What does this mean…? (Glossary of important words)

  • Appeal

If a child, young person or their parent/carer disagrees with the decision made by the Children’s Hearing, then they can appeal against the decision. Appeal means to ask to change the decision. However, there has to be a reason in law to support any appeal going ahead.

An appeal must be made within 21 days of the date of the Hearing. If you are not sure how to appeal, you should speak to the Children’s Reporter who wrote to you about your Hearing or seek legal advice from a solicitor.

If somebody wishes to appeal, a Sheriff will look at the decision made by the Hearing again to see if they agree with it. They may also call in witnesses who were at the Children’s Hearing.

  • Advocacy

Advocacy is the name given to the process of supporting children and young people to speak up, express their views and defend their rights. To find out more about advocacy or to find a local advocate, go here.

An advocate is a person who supports children and young people to express themselves for themselves – or if they prefer – to do that on their behalf, and make sure their voice is heard. A child or young person going to a Children’s Hearing and aged between 5 and 18 years old, can have an advocate to support them.

  • Affidavit

An affidavit is a written statement that is used as evidence in court. Certain adults involved in a Children’s Hearing may be asked to provide an affidavit about that child or young person’s circumstances, and they have to promise that it is true. Affidavits are read by the Sherriff to help them make a decision.

  • Best Interests

Best interests mean that children enjoy all of the rights that are in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and that their wellbeing, growth and development are considered when adults are making decisions that will affect their lives.  

  • Child Protection Order

This is an emergency court order that is granted when it is believed a child or young person is likely to be harmed or has suffered significant harm and needs to be immediately moved to keep them safe. The Child Protection Order is applied for by the Social Work department and is granted by a Sheriff.

  • Children’s Hearing

This is a legal meeting (often just called a Hearing or a Panel) that is called if there are concerns about a child or young person and a decision needs to be made about what is best for them. Sometimes, children and young people are asked to go with their families or carers so they can take part in the meeting.

  • Children’s Hearings System

The Children’s Hearings System supports children and young people in Scotland under the age of eighteen who need help. There are two main reasons why the Children’s Hearings System will help a child or young person:

1) Because they are in need of care and protection.

2) Because they have gotten into trouble with the police.

  • Children’s Panel

This is the name given to the three Panel Members who are at every Hearing. The Panel Members make the decisions about what should be done to help the child or young person. Sometimes the words ‘Children’s Panel’ are used instead of ‘Hearing’, so you might hear the phrase ‘I’m going to the Children’s Panel’ which means the same as ‘I’m going to a Hearing’.

  • Children’s Reporter

If a child or young person has any questions about a Children’s Hearing or want to know more about their rights, they can phone the Children’s Reporter for more information. Their contact details will be on the letter sent about the Hearing.

  • Children’s Rights

Children’s rights are a list of things that all children need in order to live safe, healthy and happy lives. You have them no matter where you are from or who you are; they belong to all children up to the age of 18. Adults and governments must respect and protect children’s rights, and they can’t be taken away from you.

All of the rights that children have, can be found in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, or the UNCRC.

  • Children’s Welfare Report

A Child Welfare Report is prepared by a child welfare reporter, who is usually a solicitor. The Child Welfare Reporter will be appointed by the court, and they will be aware of issues that are important when the sheriff is making a decision about contact or residence.

  • Compulsory Supervision Order

A Compulsory Supervision Order is a legal document, which means that the local authority is responsible for looking after and helping a child. It might say where the child must live or other conditions which must be followed.

  • Contact

Time spent between a child or young person, and someone else, normally another member of their family. Decisions about contact may be made by a Children’s Hearing, such as with whom the child or young person has contact, how often and for how long.

  • Continue a hearing (see 'Defer a Hearing')
  • Court

Court (usually a Sheriff Court) is where legal matters or cases are dealt with. Most towns and cities have a Sheriff Court. Sometimes in the Children’s Hearings System, you have to go to Court if the statement of grounds is not accepted or if there is an appeal against a decision made at a Children’s Hearing.

  • Curator ad litem

A curator ad litem is a legal representative appointed by a Sheriff, similar to the role of a Safeguarder. Their job is to speak to the child or young person, as well as the adults in their lives, and represent their best interests in any legal proceedings. What the curator thinks is best for the child may not be the same as what the child or their family wants to happen. Although they are appointed by a Sheriff, if a child’s case goes back to a Children’s Hearing, then the curator may attend the Hearing.

  • Defer a hearing

This means that the Panel Members are unable to make a decision about the future of the child or young person on the day of the Hearing. This may be because they would like some more information about the child or young person before they make a decision, so the Hearing is stopped (deferred) to wait for that information and it will be re-arranged for another day.

Sometimes this is also referred to as ‘continue a hearing’.

  • Interim Compulsory Supervision Order

An Interim Compulsory Supervision Order (ICSO) is a temporary order that the Panel Members can make if they are unable to make a final decision but have concerns about a child or young person.  It might say where the child or young person must live or contain other conditions which must be followed.  This only lasts for a short time before needing to be renewed.

  • Lawyer (see ‘solicitor’)
  • Legal aid

This is when the government pays for help from a solicitor. This can be for advice about going to a Children’s Hearing, or to accompany a child or young person to a Hearing or to Court to represent them. There is more information about Legal Aid and when you can get it at Or you can ring them on 0131 226 7061.

