Legal framework for Safeguarders

Here are some frequently asked questions that will help you to understand a little bit about the legal framework for Safeguarders.

List of questions about rights

The role of the Safeguarder was originally introduced into the children’s hearings system through the Children Act 1975. Today, the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 that provides the option to appoint a person to safeguard the interests of the child to whom the hearing relates.  

S30(1) of The Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011:

“A children’s hearing must consider whether to appoint a person to safeguard the interests of the child to whom the children’s hearing relates (a ‘Safeguarder’)”

If a Children’s Hearing does not appoint a Safeguarder and the matter goes to a Proof at Court, S31(2) of The Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011:

“The sheriff must consider whether to appoint a Safeguarder for the child”.

Read the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 here.

Safeguarders are independent. They are not connected to others involved with the child and they are free to give their view of what they think is in the child’s best interests

There are currently 137 Safeguarders who cover all 32 Local Authority areas in Scotland.

Safeguarders belong to the national Safeguarders Panel. This Panel is made up of all the Safeguarders across Scotland. Any child or young person, who a Children’s Hearing or Sheriff decides should have a Safeguarder, will have a Safeguarder appointed to them from this national panel.

Children 1st is contracted by the Scottish Government to manage and operate the national Safeguarders Panel. The role of the Safeguarders Panel Team (SPT), includes recruitment, training, managing appointments, feedback and concerns, and monitoring the performance of Safeguarders across Scotland. The current contract for SPT commenced in July 2020.

Children 1st has successfully operated and administered the national Safeguarders Panel since its inception in 2012. The Safeguarders Panel was set up to ensure the consistency and quality of the provision for children, greater support for Safeguarders and to contribute to the ongoing modernisation of the Children’s Hearing system. From the start of our first contract in June 2013, we have allocated Safeguarders for 8,881 referrals and within this contract from April 2017 to the end of September 2019 we have allocated 3,325 Safeguarders. 

Children 1st has a clear understanding of the need for Safeguarder’s independence, which is critical in the operation of the Panel and particularly in the monitoring and support of Safeguarders. The development of Safeguarders skills, capacity and ability to self-reflect supports their ability to fulfil an independent role confidently. Critically, the Safeguarders Panel Team respects the importance of accountability alongside the independence of Safeguarders.  

Children 1st is fully aware of the high-profile nature of this service which is administered and managed on behalf of Scottish Ministers. Safeguarders are individually appointed by Scottish Ministers and are independent in statute. This independence is the most highly valued element of their role according to stakeholders (CELCIS research: Andressi 2015)1.  

SPT is experienced in supporting Safeguarders to develop and improve practice, and in measuring the Safeguarders’ performance using the Performance Support Management Framework (PSMF) to improve their contribution on behalf of children. The purpose of this Framework is to support all Safeguarders to perform the role in accordance with the Practice Standards and to achieve the maximum benefit for those children whose interests they are appointed to safeguard. 

Children 1st has developed strong relationships with the Scottish Government team and key partners to successfully deliver the contract since 2012.

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 hearings 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.

More information about the Children’s Hearings System can be accessed on the Scottish Government’s website and SCRA’s website.

No, Safeguarders do not work for the Children’s Hearing System. 

Safeguarders are independent. This means they are not connected to other people working with you, like panel members, social workers, or lawyers. They are free to give their view of what they think is in your best interests. 

Safeguarders will always do what they think is best for you. You, or others involved with you, may or may not agree with their recommendations. They are there to make sure the children’s hearing or court can make the best decision for you.

Sometimes there might be other people involved in your hearing. Below is some information about each of these roles and how they are similar or different from each other. 

Face of safeguarder


Someone appointed by a Children’s Hearing or a Sheriff to protect the bests interests of a child when a hearing or court is trying to make a decision about that child’s life.

Face of Curator ad Litem

Curator ad Litem

A legal representative appointed by a court to represent, during legal proceedings, the best interests of a person who can’t make decisions for themselves.

Face of Child Welfare Reporter

Child Welfare Reporter

Someone appointed by the court when more information would be beneficial to the court in making a decision about what is best for a child.

Face of Advocate


Someone who offers independent support to those who feel they are not being heard and to ensure they are taken seriously and that their rights are respected.

Face of Solicitor

Solicitor (legal representative)

A lawyer who gives legal advice and represents their clients in the courts.