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Summaries of all recommendations from the Hearings for Children report can be found below.

The Hearings for Children report contains 97 recommendations on how Scotland's Children's Hearings System can be redesigned in a transformative way.

You can find summaries of each recommendation below, arranged by the report chapter where they appear. Click on a recommendation to read its expanded summary.

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In December 2023, the Scottish Government accepted a significant majority of the Hearings System Working Group’s final recommendations to deliver a redesigned hearings system shaped around a rights-respecting and inquisitorial model.

However, it rejected the recommendation for salaried chairs.

This recommendation was never an end in itself— but what was considered to be the best measure in addressing the need for way to ensure a system that facilitated continuity and good consistency of decision-makers, articulated by the children and families the group heard from.

The Scottish Government's response rightly highlighted the contribution of volunteers.

However, Ministers must listen to what children have been saying and make sure the Children’s Hearings System provides stability, support, continuity and accountability.

Sustainability pressures for recruitment of panel members have only become more acute since ‘Hearings for Children’ was published. As such, remuneration and salaried options must continue to be considered— and should not be ruled out due to current budgetary pressures.

A redesigned Children’s Hearings System is intended to be part of a redesigned system of care. Through providing early support for children and families, far fewer children should ever have to enter it.

By working together and making decisions for the long term, Scotland can keep the promise made to children, families and the care experienced community by 2030.

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Hearings for Children: Summarised recommendations

Recommendations in this chapter

Maintain and sustain the workforce for children and families

There must be serious, sustained attention on maintaining and sustaining the children and families’ workforce— including the third sector workforce.

Provide high quality Family Group Decision Making and Restorative Justice services

There must be consistent, high-quality provision of Family Group Decision Making and Restorative Justice services across Scotland.

Access to help and support

All children and families must be able to access the help and support they need, in the way that they need it.

Action around early help and support

Early help and support for children and families must be provided.

Review help and support for families working voluntarily alongside local authorities

Work should be done to review the impact and effectiveness of help and support for families who work voluntarily alongside local authorities.

Develop accessible routes to whole family support

Multi-agency partnerships must be supported to develop whole family support.

Urgently resolve recruitment issues in child and family social work teams

For child and family social work teams, challenges around recruitment, retention and resourcing must be urgently resolved.

Recommendations in this chapter

Explicitly encourage an inquisitorial approach

The Children’s Hearings System should be explicitly described as inquisitorial.

Coordinated approach to language

There must be a coordinated approach to establishing a new language of care in Scotland.

Specialisation of Sheriffs

Sheriffs must have a clear understanding in specific areas, and the creation of specialised Sheriffs must be considered.

Training must be overseen nationally

There must be national oversight by the Scottish Government of resourcing and provision of training of everyone involved in the Children’s Hearings System.

A clear understanding of rights

There must be a clear understanding of rights at all levels of a redesigned Children's Hearings System.

Changes to how a Child’s Plan is put in place

There must be changes to the way a Child’s Plan is put in place.

Review the functions of CHS and SCRA

The current functions of CHS and SCRA must be reviewed for a redesigned Children's Hearings System to operate effectively.

Recommendations in this chapter

Changes around referrals to the Reporter

Several changes must be made around referrals to the Reporter.

The Reporter must have more of a role pre-referral

The Reporter must have more of a role before a referral is made to the Children’s Hearings System.

Specialist training on criminal justice

Specialist training must be provided to those in particular roles within the Children's Hearings System.

Reporter’s regards around referral grounds

The Reporter should have regards to certain issues when making decisions around the grounds through which to refer a child

Legislation towards expanded routes to the Reporter

The Children (Care and Justice) (Scotland) Bill must expand routes to the Reporter for children and young people who are convicted at Court.

Recommendations in this chapter

Changes to how advocacy is offered

There must be specific changes to how advocacy is offered.

Reporters working closely with referred children and families

Once a referral has been received, the Reporter must work more closely alongside children and families, if they can.

Measures to reduce repeat referrals

Certain measures must be considered to reduce "repeat referrals" and increase co-ordination between the Children's Hearing System and the wider "care system."

Recommendations in this chapter

A change to the process of establishing grounds

Specific changes must take place to the process of establishing grounds.

Consistency of conduct, environment, and Sheriffs

In certain ways, a child and family’s experience at Court should align as much as possible with the experience at a Hearing.

Routine consideration of appointing Safeguarder

The appointment of a Safeguarder must be routinely considered during the process to establish grounds.

Identify and reduce delays in establishing grounds

The reasons for structural and systemic delays in establishing grounds must be identified— then eliminated.

Lengths of interim orders should align with a child’s best interests

Interim orders must be in place for a length of time that is in the best interests of the child.

No requirement for young children to agree with grounds

Specific recommendations around the agreement of grounds.

