What is a Safeguarder?

When a child or young person is experiencing some difficult things in their life, they may have to be involved in a children’s hearing or court case.

Sometimes a Safeguarder might be asked to help a Sheriff or Children’s Hearings Panel make a decision about what should happen next for a child or young person. 

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.

Safeguarder talking to Sheriff

Download our information booklet, which provides information for children, young people and families on what a Safeguarder is and what they do.

Common Questions

'Best interests' means 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. 

Safeguarders are not always needed, but there are times when a Children's Hearing Panel or a Sheriff might ask for a Safeguarder to get involved. There are a few reasons that a Panel or Sheriff might think a Safeguarder is needed. These reasons might be:

  • to have someone who is independent, look at what is going on, 
  • to make sure they have all the important information they need, especially children and young people’s views
  • to help work around lots of disagreement between different people about what should happen for a child or young person, or 
  • to help make sure that children's rights and best interests are protected during the process.

Safeguarders are people who have been recruited and assessed to be on the national Safeguarders Panel. Safeguarders come from different backgrounds and have different personal and professional experience. To be a Safeguarder, they must show that they have the skills and knowledge required for the role. 

After they have demonstrated that they have the right skills and knowledge, Scottish Ministers appoint Safeguarders to the national Safeguarder Panel. When a child or young person needs a Safeguarder, a person who is on the panel can be appointed to them.

When someone becomes a Safeguarder, they agree to follow national standards to make sure they do the best job they can. The way they speak to and communicate with children, young people and their families should follow these standards. 

Safeguarders should:

  • understand children’s rights and best interests 
  • be respectful of everyone and their rights
  • be empathetic, adaptive, and self-reflective
  • be on time and available
  • answer any questions you might have
  • explain things so that you understand what's happening
  • listen to what you have to say
  • give clear reasons for their views and recommendations
  • keep information confidential
  • keep you updated 
  • let you know what they are going to tell the Children's Panel or Sheriff

To read the full Practice Standards, click here.

No, Safeguarders do not work for the Children’s Hearings 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


A Safeguarder is appointed by a Children’s Hearings System or a Sheriff to safeguard a child or young person's interests when a hearing or court has to make a decision about what happens in their life. 

Face of Advocate

Advocacy Worker

An advocacy worker is a professional who advocates for a child or young person by helping them to give their views and make sure the people at the children’s hearings know their views and what they want to happen. The advocacy worker will be there for the child or young person only.

Face of Solicitor


A solicitor is a lawyer who will give a child, young person and/or their family legal advice and will represent them in a Children’s Hearings or at Court.