Media release – for immediate release
Amendment to Children (Scotland) Bill tackles Scottish Government failure to put children’s needs before lawyers’ interests
Concerns about the quality of child welfare reports in Scottish family law stretch back more than 30 years. Despite this, FOI disclosures reveal the Government failed to consult anyone who had knowledge of child welfare at all during the drafting of the Bill. Even the Government’s own Chief Social Work Adviser, Iona Colvin, was not even consulted.
Currently, 90% of child welfare assessments are undertaken by solicitors. In all other UK nations, this complex, sensitive, vital task is carried out by experienced, qualified and regulated social workers.
Andrew Smith QC, writes: “The lives of children are being ruined by failures in the system.” “I don’t suggest that those who do the work are not well meaning. I don’t suggest they are not good lawyers. But being a good lawyer does not make you good at investigations, especially where children are involved.”
Briefings from both Nagalro and SASW (Scottish Association of Social Workers) now provide MSPs with the vital knowledge the Government failed to canvas during the passage of the Bill.
Chair of SASW, Jude Currie, said: “We are concerned that the Scottish Government has not clearly considered or defined the role of Child Welfare Reporter, which would have led to clear specification, characteristics, experience, skills and training required of candidates.”
Sukhchandan Kaur, Chair of Nagalro, commented: “We do not doubt that those who currently fill this role aim to discharge the task to the best of their abilities. However, the nature and complexity of the issues coming before the courts have increased beyond anything which could have been foreseen twenty-five years ago. As a result, the training and experience in safeguarding required of those carrying out these tasks have changed.”
Current Government proposals are for an £11.6M budget to regulate and train Child Welfare Reporters. Their suggestion that 4 days training per annum will equip solicitors is woefully deficient. Children will remain at risk due to lack of knowledge, skill and competence. Regulator, the Scottish Social Services Council, requires training over four years (undergraduate degree) or two years (postgraduate) for social workers.
Liam McArthur, Liberal Democrat MSP for Orkney has stepped in to ensure children’s needs remain the focus in family law cases.
“Child welfare reporters are often required to make complex assessments and informed judgement. It makes sense, therefore, to ensure they have the necessary training and expertise. The best way of achieving that is for qualified and regulated social workers to carry out this vitally important role.”
McArthur’s amendment to Section 8 of the Bill will require all Child Welfare Reports to be registered, qualified Social Workers.
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Roy Mackay by phone on 07871 300098 or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org
Freedom of Information disclosures:
How did we get here? Child Welfare Reporters in Scotland:
Andrew Smith QC letter to the Government:
SASW open letter to Minister Ash Denham:
Nagalro press release and briefing: