For children and families
The Children’s Hearings System is the care and justice system for Scotland’s children and young people. A fundamental principle is that children who commit offences, and children who need care and protection, are dealt with in the same system, as these are often the same children.
The hearing system aims to ensure that the best interests of the child are met and that the child receives the most appropriate intervention and support.
The child along with parents or carers are central participants, although discussion may also include the local authority social worker, a teacher and other key professionals as necessary. Hearings normally take place in the child’s home area.
A children’s hearing is a lay tribunal made up of three children’s panel members who are unpaid, trained volunteers from local communities. The hearing listens to the child’s circumstances and then decides if any measures are required. The child may require a particular type of intervention, such as being placed with foster carers, in a residential unit or in secure accommodation. The hearing may decide that the child should remain at home with support from other agencies, such as the local authority social work department.
The role of safeguarder
As part of this process, a person can be appointed to safeguard the interests of the child referred to a children’s hearing. A safeguarder can be appointed by either a children’s hearing or a Sheriff at any time during the proceedings. The role includes the provision of a report for the hearing and attendance at the hearing. It may also include attending and taking part in any related children’s hearings court proceedings.
Safeguarders are self-employed and independent from all other agencies involved in the Children’s Hearing System and that independence is a crucial aspect of the role.