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Review of children's hearings system

22/04/2004

A review of Scotland's children's hearings system was launched today to ensure it provides the best possible support for vulnerable youngsters in the 21 st century.

The system, in place since 1971, dealt with around 38,000 children last year who needed care and protection, were involved in offending, or both.

The review aims to encourage wide discussion on issues and challenges facing the system, its principles and its key objectives.

It will allow the public an opportunity to influence the future development of the system and the results it produces for children involved in it.

The consultation also aims to raise awareness of the work of the system. The balance of cases the system deals with has changed significantly over the years, with 60 per cent of referrals now based on care and protection compared to 16 per cent in 1976.

Education and Young People Minister Peter Peacock said:

"We are committed to maintaining the core principles of the hearings system. However, that system is now more than 30 years old, its workload has changed greatly during that time, and its operations have never been systematically reviewed.

"The system and the dedicated volunteers involved in it, has challenged young people's behaviour and supported many young people in the past. We want to build on this success by ensuring we have a modern hearings system that addresses the needs of all young people, whether they are in need of care and protection or involved in offending.

"Scotland has a unique system which puts the child firmly at its centre and involves local people in deciding what is the right thing to do to help young people. Anyone who shares an interest in the wellbeing of our children, families and communities has a contribution to make to the review and I would encourage them to make their views heard."

There has been a change in the profile of cases going through the system and the groups involved have changed too. For example, social workers have always had a key role but, increasingly, other local authority services and the voluntary sector are involved too.

Eputy Education and Young People Minister Euan Robson added:

"The review will help develop and improve the system. It should ensure that the hearings system uses its resources as efficiently as possible and remains focussed, relevant, supportive and effective."

Both Mr Peacock and Mr Robson will participate in a number of public meetings around the country over the coming months to hear views on what changes are needed to the current system. Meetings will also be held with local groups in other areas.

The results of this consultation, to run until July 21, will be used to develop firm proposals for the future shape of the system, which will be published for consultation before the end of the year.