In June of this year the Children & Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland published a report on compliance with statutory duties when admitting children and young people to secure care.
The Commission reviewed detentions of children and young people to secure care settings across Scotland over a time period which spanned between 1 August 2018 and 31 July 2019. The Commission found “inconsistency of approaches” by local authority Chief Social Work Officers which may amount to unlawful practices across a number of the 118 children who had been detained across Scotland over that time period.
A key area of concern related to duties under the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 (Implementation of Secure Accommodation Authorisation) (Scotland) Regulations 2013, which require Chief Social Work Officers to consult children within 72 hours of a hearing decision detaining them, and explain to them how they can appeal it. The Commission found an inconsistent approach to recording and evidencing that these steps had been taken and found that it was relatively rare for there to be evidence of notifications of the Chief Social Work Officers decisions being sent to children, as required by the Regulations. Only one local authority area was reported as having complied with all requirements in full.
The Commission reported one case in East Dunbartonshire falling into the scope of the investigation and concluded that the written records did not enable full evidencing of the provision of written confirmation of decision making and right to appeal, to all the required parties, within the required timescale, as a follow up to other processes.
Having undergone the reviewing records and local processes for submission to the Commission in response to their enquiries, the Chief Social Work Officer identified that improvements in the issuing of written confirmation in relation to the basis of decisions, and rights of appeal, could be made. Local procedures were revised in 2020 to take account of those improvements.
Further to the publication of the report, the Minister for Children and Young People wrote to all Chief Social Work Officers on 7 June 2021 to request that all local authorities take steps to ensure they are complying with existing law, and that previous cases are reviewed in light of the investigation’s findings. This work has already been undertaken in East Dunbartonshire.