Appendix 3: The Blueprint for the Processing of Children's Hearing Cases
The Blueprint for the Processing of Children's Hearings Cases lays down inter-agency codes of practice. It outlines the following pre-requisites for the delivery of a high quality service:
- Minimal delay
- Effective communication with children and families
- Participation of children in hearings
- Inter agency co-operation
- Facilities that meet the needs of all service users
Stage 1: incident to receipt of referral by reporter
Code of practice - Criteria for referral
1. Following consultation with other agencies SCRA will issue up to date guidance on referral criteria and on what information is needed when a child is referred to the reporter.
2. Each agency will implement mechanisms to promote compliance with guidance on criteria for the referral of a child to the reporter.
3. In given circumstances and in keeping with the agreed joint policy the police will consider issuing a warning instead of referring a child to the reporter.
4. Agencies will operate a system that allows for prompt and direct referral to the reporter.
Code of practice - The referral process
1. Each agency will have clear arrangements in place for the referral of a child to the reporter.
2. Any decision to refer a child to the reporter will be implemented with the minimum of delay.
3. Agencies' internal administration system will minimise delays in the referral process.
4. The police will report incidents to the reporter with minimum delay.
5. Police reports will be in a nationally agreed format.
6. In jointly reported cases the police will operate procedures to ensure simultaneous delivery of referrals to the procurator fiscal and the reporter.
7. Procurator fiscals and reporters will liaise regularly at local and national level to ensure co operation over children's cases.
8. Education departments will operate clear and consistent policies that allow schools to refer children directly to the reporter.
9. In child protection cases the minutes of case conferences will record explicitly whether or not a decision has been taken to refer a child to the reporter and any decision to refer a child to the reporter will be implemented by the named person with the minimum of delay.
10. Any individual or agency who may decide to refer a child to the reporter contrary to a child protection case conference decision should inform the case worker direct.
11. Health Boards and Trusts will ensure that SCRA guidance about referral criteria and the legal framework is disseminated to all the relevant health professionals through both managerial and professional structures.
12. Police and education departments will make referrals to the reporter as and when they arise rather than in periodic batches.
Stage 2: Receipt of referral to reporter's decision
Code of practice - Report requests
1. In keeping with SCRA guidance on the level of investigation required on receipt of a referral, reporters will request reports from agencies where essential for effective decision making.
2. Guidance between SCRA and ADSW will distinguish between the range and extent of information expected of Initial Enquiry Reports, Initial Assessment Reports, Social Background Reports and Integrated Assessment Reports.
3. SCRA will issue clear guidance to staff on the recording of information acquired by telephone and on the status of such information.
Code of practice -Timescales for the return of reports
1. In every request to another agency for a report or information the reporter will specify a date for the return of the report or information.
2. Report providers will give early notice to the reporter of any reasons why a report cannot be submitted on time.
3. Individual agencies will take responsibility for complying with agreed timescales and monitoring of delays.
4. Education services will have in place systems for the provision of written information to the reporter throughout the year.
5. In accordance with the nationally agreed protocol health services will have in place clear arrangements for the provision of reports about children to the reporter.
Code of practice - The Views of children
Social work departments will ensure that the views of children are sought and included in social background reports, integrated assessment reports and reports for hearings.
Code of practice - The reporter's decision
The reporter will make a decision about a referral with the minimum of delay.
Stage 3: Reporter's decision to initial hearing
Code of practice - The scheduling of hearings
The reporter will take full account of family circumstances and commitments when arranging a children's hearing.
Code of practice - Notice of children's hearings
1. The reporter will give as much notice as possible of a hearing date to all those expected to attend.
2. Reporters will provide children with written information about children's hearings.
3. Social work departments/local authority will ensure that children and families are given sufficient information in advance of their hearing to enable them to participate fully in the process.
4. Each agency will inform the reporter of changes of address or other family circumstances that may become known to them in advance of the children's hearing.
Stage 4: Initial hearing to disposal
Code of practice - Accommodation for hearings
SCRA will provide accommodation for hearings that complies with its stated property standards.
Code of practice - Punctuality of hearings
1. In the course of hearing sessions panel members and other will take account of the impact of delay on families in attendance at the hearings centre who are kept waiting beyond their scheduled time.
2. When hearing sessions are running behind schedule, SCRA staff will keep families informed of how long the delays are likely to last.
Code of practice - Avoidance of unnecessary continuations or deferred hearings
1. Whenever possible, the initial hearing will be provided with sufficient relevant information to allow full consideration of the case.
2. Agencies will ensure that they provide appropriate representation to allow full discussion of the case.
3. Education departments will provide a service for attendance at hearings outwith school term where considered necessary by the reporter.
4. The social work department /local authority will be represented at all hearings by the caseworker or appropriate substitute.
5. In making recommendations for disposal, case workers will proved as much detail as possible about relevant options including residential placements.
6. Wherever possible, the reporter will schedule a date for a continued or deferred hearing at the end of the current hearing.
Code of practice - Safeguarders
1. In stating their reasons for appointing a safeguarder, panel members will specify as clearly as possible those aspects of the case that they wish the safeguarder to investigate.
2. A date for the submission of the safeguarder's report will be specified on appointment (within 35 Days).
3. If the safeguarder is unable to provide a report within the timescale, the safeguarder must submit an interim report and if requesting additional time, explain why he/she needs it.
4. Children 1 st will operate procedures to ensure that safeguarders are allocated with a minimum of delay.
5. Reporters will ensure that safeguarders receive case papers with the minimum of delay.
6. Reporters will provide safeguarders with a list of relevant contact addresses and telephone numbers, where available.
7. Children 1 st will review their safeguarder panel regularly to ensure that adequate numbers of safeguarders are available to meet demand.
8. Safeguarders will submit their report with the minimum of delay.
9. Safeguarders should attend children's hearings to facilitate full discussion of children's cases.
Code of practice - Reports from mental health professionals
1. In planning and resourcing of children's services, Health Boards and Trusts will take account of the role of all health professionals, but particularly those working in child and adolescent mental health services, in producing reports for the reporter and for children's hearings.
2. SCRA and CHS will ensure that reporters and panel members receive training on the appropriateness on requesting reports from child and adolescent mental health professionals as a contribution to their decision making.
Code of practice - Cases referred for proof
1. When a case is referred for proof reporters will provide families with appropriate written information about going to court, obtaining legal advice and where appropriate, applying for legal aid.
2. Liaison will take place between reporters and the Scottish Court Service to avoid delay in scheduling of children's cases.
3. The reporter will give all those having a right, or required to attend a proof hearing as much notice as possible of the court date.
4. Efforts will be made to avoid court adjournments and to ensure that cases go ahead on the scheduled date.
Code of practice - Disposals
1. Written information of the outcome of a hearing, together with a copy of the reasons for the decision, will be sent to the child and family with the minimum of delay.
2. Supervision requirements/compulsory supervision orders will be implemented with the minimum of delay.
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