When separated parents cannot agree arrangements for spending time with their children they may end up in court, most often the sheriff court. A sheriff may appoint a Child Welfare Reporter to investigate and report to the court on the circumstances of the children and on the arrangements proposed by each parent for their care and upbringing. The Reporter may also be asked to find out the views of the children and obtain other background information.
The 2020 Children (Scotland) Act brought about changes to the way these reporters are appointed and overseen, including a requirement to undertake regular training on a specified range of topics. The appointment and oversight of Reporters will be transferred from the local judiciary to a new national registration body.
Family solicitors do most of the Child Welfare Reports at present. The intention is to attract a wider range of professionals as Reporters including child psychologists, social workers and family therapists.
Our response comments on the suggested arrangements for the registration of Child Welfare Reporters and Curators and the proposed list of training requirements. These changes should make significant improvements to a system which has hitherto relied on the diligence of individual reporters without any standards for reporting or requirement for knowledge beyond that of a family lawyer.
This type of court reporting is carried out by social workers employed by the Child and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) in England and Wales. CAFCASS staff work within an operating framework that “… helps to provide a consistent service to children and families with a focus on continuous improvement.”
In order to develop a comprehensive set of standards for Child Welfare Reporting in Scotland, we suggest that a working group is established to bring together members of the legal profession, the judiciary with social work, child psychology and family therapy professionals as well as representatives of family support and children’s organisations. Bringing together these interests under an independent chair and with input from bodies such as CAFCASS could provide Scotland with a world-class reporting structure.1 like