Analysis of consultation responses concerning the Children (Scotland) Act 2020

Date: 2nd February 2022
Category: Social security and childcare, Family reunification, Looked after children, Parental responsibilities, Protection from abuse or neglect

two hands writing a report with a pencil

These analysis reports capture and summarise responses to two 2021 consultations: on child contact centres; and another on child welfare reporters, curators ad litem and solicitors. This article highlights the key themes identified in the reports, interspersed with what we said in our consultation response.

Child welfare reporters, curators ad litem and solicitors

Several key themes were evident in the responses to this consultation, these included:

  • There is a need to ensure there are no conflicts of interest across all registers and that the best interests of the child are considered at all times.
  • For the approaches taken for appointment, reappointment, fees and expenses paid and the complaints procedure; these must offer accountability, scrutiny and transparency; with an independent review and appeals process and procedural safeguards.
  • While opinions were mixed over the number of days of training that would be required for child welfare reporters, curators ad litem or solicitors, all must have the training to ensure they have the required skills and expertise.

Together said that prospective child welfare reporters should be able to evidence knowledge and understanding of children’s human rights, as set out in the UNCRC, in addition to a practical understanding of how to help realise these rights through their role. They should demonstrate an understanding of trauma-informed practice (UNCRC Article 39).

  • There is a need for ongoing appraisal and training, to ensure skills are kept up-to-date and relevant. As such, some felt there should be no automatic reappointment to the registers and that there is a need to demonstrate eligibility for inclusion.

Together identified that automatic reappointment is not appropriate and that child welfare reporters must continue to demonstrate that they are eligible for inclusion. We believe this should specifically include requirements for them to participate in ongoing child rights-based training.

  • While there is a need to demonstrate a wide range of skills, key ones appear to be an ability to engage with children, have an understanding of family dynamics, have an understanding of domestic abuse, and a basic understanding of court procedures.

Together said that the majority of proposed requirements that a person must satisfy to be included on the child welfare reporter register are essential. They are essential because they can help to ensure the rights of children and young people are protected, respected and fulfilled. However, we did note that the appointment criteria should not only be about setting minimum standards but also seeking to encourage higher standards from those applying for and remaining on the child welfare reporter register.

  • Whichever body is appointed to manage the registers, will need to be independent, impartial, consistent, accountable and objective.

Child contact centre services

Common themes drawn from the responses to the consultation on the regulation of child contact centre services included:

Overall, the majority support the proposals outlined in this consultation paper.

  • There were references to a need for regulations and minimum standards to be child-friendly and be in line with the UNCRC.

For example, when making a decision that will affect children, Together said children should be involved in the process of developing and co-designing these minimum standards. We said this process should be underpinned by General Comment no. 12 and special care should be taken to ensure all children can express their views and have these heard, including children who are often seldom heard, such as young children, disabled children and children for whom English is an additional language.

  • In general, respondents wanted to see minimum standards laid down in regulations for accommodation, and training for all staff.

Together said training must be child rights-based in line with General Comment 5. We said it was crucial that staff have the knowledge and an understanding of children’s rights under the UNCRC, and that children’s rights are mainstreamed throughout all training. To do this, staff should be required to have the skills set out in the Council of Europe Guidelines on child-friendly justice. Training should also draw upon the Common Core of Skills, Knowledge and Understanding for the Children’s Workforce. Staff should be trained in accessible and child-friendly communication, including supporting the expression of views for minoritised and migrant children and children who do not speak English as a first language.

  • The inspection process was perceived to be important, as were sanctions for non-compliance. Likewise, there was perceived to be a need to monitor training requirements.
  • While it might not be seen to be necessary to provide all staff and volunteers with the same training across a wide range of areas, it was seen to be important to have training which is appropriate to roles and responsibilities, and for all to be aware and understand other areas of training which might not be directly relevant.
  • The issue of funding was important, with references to the need for additional funding for necessary changes to physical spaces and the training of staff and volunteers. Disabled access in particular was seen as important.

Scottish Government will use the report findings to help inform the policy development process related to these areas of the 2020 Act.