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A year of powerful impact on outcomes for children

Children's Hearings Scotland (CHS) has published its annual Impact Report setting out the improvements it is making to Scotland’s unique system of children’s hearings.

A short video summarises the report.

Hearings redesign

A major piece of work during 2022-23 was CHS's role in the Hearings System Working Group (HSWG), which was established in summer 2021 to redesign the hearings system, after the Independent Care Review heard evidence from thousands of young people and families.

In May 2023 the HSWG’s Redesign Report made more than 130 recommendations, which the Scottish Government is now considering.

CHS was one of the three partners in the HSWG, alongside The Promise Scotland and the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration. The group worked collaboratively to develop proposals for a redesigned hearings system with renewed focus on the experiences of and outcomes for the child.

Young people with experience of hearings were consulted to help CHS understand what changes they needed. The resulting proposals under consideration by the Scottish Government could be some of the biggest changes since hearings began in the 1970s.

Law change and UN rights convention

CHS also helped lead plans across Scotland for a change to the law that will bring 16- and 17-year-olds into the hearings system for the first time. CHS gave advice to politicians about proposals in the Children (Care and Justice) (Scotland) Bill, and began preparations for the expected changes.

A third major area of work has been to ensure that children’s rights are embedded in hearings practice and policy, as Scotland moves towards the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into domestic law. CHS designed new training for volunteers, and a rights impact assessment tool, so that any proposals for change take into account the effects on children’s rights.

Lived experience young people

A theme throughout all of CHS’s work during 2022-23 was the participation of young people with lived experience of the hearings system. In addition to their involvement in the HSWG and work on embedding rights, lived experience young people helped with the recruitment of Panel Members and staff, while children helped create training videos. This means the needs of children influence the very nature of the organisation and people making decisions about children.

“We work hard to put the young people within the hearings system at the heart of everything we do, and this report details the many ways we are proactively increasing our collaboration with young people who have experience of hearings.

“These efforts are delivering a wide range of outcomes, from recommendations for legislative change to practice in the hearing room.”

– CHS National Convener Elliot Jackson

Learning programme

Throughout the year CHS updated its learning programme for Panel Members, including new learning on siblings’ rights, trauma and neurodiversity. Much of the training was compulsory, ensuring it reaches all volunteers so that they are able to make the best possible decisions at hearings.

CHS also improved guidance to Panel Members on asking for Independent Reports at hearings, which can be needed if there is not enough information to reach a decision. This resulted in a higher number of reports being requested, again helping to ensure better decision-making.

CHS National Convener Elliot Jackson said: “In the past year there were more than 22,000 hearings to help nearly 11,000 children across Scotland. We’re grateful to all our volunteers and the young people we work with whose contributions mean we’re helping to make Scotland be the best place to grow up.”

Read the Impact Report 2022-23.

Watch the short summary video.