New guide to Child Welfare Reports

Shared Parenting Scotland has published a revised and updated guide to Child Welfare Reports.

Where separated parents cannot agree arrangements for 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 any 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.

For most parents family court procedures and rules are bewildering and often a source of frustration. The user guide was first published in 2012 and has been used by hundreds of parents and other family members to help them understand the purpose of the Child Welfare Report (formerly Bar Report) and the obligations of the Child Welfare Reporter.

Shared Parenting Scotland National Manager, Ian Maxwell, says, “In this guide we stress that parents should focus on their involvement with the children when talking to the Reporter.  A Child Welfare Report isn’t an invitation to air grievances or criticise your former partner.

Child Welfare Reporters play an important role in gathering information for the court though our position is that the entire system is still too adversarial.  It creates an unhelpful situation where parents see themselves in competition for time and for the affection of their children.”

The Child Welfare Reporter system is facing substantial overhaul as a result of the 2020 Children (Scotland) Act. A new Scotland-wide body will oversee training and competence of Child Welfare Reporters and will introduce transparency in their recruitment. A Scottish Government consultation is currently under way so the existing system will remain in place for the next couple of years.

Ian Maxwell says, “At present nearly all Child Welfare Reports are written by family lawyers. We understand that the Scottish Government is interested in broadening the pool from which Reporters are drawn to include social workers and child psychologists and others. We are broadly in favour of such a change to ensure that sheriffs can appoint a professional with the most appropriate skills to the issues raised in court.”