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Overview of the Children’s Hearings System

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Overview of the Children’s Hearing System

What is the Children’s Hearings System?

The Children’s Hearings System helps children and young people in Scotland under the age of eighteen who may be experiencing some problems in their lives. It aims to ensure the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable children and young people through a decision-making tribunal called the Children’s Panel.


What is a Children’s Hearing?

A children’s hearing (sometimes just called a hearing or a children’s panel) is a legal meeting that children and young people are sometimes asked to go to with their families or carers to help them sort out problems they may be having. Around 5,500 children and young people in Scotland are asked to go to a children’s hearing each year and this is called being ‘referred’ to a hearing.

🎬  2 mins Children’s Hearings Scotland video


What is a referral?

A referral is when information about a young person is sent to the Children’s Reporter by the police, social work department or a school, because they think that the young person needs some help. The Children’s Reporter will find out information about the young person and then decide if they need to go to a children’s hearing so that some help can be put in place to support the young person.


Why do young people have to go children’s hearings?

There are lots of different reasons why a young person might be referred (asked to go to a hearing) – these are called the ‘grounds of referral’. These are:

  • if someone is worried that they are not being cared for properly by their parents or carers
  • if an adult has hurt them or someone in their family in some way
  • if they have not been going to school
  • if they have been in trouble with the police
  • if they have been drinking alcohol or taking drugs
  • if their behaviour has been causing concern at home, school or in the community


Who attends the hearing?

  • Child or young person, their parents, or carers
  • a Children’s Reporter
  • three children’s panel members
  • a social worker will also be there and possibly a teacher from school
  • a Safeguarder possibly
  • a friend or teacher or other person such as a coordinator, if the young person’s wants to help them talk to the panel members.

Sometimes the panel members can ask some people to leave the children’s hearing if this would help the young person as the focus should be on the child’s needs.


What happens during a hearing?

Everyone will get a chance to speak. Panel members will be interested what the young person has to say as they are the most important person there.

Each young person should be asked to complete a form ‘All About Me’ to help them expand on their feelings about their situation. The panel members can ask people to leave the room, but they do have to tell the parent or carer what has been talked about when they are not there. Sometimes a social worker will ask an intandem coordinator to provide an update on how a match is going prior to a Hearing if this is a significant relationship for the young person.


Decisions a children’s hearing can make about a young person

The three panel members who decide what action should be taken to help a young person at a children’s hearing. The panel members can decide:

  • To discharge the case, i.e. they don’t need to do anything about the grounds for referral and decide not to take it any further. This might be because things have improved for the young person at home or school and the panel members don’t feel that the young person needs to come back to another hearing.


  • To seek more information to help them make a decision about what is best for the young person and they can decide to defer (delay) the hearing until a later date.


  • To make a compulsory supervision order. This is a legal document which means that social work or the local authority must be involved in the young person’s life and that they are responsible for looking after and helping them.


Most young people on a compulsory supervision order stay at home, but if the panel members are very worried about safety, they might decide that to move the young person to stay in another place for a while to keep them safe from danger.


Panel Decision

The panel members will make their decision and they must give reasons for their decision. They should tell the child or young person what is going to happen and why, then send a written copy of the decision and reasons by post.


How long will the hearing last?

Most children’s hearings should take less than an hour. Often children miss school to attend.


🎬  8 mins Children’s Parliament video on Hearings reform


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