A single national body to replace local children’s panels comes one step closer today as the Education, Lifelong Learning and Culture Committee publishes its Stage 1 report on the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Bill.
The Bill aims to modernise and strengthen the foundations of the existing 40 year old children’s hearing system to ensure independent decisions on the welfare of children are made by a trained panel of lay members.
The Bill would replace the current system where each local authority establishes a panel and instead there would be one national body called Children’s Hearings Scotland (CHS) to be led by a National Convener. However, hearings would still take place in local communities.
Committee Convener Karen Whitefield MSP said: “The Committee agreed to support the general principles of the bill, although there were concerns that much would depend on the views of whoever is appointed as the national convener. The committee’s main concern is to ensure that in the future the strengths of the children’s hearing system are bolstered and that decisions continue to be made in the best interests of the child.”
The committee also highlighted:
• Concern over the lack of detail on the job description and powers of the National Convener.
• Significant concerns over changes to the definition of a relevant person, usually a parent, which may impact on their participation in children’s hearings.
• Concern over the unresolved matter of children carrying a criminal record into adult life.
• That the Scottish Government should consider a suggestion to provide a report on the child’s view in advance of a hearing.
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