Apart from lawyers, which professions did you consult about the role of Child Welfare Reporter?

Well actually, none. Not until public consultation began in 2018 and everyone was able to offer their views on what by then had largely become a settled matter … or so it would seem from Simon Stockwell’s reply on behalf of Scottish Ministers. On 13 August 2020 he provided a response to three Freedom of Information requests seeking specific information in relation to the role of Child Welfare Reporter (formerly known as Bar Reporter).

Here is the main part of the response to the first of those three requests.

We are not aware of any person from or representing or involved in the regulation of: the Social Worker profession and/or the profession of Psychologist and/or the profession of Psychiatrist, being invited to join or otherwise contribute to the Bar Reporters Working Group with the exception of the Association of Directors of Social Work, which is the subject of a separate request under FOISA from you.

However, while the working group was meeting, the Scottish Government did receive correspondence from a retired child psychologist. Copies of that correspondence are attached to this letter.”

Nine documents were also disclosed. In addition, links were provided to information relating to the 2018 public consultation on the Review of Part 1 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, as well as Parliamentary scrutiny of the Children (Scotland) Bill and a briefing prepared for the Stage 2 scrutiny. Full details of the request and response can be found in the window below. Please also note that unspecified information has been withheld under exemptions cited in the response.

The response to the second of those three requests shows the following:

That in November 2012, the Association of Directors of Social Work (subsequently known as Social Work Scotland) was invited to nominate one person to join the Working Group on Bar Reporters and that a reminder was subsequently e-mailed. No record of any reply to this invitation was provided. [Although not part of this request, the minutes of the Working Group on Bar Reports does not record any attendance by a nominee of the Association of Directors of Social Work, although the terms of reference reflects the fact that they were invited to nominate one person to join.]

That in October 2015, Social Work Scotland was informed about revised court rules and other work being carried out by the Working Group on Bar Reporters.

That in March 2016, Social Work Scotland was informed of the progress of the Working Group on Bar Reporters. Social Work Scotland acknowledged receipt of that letter.

That in October 2017, Social Work Scotland was invited to consider what training it could provide to Child Welfare Reporters and more specifically where its members were Child Welfare Reporters. That same letter provided further information about the progress of the Working Group on Bar Reporters. No record of any reply to this invitation was provided.

That in October 2019, Social Work Scotland was provided with a copy of a letter to the Society of Local Authority Lawyers and Administrators, to make them aware, in the Children (Scotland) Bill, of social workers being asked by the court to produce Child Welfare Reports.

That Scottish Ministers have, since 2013, provided annual funding of up to £839,949 to the Association of Directors of Social Work (subsequently known as Social Work Scotland).

Six documents were disclosed and one link provided (from which the above information has been taken). In addition, links were provided to information relating to the 2018 public consultation on the Review of Part 1 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, as well as Parliamentary scrutiny of the Children (Scotland) Bill and a briefing prepared for the Stage 2 scrutiny. Please also note that unspecified information has been withheld under exemptions cited in the response.

Here is the main part of the response to the last of those three requests.

“We are not aware of any information held by the Scottish Government on whether or not any body or person from or representing or involved in the regulation of any regulated profession other than the legal profession should be invited to join or otherwise contribute to the Bar Reporters Working Group.

We are are not aware of any information on whether or not any body or person from or representing or involved in the regulation of any regulated profession other than the legal profession should be invited to contribute to or otherwise inform the development of any and all plans in relation to this role between January 2012 and August 2019 (inclusive).”

No documents were disclosed. Links were provided to information relating to the 2018 public consultation on the Review of Part 1 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, as well as Parliamentary scrutiny of the Children (Scotland) Bill and a briefing prepared for the Stage 2 scrutiny. Full details of the request and response can be found in the window below.

#section8

3 thoughts on “Apart from lawyers, which professions did you consult about the role of Child Welfare Reporter?

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  1. I agree with you in principle. However, it seems to me that an appropriate oversight panel ought to be constructed for reports.

    Social workers are not impartial.

    It seems to me that this could be a brilliant opportunity for Scotland’s children.

    Dare I say that perhaps, one day, we recognize parents as stakeholders in their children’s lives and consider giving them a voice at the table among the professionals and ‘corporate parents’.

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    1. I agree there should be oversight of the reports and those doing them. There are a number of ways to achieve that, the most common of which with professionals of all kinds is to have a code of conduct and a regulator to monitor & enforce standards. A very important element must be for those who use the services of that professional to have an accessible and independently objective complaints process. That’s vital and it’s entirely missing at present.

      Scottish Government intends to set up an oversight framework, but it appears likely that’s just to legitimise the existing cohort of – mostly solicitor – Child Welfare Reporters (note how little training is going to be required for them, for example).

      Social Workers on the other hand, are already subject to everything I’ve set out above and more (including rigorous academic requirements).

      I wonder why you would suggest social workers are not impartial, when that’s one of the key ethical codes they must adhere to in their practice? I think it’s much easier to lay that claim against the solicitors who do these reports as is evidenced in the letters from Andrew Smith QC and BASW Cymru as well as the Impact Statement on this site.

      It could indeed – in fact it is – a brilliant opportunity for Scotland’s children, but only if we take it.

      I also agree with your view that parents are afforded too little opportunity to be heard, but I also think having social workers do these reports will go at least some way to address that.

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