Government re-think on Children's Hearing Bill welcomed
28 Aug 2009: Following representations to the Scottish
Government, UNISON Scotland has welcomed the Government's
re-think on the Bill. UNISON Social Work and Reporter members
had raised a number of concens about the Bill in a meeting
with the minister and civil servants, especially in relation
to the protection of children and the need to defend Scotland's
unique Children's Hearing system (see below).
"We are glad that UNISON, along with others, has been
listened to by the Government. This is the right decision
and UNISON will engage fully in the process of re-thinking
the Bill on the basis of defending the Children's Hearing
system and promoting it's welfare and child-centred principles",
said John Stevenson, member of UNISON Scotland's Social
Work Isues Group.
here for the Scottish Government statement
UNISON makes voice heard on new Children’s Hearings
22 Aug 2009: UNISON is to have detailed talks with
Scottish Goverment officials to address concerns the union
has raised about the Draft Children’s Hearings (Scotland)
The talks were set up at a meeting with Adam Ingram, Minister
for Children and Early Years, and members of UNISON Scotland’s
Social Work Isues Group (SWIG) and the Scottish Children’s
Reporter Administration (SCRA) Branch after they had submitted
detailed comments on the draft Bill.
Already the Minister has signalled that some of UNISON’s
main concerns - mainly about protection for children and
maintaining the welfare ethos of the system - will be addressed.
He also said he shared UNISON’s strong defence of Scotland’s
Children’s Hearing System as child-centred and welfare-based.
Kate Ramsden, from UNISON’s SWIG said, “We were seriously
concerned that the Bill actually removed current protections
from children who could be at risk in an abusive household,
and also that children would only be referred for voluntary
advice and assistance if they have already been subject
to compulsory supervision.
“We welcome the Minister’s promise to address these areas.”
However, serious concerns remain, mainly about the proposed
new dual structure. The establishment of a new quango is
likely to lead to a dual administration, meaning increased
potential for confusion and increased bureaucracy.
Yvonne Stewart, UNISON SCRA branch secretary said, “The
creation of a Scottish Children’s Hearing Tribunal (SCHT)
and the split in the administration of the children’s hearing
system can only lead to increased bureaucracy and a greater
possibility of confusion and error. “This will lead to a
more complex system for children, families and other professionals
to engage with, and increased cost while also increasing
the risk to children.”
John Stevenson, from UNISON’s SWIG agreed. “The double
bureaucracy is likely to add to, rather than reduce, the
amount of paperwork social workers have to fill in. This
is despite all the evidence that shows the level of form-filling
is a major factor reducing the time social workers can spend
UNISON is also concerned about a shift of powers towards
the courts. John said, “The ability of a court to completely
rehear a case decided by a Children’s Hearing and other
changes would have meant that cases were more likely to
be decided in an adversarial atmosphere of a court of law,
rather than the hearing setting of all parties discussing
the best option for a child.
“We were glad to hear the Minister also say that this issue
would be addressed.
“UNISON believes the welfare principle of Scotland’s world-leading
Children's Hearing system is worth defending.”
The vast majority of cases Children’s Hearings deal with
are about the care and protection of children - 40,000 out
of 50,000 referrals last year - rather than offences.