Children’s views about return to face-to-face children’s hearings

Date: 22nd July 2020
Category: Family Environment and Alternative Care

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In June, Scottish Children's Reporters Administration (SCRA) ran a consultation asking children and young people to share their thoughts, ideas, worries and questions about the planned return to face-to-face hearings with social distancing. SCRA has now published a report, setting out children and young people’s key concerns and what SCRA is doing to address these.  

The consultation followed an earlier survey of people participating in virtual hearings. All 268 respondents to that survey were adults, 46.04% (122) were social workers, 36.60% (97) were solicitors, safeguards, representatives of child or relevant person, 7.55% were parents (20), 7.17% (19) were carers and 2.64% (7) were professionals such as residential workers, throughcare and aftercare workers, relevant persons.

This subsequent consultation therefore sheds valuable light on children and young people’s views. Our Hearings, Our Voice, consulted with 10 young people, aged between 13-19 who live in both urban and rural locations across Scotland, and children and young people from The Fostering Network and Aberdeenshire’s Young People’s Campaigning Group amongst others were consulted.

Having considered responses to the consultation, SCRA noted that some children and young people would feel okay going back to face-to-face hearings with social distancing and felt this method would make them feel more able to participate. Meanwhile, others (about half) said they would feel too uncomfortable with face-to-face hearings because of social distancing, masks, anxiety about the virus, being unsure of what to do and where to go, or it just feeling strange. In response, SCRA stated that it is really important that children and young people can choose what is most comfortable for them and what enables them to participate most easily.

Children and young people told SCRA that social distancing measures could be strange and it was sometimes confusing knowing what to do and where to go. Others were concerned that people didn’t always follow the rules. In response, SCRA has developed clear child-friendly signs to show people where to go and leaflets explaining how social distancing measures will work.

Some children and young people said social distancing rules could help them feel better as it would mean fewer people in the room and therefore less anxiety. In response, SCRA said it was looking at its centres and working out where Hearings could be held with social distancing in place.

SCRA acknowledged concerns raised by some children and young people that it could be difficult to have private conversations with advocacy workers, adults or the Panel, especially if they are linked digitally. SCRA responded that it will make sure that a private space is available to use and if the child or young person wants to speak to their advocacy worker or a supportive adult privately, then Panel Members will move back into the waiting room. For virtual meetings, SCRA will switch off the sound and the video so others cannot see or hear anything.

Transmission of COVID-19 was one of the top worries highlighted by children and young people responding to the consultation. SCRA said it is implementing strict cleaning and social distancing measures and that anyone with symptoms (or who is shielding) will be asked to stay away from the centres.  SCRA said any toys in the waiting rooms will be removed to prevent the spread of the virus, instead SCRA is developing mini sensory takeaway kits for children and young people.

SCRA noted some children and young people’s concerns that seeing people wearing masks could be scary and means they aren’t able to see facial expressions. In response, SCRA said that implementation of 2 metre social distancing rules will mean people do not need to wear masks at face-to-face hearings (although they can if they prefer to).

  • Read more about the consultation and children and young people’s responses here.