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Main | Time for a Radical Change in Scottish Family Law »
Tuesday
Sep032019

Children (Scotland) Bill published

The Scottish Government has published the Children (Scotland) Bill along with a Policy Memorandum and Explanatory Notes which explain background to the legislation.  It will now be debated in the Scottish Parliament, with the main scrutiny probably taking place in the Justice Committee this Autumn.

A Family Justice Modernisation Strategy has also been published today, outlining work that is ongoing by Scottish Government and others to improve the operation of family justice; work that can be done through secondary legislation or by improved guidance, areas covered by the Children (Scotland) Bill which has been introduced to the Scottish Parliament, and areas that are for longer term work.

Commenting on the Bill, Ian Maxwell from Families Need Fathers Scotland said:

"While measures regulating Child Welfare Reporters and Contact Centres and on taking views of the child are welcome, the Bill as it stands is a massively wasted opportunity."  

"Families Need Fathers Scotland will press hard during the Scottish Parliament's consideration of the Bill for equally shared parenting to become the starting point if a court has to decide about arrangements for children after separation."

"This change has worked well in a range of other countries, and it would put Scotland ahead of other UK legislations in promoting the involvement of both parents with their children even if they live apart."

The Scottish Government says that the new legislation aims to ensure that children’s best interests are at the centre of every family law case and that children’s views are heard by the court.

The Children (Scotland) Bill will further strengthen the family law system. Proposals include regulation of child contact centres to ensure they are safe places for children to meet family members.

Child welfare reporters, who may be appointed when the court has been asked to resolve a dispute between parents, will also be regulated. This will ensure reporters are trained to understand and respond to issues such as domestic abuse and coercive control.

Other improvements for domestic abuse victims and their children include allowing special measures such as screens and a live video links to be used in Child Welfare Hearings, and prohibiting a party from conducting their own case if there is a vulnerable witness.

Community Safety Minister Ash Denham said:

 “We know that family breakdown can be very upsetting for children. It is our responsibility to ensure the family justice system is supportive and does not contribute to their distress. That means putting the best interests of the child first in every case and ensuring their voice is heard, including younger children.

“Children’s welfare is paramount and we have been guided by their views and experiences in developing this bill. More than half of responses to the consultation came via our child-friendly questionnaire.”

Families Need Fathers Scotland will comment in more detail on the Bill shortly.

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