the friend or relative must be approved as a foster carer except:

  • where the placement is an immediate placement and lasts for less than six weeks
  • where the placement is a condition of a compulsory supervision order made by a children's hearing.

In these two situations the local authority must be satisfied that the placement will be in the child's best interests. In addition, prior to placing the child, the social worker must:

  • interview the proposed carer
  • confirm that the person is a friend or relative
  • inspect the accommodation
  • obtain information about any other persons living in the household
  • reach a written agreement with the proposed carer which specifies that the carer


  • care for the child as if he or she were a member of the carer's family and in a safe and appropriate manner
  • permit anyone authorised by the authority to visit the child at any reasonable time
  • allow the child to be removed any time by the local authority if the authority considers the placement is no longer in the child's interests
  • ensure that any information concerning the child or his or her family which is given in confidence remains confidential
  • allow regular contact between the child and anyone with parental responsibilities where this is agreed by the local authority.

It is good practice for police checks to be sought on all members of the household and a health reference on the prospective carers.

Fostering Panel

Each local authority or voluntary organisation must appoint a fostering panel or panels which consider whether to recommend approval of foster carers. Where the panel recommends approval they must also recommend whether approval is for any child, for certain categories of children, for instance in a particular age range or those needing emergency care, or for a particular child or children, for instance a child already known to the potential foster carers. Most prospective carers will be assessed as having strengths and an interest in an age range or particular type of fostering. The fostering panel recommendations are made to the fostering agency who must make the decision. The composition of fostering panels is for the local authority to determine but one member must be a medical adviser and it is good practice for both sexes to be represented and for three people to represent a quorum. The chairperson should have considerable child care knowledge and be experienced and skilled in chairing meetings. Members who have been parents, foster carers or who have been fostered as a child are valuable. The panel should, where possible, reflect the backgrounds and heritage of children who are likely to need placement and the carers likely to seek approval.

Respite Care

Respite care schemes are intended primarily for children with disabilities although it can have a wider application. It may include respite care away from the child's home, in order to give the family a break, to extend the range and quality of the child's experience and give the child opportunities to develop increasing autonomy and independence. The arrangements vary greatly from provision within the child's home, daytime care, occasional overnight stays and regular periods of care with an approved family or foster carer, or in a residential home.


It has been recognised that vulnerable young people should have a place to go on a short-term basis if they feel themselves to be at risk. The local authority may provide a refuge either in a residential establishment or a local authority household for a child who appears to be at risk. The establishment or household must be designated for this purpose. However, authorities are not obliged to provide them. A child must ask to go into a refuge and can only stay for seven, or in exceptional circumstances, fourteen days.

Secure Accommodation

Secure accommodation provides residential care where a child may be locked up or otherwise supervised in a way that physically prevents him or her from leaving the premises without approval. This type of accommodation has to be approved by Scottish Ministers. It is provided for children who are a danger to themselves and others in the community. It is designed to rehabilitate them and to protect the public. This involves controlling the child, including taking away their freedom; assessing the child's behaviour and needs; providing care to meet need and risk, education and treatment.

Several specialist units are registered to provide secure accommodation for children aged between 8 and 18. Each unit must have an open wing and must provide education.

Key Requirements For Child Care Services

The key features which should be taken into account in looking after any child or young person (particularly those away from home) are as follows:

Individuality and development

Young people and children in care have the right to be treated as individuals who have their own unique relationships, experiences, strengths, needs and futures, irrespective of the needs of other residents. They should be prepared for adulthood and supported until they are fully independent.

Rights and responsibilities

Young people, children and their parents should be given a clear statement of their rights and responsibilities. They should have a confidential means of making complaints. They should be involved in decisions affecting them and in the provision for their care. Their rights should be consistently respected.

Good basic care

Young people and children should be given a high standard of personal care. They should be offered new, varied and positive experiences of life and should be included in the wider community.


Young people and children should be actively encouraged in all aspects of their education, vocational training or employment and offered career guidance. Their individual educational needs should be identified and met.


Young people's and children's health needs should be carefully identified and met; they should be encouraged to avoid health risks and to develop a healthy life-style.

