One of the features of living in and around the “care system” is the frequency of meetings.
Throughout the Independent Care Review and subsequently, care experienced children and young people made clear that where meetings took place, at what time and in what manner had a significant impact on how they felt.
Stories of meetings taking place when they wanted to be at football practice, or the embarrassment of being taken out of school were frequently heard. The Promise Report found that in relation to the Children’s Hearings System, the timing “ of hearings and how children are removed from school has meant they have missed lessons and felt stigmatised in comparison to other pupils.”
As a result, The Promise made it clear that:
when meetings take place, they must be at times and in locations that work for the child and must not adversely impact on their life and education.
A Child Friendly Scheduling project from the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration
As part of their work to #KeepThePromise, the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) have developed a Child Friendly Scheduling project, with five different tests of change taking place across the country. The first was launched in Ayrshire in April 2023, with the aim of giving every child attending an annual review or panel member review Hearing a choice about the date, time and location (including physical or virtual) of their Hearing.
The other 4 improvement tests making up the project are taking place in:
- Grampian and Moray,
- Fife, and
- Na h-Eileanan Siar (The Western Isles).
The Renfrewshire and Grampian and Moray projects are up and running, and Fife has launched this week, with the Western Isles project looking to go live in early 2024. All the different tests of change are relatively small scale, and are testing slightly different approaches so we can measure accurately the benefits to children and young people— and identify what aspects of child friendly scheduling are genuinely an improvement.
The aim is to define a consistent approach which can be scaled up and spread in time.
In taking the work forward in Ayrshire, SCRA worked with those who already have an established, trusting relationship with the child— such as an advocacy worker who has a relationship with the child, guidance teachers, or social workers or key workers.
The child’s preferences are pulled together through a simple checklist that has links to information which might support the child, such as links to SCRA website, information about their rights, images of the Hearing centres locally and much more.
A small change that can have a significant impact
The learning for us has been profound: it has looked like a small change, and yet children are telling us it has been meaningful for them. There has been a significant increase in the number of requests for ‘pre-Hearing visits’ to our Hearing centres. This allows children to feel more prepared for a Hearing and more comfortable when they get here. Some young people who previously did not attend their Hearing have felt able to express their wishes in advance and feeling heard has helped them to attend and participate in their Hearing.
Generally, the requests from the children have been straightforward to accommodate. They have included asking for Hearings before or after school or avoiding certain days when the children have activities. Often, children have wanted to arrange Hearings at a time with they can have someone important to them attend, such as a grandparent.
We are now working to extend the project to other areas and other Hearings and address the challenges for Hearings that have a shorter preparation time.
We are also actively seeking to link with partners who are doing similar work around scheduling of meetings for children to see if we can share information to avoid repeat questioning of our children and young people.
It’s essential to us that the process we develop and spread is sustainable, flexible and responsive to future needs of children and young people and any developments that come as we, along with our partners, work towards implementing the promise, and tackling any legislative changes which lie ahead.