Children’s Hearings Scotland are consulting on an ambitious new strategy which aims to do more to put the child or young person’s voice at the centre of the hearings system.

The Children’s Rights and Inclusion Strategy, which was launched for consultation by Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, in the Scottish Parliament, aims to ensure children feel able to speak openly and honestly in hearings, and that their views are given real weight in the decision making process. CHS also want children to feel empowered, and that they have ownership of their rights.

CHS National Convener, Elliot Jackson, says: “Throughout the changing landscape over the past few years, there has been a clear unequivocal challenge to Scotland’s care sector: We must put the child or young person’s voice at the centre of all that we do.

“For us, that includes not only how we listen to children in hearings, but how we can ensure they play a key role in designing the hearing itself. It is also about how we get people who have experience of the care system to help shape all our activities, such as recruiting Panel Members.

“This strategy is just one way we will look to #keepthepromise to the Care Review. It stated that within the care system ‘children must be listened to and meaningfully and appropriately involved in decision-making about their care, with all those involved properly listening and responding to what they want and need’.

“We are now taking steps to ensure we do this better, but we cannot do it alone. We know our volunteer community supports improvements which make it easier for children and young people to share their views, but we also need our partners in the care system to help us make these changes a reality.”

The Children’s Rights and Inclusion Strategy was developed in collaboration with people with lived experience of care and as it’s implemented we will be looking for people with care experience to take on new volunteer roles in the organisation. These new posts will facilitate activity in local areas on recruitment, retention, monitoring, training and supporting Panel Members.

The consultation on the plan will run for four weeks with partners from the care system invited to a series of feedback sessions on the document.

CHS Board Member, Beth-Anne Logan, who was part of the team which developed the strategy, says: “We think this strategy is really ambitious, but we want to find out if we have gone far enough, is there more we could be doing to ensure we embed children’s rights and inclusion firmly in everything we do at Children’s Hearings Scotland?

“We also want to link in with partners at an early stage so we can start to work together on implementing the strategy, which we think is the best approach to ensuring we actively listen to children and young people, and give their views due weight.”

If you work for an organisation associated with the care sector, or which works directly with children with experience of care, and you would like to be involved in the consultation, please contact Donna Martin at donna.martin@chs.gsi.gov.uk.

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