A national advocacy service has been launched to reinforce the rights of children involved in the Children’s Hearings system.
The service, backed by £1.5 million in 2020-2021, means children and young people will be offered support to express their needs and views on decisions that affect their lives.
A Children’s Hearings Advocacy Expert Reference group was set up to support the design, delivery and implementation of the service, which will be offered Scotland-wide by ten third sector providers. The funding will support the training and provision of advocacy workers.
Children’s Minister Maree Todd said:
“This marks a significant milestone on our way towards fully respecting and incorporating children’s rights.
“Advocacy is central to the promotion of children’s rights – it helps to ensure their voices are heard. This service will put the views and interests of each child at the heart of their hearing.”
Jacqui Dunbar, Project Lead of Our Hearings, Our Voice, an independent board for eight to 18-year-olds who have experience of the Children’s Hearings system, said:
“Children and young people often tell us they don’t feel their views are heard or fully taken into account within their Hearings. We welcome the new advocacy provision as a great step towards ensuring that children and young people across Scotland have someone supporting them and further promoting their rights within their hearings.”
The provisions in section 122 of The Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 came into force on 21 November 2020. This activates the duties which require the chairing members of Children’s Hearings to inform children of the availability of children’s advocacy services.
Children’s Hearings must consider views of children as far as possible and are able to do this in a number of ways – through the child, their parents and families, through social workers and other professionals. The introduction of the advocacy service is an additional support.