The national Children’s Hearings advocacy service
Maree Todd is the Minister for Childcare and Early Years in the Scottish Government and explains why the new national service is so important in realising the rights of children and young people.
Embedding and fulfilling children and young people’s rights across all aspects of society is a key mission for the Scottish Government. We believe children and young people should be at the heart of decisions that affect their lives. Advocacy is central to that.
Decisions made in Children’s Hearings, in particular, can have profound consequences for the children and young people involved and it is crucial they get the support they need to express their needs and views.
The national Children’s Hearings advocacy service will offer that support, helping to ensure that no voice is too weak to be heard.
A Children’s Hearings Advocacy Expert Reference Group was set up to support the design, delivery and implementation of the service. A lot of work took place with sector partners to make sure we got it right. The service will be offered by 10 third sector providers, with a funding commitment of £1.5 million for 2020-2021.
The introduction of the advocacy service is an important additional support. It’s already the case that hearings must consider views of children and young people as far as possible and they are able to do this in a number of ways – through the child, their parents and families, through social workers and other professionals.
Some children and young people have already been accessing the new advocacy service but putting it on a statutory footing will ensure this scheme is promoted in full and provided uniformly through this national provision.
The work of the service will not stop at Children’s Hearings. Learning and evidence from implementing the service will help in the further development of wider advocacy support for care-experienced people as highlighted in The Promise for driving the work of change demanded by the findings of the Independent Care Review.
The provision of the advocacy service marks a significant milestone in our journey towards fully respecting and incorporating children’s rights.
In September, we introduced to Parliament the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation)(Scotland) Bill. The Bill aims to make Scotland the first country in the UK to directly incorporate the UNCRC - the gold standard for children’s rights - into domestic law. It is one of the most significant pieces of legislation to be introduced to the Scottish Parliament since devolution and, if passed, will revolutionise the way in which we listen to children and take their rights into account.
Underpinning all of this work is our continued focus on our vision of a Scotland where children are recognised as citizens in their own right, where their human rights are embedded in all aspects of society; a Scotland where policy, law and decision-making take account of children’s rights and where all children have a voice.
The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author/s and may not represent the views or opinions of CELCIS or our funders.
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