The Commissioner’s new powers explained

Date: 7th July 2015
Category: General measures of implementation

From April 2016, the Commissioner will have the power to investigate potential rights violations of individual children and young people. SCCYP has discussed how this will work in practice.

Currently, Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People (SCCYP) has the power to investigate matters on behalf of groups of children, but from April 2016 the office will be able to do this on behalf of individuals.

In order to use these new powers, the Commissioner needs to avoid duplication of the work of the other bodies. In order to avoid this, the Commissioner carried out a mapping exercise. This set out to look at the main bodies handling complaints in Scotland and better understand their powers of investigation in order to highlight the types of cases where the Commissioner's new powers could be most effective.

As well as speaking to complaints handling bodies and regulators, the Commissioner wanted to hear about the experiences children, young people and those working closely with them had of complaining. To achieve this, his office commissioned Children's Parliament to produce a report on children and young people's views of making complaints and organised a roundtable event to bring together those working closely with a wide range of children and young people.

At the end of May 2015, the Commissioner presented three reports to the Education and Culture Committee:

  1. Download 'We May Be Children, But We All Have Rights' here.
  2. Download the summary report of key finds from the mapping exercise here.
  3. Download the Children's Parliament report 'Together We Can Fix It' here.

The reports found that:

  • Children and young people currently face significant difficulties in bringing complaints;
  • While complaints bodies and regulators would welcome complaints from children and young people, these are rarely made in practice.

The Commissioner has created a model of operation that follows on from the mapping exercise, and the views of children and young people and those working alongside them. This sets out how the Commissioner sees his new powers working in practice.

Although the office is likely to only carry out a small number of investigations each year, the model of operation has been developed to take account of the stated desire of children and young people to seek local resolution where possible.

The Commissioner and his team outlined an approach where they would work with a child or young person, supporting them to access local complaints processes through:

  • Finding out the child or young person's views around what they wanted to happen;
  • Outlining the various complaints options open to the child or young person;
  • Helping the child or young person identify and access local support that would allow them to progress their complaint.

Alongside this, the Commissioner and his team outlined plans to work closely with other complaints bodies and regulators, to make sure that complaints processes across Scotland are fully accessible to children and young people.