The rights of children involved in the Children’s Hearings system will be reinforced through a national advocacy service in Scotland.
The service, which has £1.5 million funding in 2020-2021, means children and young people will be offered support to express their needs and views on decisions that affect their lives.
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,” she added.
The design, delivery and implementation of the service, which will be offered Scotland-wide by 10 third sector providers, was supported by A Children’s Hearings Advocacy Expert Reference group. The funding will support the training and provision of advocacy workers.
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.
Beyond Children’s Hearings, children and young people can access advocacy through local authorities, third sector organisations or other private providers.
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.”