Partnership with parents

Young people and children in care should be cared for in ways which maximize opportunities for parents' continued involvement, and for care to be provided in partnership with parents, wherever this is in the interests of the child.

Child centred collaboration

Young people and children should be able to rely on a high quality of inter-disciplinary teamwork amongst the adults providing for their care, education and health needs.

A feeling of safety

Young people and children should feel safe and secure in any care setting.


Young people need to be able to make their complaint in confidence particularly if they are being accommodated by the local authority. All local authorities have established complaints procedures in line with the government requirements which are sometimes part of the local inspection units. These units have a responsibility for inspecting all children's homes regularly. Young people are increasingly involved in the work of inspection, both locally and nationally.

Education Resources

Additional Support Needs

Wherever possible children with additional support needs will be maintained within mainstream schools. Children and young persons have additional support needs if they have a learning difficulty which calls for provision for additional support to be made for them. A learning difficulty is said to be present if children:

  • have significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of those of their age; or
  • suffer from a disability which either prevents or hinders them from making use of educational facilities of a kind generally provided for those of their age.

Learning difficulties may be related to a physical or neurological disability or barriers to learning caused by social, emotional or behavioural problems, or mental illness. Children with additional support needs should be integrated in their local mainstream schools wherever possible.

A Co-ordinated Support Plan is an official document which may be opened for a very small number of children when the circumstances are serious enough to justify the child's needs being watched over regularly. It facilitates the identification of a child's learning difficulties so that long term educational plans may be made. Special facilities and resources may be provided such as auxiliary class room assistants.

Residential schools

In the main these cater for children between the ages of 8 and 16. The emphasis in these schools is on providing an education for the children at the same time as helping them with their behavioural problems which cannot be managed in their home base. Each school may achieve these aims through different methods and it is important that you discuss these methods with the social workers at a hearing in order to help you decide where the most appropriate placement for the child might be.

Establishments operate individual care regimes which, combined with group care, are designed to best meet the needs of each individual child. These may involve nurturing care, remedial education, vocational training, and opportunities for children to gain in self-esteem by recognising and developing their own abilities. Some schools for example provide care for seven days a week. It is important that you find out what type of care is being offered. Not all schools are run by the local authority. Some are independent, with their own management boards and some are part of voluntary organisations, such as the Church of Scotland or Barnardos.

Education For Looked After Children

Key research findings

  • Looked after children and young people can improve in both school attendance and attainment in a relatively short period of time when provided with additional support and engaged in flexible and individually tailored activities.
  • Children and young people who had high levels of engagement in pilot activities made appreciably more progress in one year on reading and writing than others. This is very encouraging because it suggests that being involved in educational, cultural and sporting activity can make an impact in achievement and attainment.
  • About 40% of the young people advanced by one 5-14 National Assessment level, much better than the average progress reported for all looked after children and similar to advances made by non-looked after children. Younger looked after children who had high levels of involvement in pilot activities in general made appreciably more progress in one year than the others in reading and writing.
  • Tailoring support to suit an individual child or young person, being flexible, involving the young person in choosing the focus of learning, and providing a breadth of learning opportunities, appear to be effective strategies for improving the achievements of looked after children and young people.
  • Giving children high but realistic expectations was seen as being very important, though this had to be done in a way that was not perceived as 'nagging'. Also very important was for professionals not to give up on children, even if they were initially reluctant to be engaged or who experienced problems during the project.

At Primary 3 stage it is expected that most children will have reached the first stage of assessment, i.e. Level A. While 95% of non-looked after children had reached this level, a smaller proportion of looked after children (89%) was found to have reached this stage.

However, by Secondary 1 this gap has increased significantly from 70% of non-looked after children to only 31% of looked after children reaching Level D. This example reinforces the importance of continuing monitoring of educational attainment and of early intervention.

The evidence from various studies is that looked after children and young people face significant cultural and institutional barriers which impede their success in education. Encouragement to achieve in a broader sense is more important than a narrow focus on educational attainment, however, there is research evidence showing that looked after children and young people with higher attainment have generally better life outcomes.

The experience of pilot projects showed that providing targeted additional support can help to improve educational attainment and achievement substantially. Having high but realistic expectations, and providing support for the child or young person and the other significant people in the wider system around the child, were crucial factors for success.

