This item was published during the term of a previous administration that ended in April 2007
Safeguarders have valuable role in hearings
A study which finds that those involved in children's hearings highly value the work of safeguarders has been published today.
Safeguarders, who provide support and advice to children and their families in hearings, may be appointed by children's hearings or sheriffs when they consider it is necessary to safeguard the interests of the child in the proceedings.
All local authorities have a responsibility to maintain a panel of safeguarders, and the study found that the supply of safeguarders in most areas is regarded as adequate. The great majority of safeguarders have relevant experience from other work, such as law, social work and teaching, but many of them felt they should receive more training and guidance for their role.
There were differing views on whether safeguarders should be used in court cases, where the alternative of curators exists. Curators are legally qualified court officers who act on behalf of a young person to ensure the case is conducted in their interests.
Welcoming the study, Cathy Jamieson, Minister for Education and Young People, said:
"Safeguarders provide an important support to those vulnerable children and troubled families at Children's Hearings. This research provides clear evidence of the good quality of their work, and how this is valued by young people themselves
"However, the report also indicates some areas where Safeguarders and others consider that the system could be improved. We have already acted to address some of these concerns, for instance on training, where amendments made last year to the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 mean that local authorities are now required to train Safeguarders with assistance from the Executive. In consultation with interested parties, we are now progressing work to establish a core curriculum for this training. This will help ensure a consistently high quality of service is available across Scotland.
"The research report will help to inform a wider review of Safeguarding which the Scottish Executive will undertake during the course of 2002-03. This work be a separate exercise to that on long term options for the legal representation of children in Children's Hearings."
The review will also consider issues relating to the work of curators ad litem.
The Executive commissioned researchers at the Centre for the Child and Society and Department of Politics at the University of Glasgow to describe and evaluate the use and operation of safeguarders in Scotland. This is part of a programme of research into the working of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995.
The researchers obtained information and views from safeguarders, children's panel members, sheriffs, reporters, local authority administrators, children and young people, parents and social workers. Research was carried out between March and September 2000.
On 23 February a new scheme came into operation to use legally qualified safeguarders and curators ad litem to act as legal representatives for certain children appearing before hearings. The research report relates to the work of safeguarders at hearings and in court before this change.
Copies of the Research Findings 'The Role of Safeguarders in Scotland' can be obtained from the Scottish Executive's Education and Young People Research Unit (telephone 0131-244 0634). The Findings and the full report can be downloaded from its website ( www.scotland.gov.uk/edru/).