Recommendations in this chapter

Enabling an inquisitorial approach

For a Children's Hearing to operate as an inquisitorial, non-adversarial tribunal, necessary changes must take place.

Changes to how the Panel makes a decision

Recommendations around changes to the Panel's decision-making model.

Changes to a Chair’s engagement with children and families

The way in which a consistent Chair engages with children and families must change in specific ways.

Changes to recruiting and training Panel Members

Specific changes must be made to the recruitment and training of Panel Members.

CHS and SCRA must be resourced to adapt to this redesign

CHS and SCRA must be resourced to adapt to this redesign

A national review of ongoing processes and meetings should take place

There must be a national review of several ongoing processes and meetings so that the Children's Hearing is clearly seen as the principal legal decision-making forum.

Specific circumstances for a Reporter to attend a Hearing

Reporters must only attend a Hearing in specific circumstances.

A clear explanation of the Reporter's role

Clear measures should be in place to explain the role of the Reporter in a Hearing.

Recommendations in this chapter

A more robust preparation phase

There must be a more robust preparation phase before a Children’s Hearing, which must involve children and their families.

Information for children and families must change

The first information children get about their Hearing must change.

An offer to meet the Chair

Ahead of a Hearing taking place, the child and their family should be offered an opportunity to meet their Chair.

Increased collaboration to plan and prepare for a Hearing

CHS and SCRA must work together before a Hearing takes place.

Planning for the individual needs of children and families

Children’s Hearings must be planned for each child and family's individual needs.

Explore new responsibilities for CHS

Specific new responsibilities must be explored for Children's Hearings Scotland.

Scope the possibility of pre-Hearing planning meetings

Scotland must explore whether pre-Hearing planning meetings are workable.

Determine which decisions a Chair can make before a Hearing

A Chair could take some procedural decisions without needing to convene a full Panel in advance of a Hearing.

Hear more from those who know the child best

The preparation phase must give particular consideration to information to people working closely alongside the child, and to foster, kinship or adoptive parents.

Uphold rights of brothers and sisters within a Hearing

The rights of brothers and sisters to participate in – and be part of – a sibling’s Hearing must be upheld.

Ways to share information and views when absent from a Hearing

When people might find it difficult to physically attend a Hearing, there must be ways for information and views to be shared in advance.

A presumption to attend, instead of an obligation

Currently, children have an obligation to attend their Hearing. This must be removed., and replaced with a presumption.

Create and retain options to help children attend their Hearings

All existing options available to help children attend their Hearings should remain in place, and new options should be made available.

Develop national reporting standards— which include a standardised pro forma template

There should be national standards for providing reports to Children's Hearings. This must be a priority.

The Child’s Plan as the basis of information and decision-making

The Child's Plan should form the basis of information and decisions a Panel makes.

Time for Panel Members to review reports

All reports must be shared in plenty of time for Panel Members to review them.

Supporting children and families when papers arrive

Children and families must be fully supported when their papers arrive from the Hearing.

Enough time for children to understand information received

A child and ‘relevant person’ must be given appropriate time to both read and understand the information that they receive.

Recommendations in this chapter

Include children and families in the decision-making process

Children and families should be recognised as experts in their own lives. As such, they must feel included in the decision-making process.

Help to understand choices around participation

Children and their families must be helped to understand their choices and rights around participation in a Hearing.

The experiences of babies and infants must be captured

The voices and experiences of babies and infants must be captured and shared with the Panel. 

Commence certain provisions in s.3 of the Children (Scotland) Act

All children and families must be able to access the help and support they need, in line with the conclusions of the Independent Care Review.

Examine the benefits and consequences of recording Hearings

There should be a full examination of the potential benefits and consequences that would come with recording Hearings.

Recommendations in this chapter

Conduct of lawyers that represents an inquisitorial approach

The Children’s Hearings System should be inquisitorial, not adversarial. The conduct of lawyers must reflect this when they represent children and relevant persons .

Active management of a Safeguarder’s role

As changes around the Children’s Hearings System are put in place, the role of Safeguarders must be actively managed.

Training for social workers to support a redesigned system

Social workers’ training must cover the Children’s Hearings System's purpose, processes and structure in adequate detail.

Social workers must have in-depth understanding of children and families’ lives

When social workers attend a Hearing, they must have an in-depth understanding of the lives of the children and families involved.

A closer relationship between orders and required support

There must be a closer relationship between: what is in an order, and the help and support a family needs to address the challenges in their lives.

Recommendations in this chapter

Hearings should scrutinise a Child’s Plan

The Hearing should engage in robust scrutiny of a Child’s Plan.

A closer relationship between orders and required support

There must be a closer relationship between: what is in an order, and the help and support a family needs to address the challenges in their lives.

Equivalent standards for home supervision orders

Home supervision orders must have the same degree of specificity and urgency as orders that require a child to be looked after away from home.

Empower Panels to allow time for FGDM and Restorative Justice

Panels must be empowered to make sure there’s time for Restorative Justice processes to take place and Family Group Decision Making processes to take place.

Uphold rights relating to Secure Care

Where alternative options to Secure Care are not available in local areas, this data should be collected and shared with the National Convener.

Joined up systems for siblings engaged with child protection

When families have more than one child engaged with child protection, care and support systems must be connected and streamlined.

Children must stay in consistent, loving homes

Sometimes, it isn’t possible for children to remain safely at home. When this happens, Hearings must sure they remain with a consistent caregiver, whenever this is possible.

Earlier review by the Hearing

When there are clear indications circumstances will be too challenging for a child to remail at home, there should be earlier review of what a long-term plan of care might look like.

Consideration of a set timetable for long-term placements

There should be consideration of a set timetable for placements which are intended to be long-term.

Decisions around permanence and adoption should link to a Children’s Hearing

When local authorities make decisions, there must be closer links between certain areas.

National best practice guidance around safe relationships

National best practice guidance must be developed around both the issue of ‘contact,’ and maintenance, repair and development of safe relationships.

Orders that ensure safe, loving relationships are upheld

Orders must have a high degree of specificity to ensure relationships are upheld and protected where they are: safe, loving, and mutually supportive.

Consistency of approach for siblings around contact

There needs to be consistency of approach for siblings who each have individual Child’s Plans and orders through the Children’s Hearings System .

Clear processes around reviewing contact arrangements

There must be clear processes for a Hearing to inquire about what is and isn’t working with respect to contact arrangements. This should take place as part of regular review processes.

Seek clarity about help and support for a child’s family

The Hearing must make sure it’s clear what help and support is set out for a child’s family within the Child’s Plan.

Understand why families aren’t engaging with support

If families are not engaging with the support they have available, the tribunal must inquire about the circumstances surrounding this.

Awareness of unintended consequences when children live apart from their families

If families are not engaging with the support they have available, the tribunal must inquire about the circumstances surrounding this.

Help and support for families with children removed from their care

Appropriate evidence-based help and support must be available for families after a child has been removed from their care.

Steps must be taken to meet the needs of 16 and 17-year-olds

Resources and planning are needed to make sure the additional, specific needs of all 16 and 17-year-olds are met.

Reviewing compulsory measures of supervision after two years

When a child has been subject to compulsory measures of supervision for more than two years, there must be a mechanism for the Children’s Hearing to identify this.

Understanding of requirements to ‘exit’ the system

Children, families and implementation authorities should all understand what needs to happen to ‘exit’ the Children’s Hearings System.

Consistency of Sheriff in grounds and appeal processes

Wherever possible, there must be a consistent Sheriff in the grounds and appeal processes.

An accessible and understandable right to appeal

The right to appeal must be accessible and understandable to children and families.

Recommendations in this chapter

Strengthened understanding of the importance of families

The application of compulsion should remain with a child, but there must be a strengthened understanding of a family's importance.

Hearings empowered to maintain oversight of orders and exit plans

The Hearing must be empowered to maintain oversight of orders made by Hearings, and exit plans made by Hearings.

Being able to keep in touch with a Hearing

There must be ways for certain people to keep in touch with the Hearing about how things are going.

A provision around requiring reporting

There must be a provision that allows the Hearing to make a requirement for the implementing authority to regularly report back around its progress.

Clarity that the implementation authority extends beyond social work

It must be clear that the implementation authority extends beyond social work. There is a duty to collaborate across many parts of the workforce.

Situations where Chairs should review decisions

When the Hearing is made aware of certain information, the Chair must review the information that has been shared.

Review Hearings as spaces for open and honest inquiry

A Review Hearing should be seen as an opportunity for a full and frank discussion— alongside the child and family, and with the benefit of an independent Chair.

Reporter discretion to call for a Review Hearing

Where appropriate, the Reporter should be given the discretion to call for a Review Hearing.

Mechanisms to alert a Chair to new information

When new information is thought to be relevant to the decision-making of the Hearing, mechanisms should be created so that the Reporter can draw attention of this to the Chair.

Recommendations in this chapter

Considering a new accountability body

A programme for delivery and implementation should be in place to oversee the implementation of these recommendations. This should consider whether there is a role for a new accountability body.

Consider how compulsory supervision orders are supported and prioritised

The Care Inspectorate should consider how compulsory supervision orders are supported and prioritised with implementing authority planning processes.

More effective use of data

An improved way to effectively – and more consistently – collect, share and learn from data across the Children’s Hearings System must be developed.

A single point of complaint

There must be a single point of access for children, families and others who wish to make a complaint about an aspect of the Children’s Hearings System.

Recommendations in this chapter

The implementation of the recommendations

A high-level, collaborative programme for delivery and implementation must be put in place.