A report has recommended changing the children’s hearings system in Scotland to ensure a paid professional is on every panel.
There is currently a volunteer-only model for children’s hearing panels, which deal with issues around care and children coming into conflict with the law.
The report was published by The Promise Scotland, an organisation dedicated to improving the lives of children in care.
It proposed that children should have the same panel chair every time they attend a hearing, with that person being a salaried professional accompanied by two trained and skilled panel members.
This panel chair would ensure that discussions during hearings are not overly adversarial, it suggested.
The working group which wrote the report, which had more than 100 recommendations in total, was chaired by Sheriff David Mackie.
He said: “Since its inception, in 1968, many children, families, care-experienced adults and those working alongside them have shared their views and experiences about what has been working and what hasn’t within the children’s hearings system.
“Many have highlighted a system that often feels complex and confusing and which does not always make sense to children and families.
“The recommendations of the Hearings System Working Group represent transformational change to the children’s hearings system and a modern update on the historic and revolutionary work of the Kilbrandon Committee.
“If implemented and resourced in full they will herald a step change not only for the children’s hearings system but for how we work alongside children and families across Scotland.”
The Scottish Government’s Minister for Children, Young People and Keeping the Promise, Natalie Don, said she welcomed the report.
She said: “The children’s hearings system is unique to Scotland, and for over 50 years the dedication and commitment of those working within it has been outstanding.
“However, the Promise is clear that the system needs to change, as children’s experiences in the system haven’t always reflected that investment of care and skill.
“I am very grateful to Sheriff Mackie, The Promise Scotland and the wider Hearings System Working Group for this crucial report.
“It has clearly been developed with care and we must apply the same levels of care and diligence when considering our response.”
The government will respond more fully later in the year, Ms Don said.
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