The Children's Hearing system is a combined care and justice system for children and young people. A child or young person may be referred to a Children's Reporter as some aspect of their life is giving cause for concern to the referrer. Referrals are made from a variety of sources including Police, Social Services, Education and Health.
A Children's Reporter will receive a referral and determine whether or not compulsory measures of intervention are required. If so, a Children's Hearing will be held.
A Hearing is a type of meeting that takes placed to decide what needs to be done in the best interest of the child.
The majority of Panel Hearings take place within the child's home area, with the child, the child's parents, their Social Worker, the Reporter to the Panel and 3 Panel members being present.
An informal approach is promoted in Hearing rooms with the introduction of new style soft seating and a low level coffee table to ensourage discussion. This is done to ensure that the child and the parents feel part of the proceedings.
Panel members and the family are given background reports up to 7 days in advance of the Hearing. These reports come from different agencies and have to be carefully considered when the Hearing takes place, with the contents being discussed informally and thoroughly with the child and those other persons present.
The Panel members then have to make a decision, before the child and family leave, as to the most appropriate action to be taken, in the best interests of the child. Each Hearing can last anything up to an hour.
If a decision is taken concerning the child's future and either the child or his/her parents do not agree with that decision, then they have the right to appeal to the Sheriff about that decision.
The Reporter to the Children's Panel is primarily responsible for recommending that a child attend a Hearing.
The majority of referrals to the Reporter come from the Police or the Social Work Service. However, anyone who has a concern about a child, for example teacher, health visitor, member of the public, may approach the Reporter.
Any child, from new-born to 16 years of age, may be referred to the Reporter and may attend a Hearing.
The area support team for Clackmannanshire also has responsibility for Falkirk, Stirling and West Lothian Children's Panels. The administrative support for the AST is provided by Falkirk Council's Corporate and Housing Services.
The annual recruitment drive for new panel members usually takes place around August/September and is advertised locally.
Informal information evenings take place to allow potential panel members a chance to find out if they would be suitable or not. Thereafter, selection interviews are held and new panel members are finally appointed, after completion of training, by Children's Hearings Scotland.