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Entries in Safeguarders (2)


Consultations, consultations ...

As Christmas approaches, so do the deadlines for Government consultations.  Families Need Fathers Scotland has responded to three consultations in as many weeks, with several more to go before the seasonal shutdown.

First up was a general consultation on the Rights of Children and Young People Bill, which will establish in law the responsibilities of the Scottish Ministers to have due regard to the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) when exercising any of their functions.

The FNF Scotland response supported the idea that the UNCRC should be given more consideration than just "due regard", suggesting that it could be incorporated into Scottish law.  We also raised a particular concern relating to situations where children are being asked for their views on contact or residence with one of their parents after separation. 

While we fully support the need for these views to be obtained in a sympathetic and supportive manner, there are situations in which these views should only contribute to a final decision, not be a deciding factor.  In other words, it is not in the interests of children to ask them to choose between their parents.

Next was a consultation on appointment and training of Safeguarders.  Safeguarders are appointed by children’s hearings or sheriffs when they think there is a requirement to safeguard the interests of the child in the proceedings.  Safeguarders are self employed and independent from all other agencies involved in the Children’s Hearings system and that independence is a crucial aspect of the role.

Our comments emphasised the need for practical training in interviewing of children and the other necessary skills, and suggested that the appraisal of Safeguarders should include feedback from other parties involved in their cases.  We will be pressing for similar standards for Bar Reporters, who perform a comparable role with far less supervision than Safeguarders.

Government consultations rarely hit the headlines, but the Equal Marriage consultation has attracted many headlines.   Families Need Fathers Scotland submitted a response that emphasised the need to provide further support for all families at the time of separation, whatever the parents were married, in civil partnerships or co-habiting.  As we have no easy means of assessing the views of our members on gay marriage we gave neutral answers to most of the other questions.


Consultation on Safeguarders

A Scottish Government Consultation on various aspects of Safeguarders has just started, with responses due by 6th December 2011.

Safeguarders are appointed by children's hearings or sheriffs when they think there is a requirement to safeguard the interests of the child in the proceedings. The safeguarder provides the hearing or court with an independent assessment of what is in the child's best interest.

Safeguarders are self employed and independent from all other agencies involved in the Children's Hearings system.  Families Need Fathers Scotland notes that the essential qualities of Safeguarders are:

  • An ability to communicate in a non threatening way with children and parents - sometimes under difficult circumstances.
  • An ability to communicate with members of agencies which support the children's hearing and Court systems in such a way as to gain their confidence without compromising the safeguarder's independence or credibility.
  • The courage and ability to raise and confront delicate issues and the ability to recognise their relevance.
  • Sufficient presence to engender some degree of confidence and trust in persons many of whom have no tradition of trusting establishment figures or figures of authority.
  • The ability to construct a comprehensive written report avoiding jargon and using terminology comprehensible to panel members and which separates fact from opinion.

The Gill Review raised a number of concerns regarding the appointment, training, management and payment of curators, reporting officers, safeguarders and court reporters. FNF Scotland has already made comments to the Scottish Government about court reporters, and we will take this opportunity to pass on our views on safeguarders. 

Anyone wishing to comment on their experience of safeguarders should contact Ian or John in the Edinburgh office - 0131 557 2440 or scotland@fnf.org.uk.