Children Bill: many decisions wait for Stage 3

Following the Stage 2 debate on the Children Scotland) Bill on Tuesday 23rd June, many of the key amendments were postponed for consideration at Stage 3.  This keeps issues such shared parenting, renaming of residence and contact orders, timescales for contact decisions and the shift of child welfare reporting to social workers in play.  The stage 2 debate is now available on Scottish Parliament TV and the Stage 3 debate in the full Parliament is likely to be held in late August..

Although none of these amendments as tabled were likely to get majority support of the committee at stage 2, this allows for further discussion on these topics before the Bill is considered by the whole parliament at stage 3 after the summer break.

Very few of the amendments brought forward by committee members were supported by Scottish Government, but despite strong pressure on SNP committee members many of them were accepted, such as increased support for mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution rather than court, a trial of mandatory mediation information meetings and child advocacy services.

Liam McArthur’s amendment inserting the Belgian shared parenting wording in the Bill, allowing a parent to request an equal care order, was withdrawn but can be brought back at stage 3.  Given that Ash Denham the Minister agreed that shared care is usually good for children, we hope that some wording can be agreed,

Similarly, Fulton MacGregor’s amendment removing the terms ‘residence’ and ‘contact’ from the naming of court orders gained support, but there wasn’t agreement on whether another wording could be better.

Jeremy Balfour made a brave attempt to insert mention of specialist family sheriffs into the Bill, and although this amendment failed it did highlight this issue including the unfairness that only some courts have family sheriffs.

This comment applies to all the amendments at this stage – the fact that they were raised by MSPs means they will continue to be debated during the Family Justice Modernisation Strategy which follows on from the new legislation.