Suggestions for practice

  • Concern for the development of looked after children and young people as individuals, is an important prerequisite for raising educational attainment and gaining national qualifications. In line with the Looked After Children: We Can And Must Do Better (Scottish Executive, 2007) report, all looked after children and young people need to have opportunities to become effective lifelong learners, develop into successful and responsible adults, be emotionally, mentally healthy, and feel safe and nurtured in a home setting.
  • Support systems need to encompass both those children and young people looked after at home and those looked after away from home. Schools have not always been clear about their responsibilities to those looked after at home. This group is known to have the poorest outcomes and variable access to additional support systems.
  • Schools and carers should collaborate to ensure that looked after children and young people are actively encouraged to participate in study-related, cultural and sport activities. A looked after child or young person's broader engagement in activities should feature in care planning and personal education planning, and non-involvement should be regarded as a matter of concern.
  • Pilot projects that achieved some of the most dramatic successes had worked very hard to help young people identify their goals. The HMIE report, Count Us In: Improving the Education of Our Looked after Children ( HMIE, 2008), says that, wherever feasible, children should be given a voice in helping to identify and meet their needs.
  • Several pilots devised or improved arrangements for personal education planning. Personal education plans help to present a more rounded view of the looked after child or young person's achievements by detailing broader achievements as well as academic attainments. They are useful in recording the young person's own aspirations and also in setting shorter-term targets, and specifying support arrangements. Plans should take into account supports available in the home environment (the '24 hour curriculum' approach). Looked after children and young people have the same rights to a good education as other children, and these include having a safe, secure, stable and educationally rich home environment.
  • There are concerns about the poor mental health of many looked after children and young people. Educational psychologists and specialist looked after children nurses have an important role in providing advice and carrying out assessments.
  • Early intervention is vital where there is danger of a looked after child or young person falling behind in their education. It is particularly important to ensure that younger children make appropriate progress in reading, writing and maths. competence, as well as in other aspects of their education. Studies of the records of looked after young people who have fallen behind in their education indicate that in most cases the signs should have been evident to professionals much sooner.

"Recognise and show pride in children and young people's achievements, build their confidence and defend them against unfair criticism."

(These Are Our Bairns (The Scottish Government (2008a), p.21)

"I will know I've made a difference when the educational outcomes for looked after children and young people and care leavers, in terms of attainment and achievement, are the same as those for their peers who are not looked after."

(These Are Our Bairns (The Scottish Government (2008a), p.40)

Educational Outcomes For Scotland's Looked After Children, 2009/2010

This new publication contains statistics obtained from linking , for the first time, looked after children's data provided by publicly funded schools, the Scottish Qualifications Authority ( SQA) and Skills Development Scotland ( SDS).

Among the main findings are:

  • the overall school attendance rate for looked after children was 87.8% in 2009/10 compared with 93.2% for all school children. School attendance rates were lowest for children who are looked after at home (78.7%)
  • the overall exclusion rate for looked after children was 365 per 1,000 looked after children, compared with 45 exclusions per 1,000 pupils for all school children. Exclusion rates were highest for children who were looked after in a local authority home (866 per 1,000 children)
  • the average tariff score for looked after children who left school during 2009/10 was 67 compared to 372 for all school leavers. However, this comparison is influenced by the fact that around 90% of looked after children who left school during 2009/10 were aged 16 years or younger when they left school, compared to only 37% of all school leavers being of this age when leaving school
  • 59% of looked after children who left school during 2009/10 were in a positive destination at the time of the initial destination survey, compared with 87% of all 2009/10 school leavers. However, by the time of the follow-up destination survey, the percentage of looked after children who left school during 2009/10 who were in a positive destination had fallen to 44%, compared with 85% of all 2009/10 school leavers

Further information on schooling is in "Child, Family and Society" section of this Training Resource Manual.

Voluntary Organisations

There are many voluntary organisations which provide a service to children and young people. These may be one off organisations which deal with a small number of children on a very local basis to a large national voluntary organisation which may provide a network of provision. Most organisations work in partnership with the local authorities and if they provide residential accommodation or day care are required to be registered with the local authority. If the children's hearing believe that an organization noted above is the best for the child, they may specify that in their directions on a compulsory supervision order and the local authority is obliged to arrange.

Agencies Working Together To Protect Children

In all investigations or child protection plans, the child's welfare is the paramount consideration. Child care services and child protection work in particular require good inter-agency co-operation. It is important for all professionals to combine an open-minded attitude to alleged concerns about a child with decisive action when this is clearly indicated.

Child Protection Committees

Local authorities are required, either on their own, or in collaboration with other authorities, to have an inter-agency child protection committee. The committees have clear procedures and guidance for dealing with child protection referrals and for providing training and advice across the agencies. They have the task of developing, monitoring and reviewing child protection policies, and promoting effective and harmonious co-operation between the various agencies involved. The committees are made up of representatives from all the main agencies, statutory and voluntary, which are involved in child protection work in the area and who have authority to speak and act on the agency's behalf. The children's reporter is usually a member of the committee.

Child Protection Guidelines

These provide a rapid reference for staff of all agencies involved in child protection in an area. They are the result of multi-disciplinary consultation and are approved by the Area Child Protection Committee for use by all agencies in that area. They contain sections on the definition, classification and identification of abuse and spell out the recommended action to be taken by each professional group in the event of child abuse cases coming to their attention.

Child Protection Case Conferences

These are central to the child protection procedures which each local authority will have. They are convened by the social work service to bring together the professionals concerned and provide them with an opportunity to exchange information and make plans together. They assist planning to help families and welfare agencies ensure that a child at risk is properly protected from harm and, when necessary, to ensure that concerns are registered. Parents and carers and, where appropriate, children are encouraged to attend case conferences. Account is taken of the child's views and feelings having regard to their age and understanding.

Care and protection or other services for the child and family should be based on a comprehensive assessment of the child and family's needs including an assessment of the level of risk to the child. Child protection plans are formulated to protect the child from harm or further risk of harm.

Amongst the options available to agencies is the convening of a case conference about an unborn child if there appears to be a risk of significant harm to the child when he or she is born. The case conference may decide that the child's name should be placed on the child protection register when he or she is born and agree an inter-agency child protection plan. The conference may recommend that the local authority seek a child protection order at birth. Decisions of a case conference may be subject to a subsequent children's hearing decision - the case conference can only make a recommendation to the children's hearing. Throughout the child protection process, the work is conducted on an interagency basis.

The case conference is the prime forum for:

  • sharing information and concerns
  • analysing risk and formulating the plan for the protection of the child and for the
  • provision of services to the child and family
  • monitoring what is happening.

The Child Protection Register

Local authorities are responsible for maintaining a central register known as the child protection register. This lists all the children in the area who are currently the subject of an inter-agency protection plan. It ensures that the plans for these children are formally reviewed at least every 6 months. The register provides a central point of speedy inquiry for professional staff who are concerned about a child and want to know whether the child is the subject of an inter-agency plan. Registration does not of itself provide any protection. The inclusion of a child's name on the child protection register will normally only occur following a child protection conference. A child's name is usually only removed from the register when a case conference agrees that formal interagency working is no longer necessary to protect the child.

The register is maintained by the social work service and must be held separately and in secure conditions. Access to the register is available twenty-four hours a day. The keeper of the register (a designated local authority official) should notify other local authorities in writing when a registered family moves out of their area. The keeper may also be responsible for attempting to trace a registered child whose whereabouts have become unknown.

Joint Investigation

Joint investigation is a process whereby social work, police and health professionals plan and carry out their respective tasks together when responding to complex or substantial child protection referrals. In any such investigation the welfare of any child or children at risk is the paramount consideration.

The police and social services should share and evaluate jointly all relevant information at an initial planning meeting, involving health services where possible since medical information and assessment may assist the planning and management of any injury. Planning should consider the child's needs, risk to the child and the conduct of child protection inquiries including any criminal investigation.

Agencies should adopt a measured approach when dealing with allegations of abuse by adults. They should make sure that their investigations do not prejudice efforts to collect evidence for criminal prosecution of any alleged abuser(s).


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