  • Local authority

Each area in Scotland is run by a council, there are 32 councils in Scotland and these areas are known as Local Authorities. Social workers and teachers work for the Local Authority.

  • Panel Members

Panel Members are people from the local community who volunteer to sit on a Children’s Hearing. Panel Members come from a wide range of backgrounds and will live or work in the Local Authority area in which they sit on Hearings. All Panel Members are given special training so that they can make decisions to help the children and young people who come to a Hearing. There are three Panel Members at every Hearing and one of them will lead or ‘chair’ the Hearing – this is known as the Panel Chair or Chairperson.

  • Pre-Hearing Panel

This is a meeting held before a hearing takes place, and Panel Members decide if there are any reasons why you will not need to go to your Hearing.

If a child or relevant person does not agree or is unable to understand the statement of grounds, Panel Members can ask the Reporter to send the grounds to the Sheriff Court. This means that the case will be sent to court and a Sheriff will decide if the statement of grounds is correct. To help the Sheriff to do this, the Sheriff will sometimes need to hear evidence from people, and this is called a proof.

If the Sheriff decides that the grounds are correct, the Reporter will arrange another Children’s Hearing and the Panel Members will then decide whether a Compulsory Supervision Order is necessary. If the Sheriff decides that the grounds are not correct, that is the end of the case and no further Children’s Hearing would be arranged.

  • Referral

A referral is when information about a child or young person is sent to the Children’s Reporter because they think that the child or young person needs help to sort out some of the problems or difficulties in their life through support, care or protection.

Generally, referrals are sent to the Children’s Reporter by the Social Work Department, Education Services (for example, a nursery or school) or the Police, but anybody can refer a child or young person if they wish.

  • Relevant Person

This is someone who has the right to attend a Children’s Hearing and get information about it. A Relevant Person can be the child or young person’s parent, grandparent, carer, guardian or the person who looks after them. They must be deemed to be relevant by a Children’s Hearing if they are not the child or young person’s biological or adoptive mother or father.

  • Reporter (see ‘Children’s Reporter’)
  • Safeguarder

A Safeguarder is someone who helps a Sheriff or Children’s Hearing Panel make a decision about what should happen next for a child or young person when there is a disagreement or more information is needed.

A Safeguarder wants to learn about what is going on in a child or young person’s life to help make sure that any decisions that are made at the hearing or in court are what is best for the child or young person.

A Safeguarder is someone who protects a child or young person’s human rights, including making sure their best interests are protected. 

  • Safeguarders Panel

The national Safeguarders Panel is the group of people who have demonstrated the required skills and knowledge to be Safeguarders. When a Children’s Hearing or a Sheriff decides that a child or young person needs a Safeguarder, a person who is on the panel can be appointed to them.

  • Safeguarders Panel Team

The Safeguarders Panel Team, based at Children 1st, is contracted by the Scottish Government to manage and operate the national Safeguarders Panel. The role of the Safeguarders Panel Team includes recruitment, training, managing appointments, feedback and concerns, and monitoring the performance of Safeguarders across Scotland.

  • Sheriff

A Sheriff is a legally trained person in charge of the Court.  Their job is to make sure that everything is done fairly and that Court rules are followed.  The Sheriff will make the final decision about what should happen next with the statement of grounds and/or an appeal.

  • Social Worker

A social worker is someone who works for the Local Authority and who may visit children and young people and their families if they need support. If a social worker is concerned about a child or young person, then they can refer them to the Children’s Reporter. If a child or young person is placed on a Compulsory Supervision Order at a Children’s Hearing, then a Social Worker must see them regularly to ensure that they are safe and well.

  • Solicitor

A solicitor (also known as a lawyer or a legal representative) is a legally trained person who can offer legal advice and assistance to children, young people, or their parents/carers, and who can represent them in Court or at a Children’s Hearing.

  • Statement of grounds

There are lots of different reasons why a child or young person might be referred to the Children’s Reporter. Some of these might be:

  • If they have not been going to school,
  • If they have been in trouble with the police,
  • If they have been drinking alcohol or taking drugs,
  • If their behaviour has been causing concern at home, school or in the community,
  • If someone is worried that they are not being cared for properly by their parents or carers,
  • If an adult has hurt them or someone in their family in some way.

If a Reporter is concerned about a child or young person for any of these reasons, they may decide to arrange a Children’s Hearing. They will draft a ‘statement of grounds’ outlining the reasons for the Children’s Hearing and the child or young person and their parents or carers will receive a copy of these.

  • Substantive decision

A substantive decision is when there is a decision to make, change, or end a Compulsory Supervision Order. ‘Substantive’ means rooted in fact and important. While these decisions are important, it is possible to appeal a substantive decision.


The UNCRC, or the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, is an important document that lists all the different rights that children have. These rights are called Articles, and there are 42 articles included in the UNCRC.

The UNCRC was created by the United Nations in 1989 and ratified, or signed by, the UK (including Scotland) in 1991. This means that the government must report back to the United Nations about what they are doing to make sure children’s rights are being respected, protected and fulfilled here.

To read more about the articles of the UNCRC, go here.

If there are any other words that are causing confusion, please let us know and we can help you understand them, and then we will add them to this list. You can also go here to see SCRA’s ‘Jargon Buster’ page.













From Aine: Sometimes panels will say “we’re sending the grounds of referral to the Sheriff for proof”. Might be helpful to define what that means