Hearings for Children report launch: Ministerial speech

From: Scottish Government
Published: Fri May 26 2023

Speech delivered by Minister for Keeping the Promise Natalie Don at the launch event of the 'Hearings for Children' report on Wednesday 24th May 2023.

Good afternoon everyone.

Thank you so much to everyone, thanks to all the previous speakers - some really inspiring and thought provoking words for me to follow so I really hope that I can do that justice. I have met with many of you over the past few weeks but I understand that I am still a relatively new face to many of you. As the Minister with responsibility over Keeping the Promise I have been absolutely blown away by the devotion that so many of you have shown across all different areas, towards our aim of ensuring the best start in life for all of our children and young people. I am absolutely delighted to be here with you all today as this important report is launched because this is a major, major staging post on our journey to Keeping the Promise.

I was really grateful to meet with Sheriff Mackie on this, just a few weeks back and I was struck again by the sheer effort involved in preparing the report. Sheriff Mackie described the group's work really powerfully and he made an extremely thoughtful and compelling case for change and it was very clear to me that young people's voices have been on Sheriff Mackie's mind, and in his heart, throughout this entire process.

My thanks go to all of the young people involved because this report honestly would not hold the same weight if it were not for you. Your voices, your experiences and your drive to make things better for others have been absolutely vital, and really are valued. I promise you we will honour that generosity, and we will make things better. I'm excited to lead a positive change programme for the Children's Hearings System, and I promise that you will remain a key voice as we move forward with this, your input is absolutely vital.

The Children's Hearings System is unique to Scotland, offering a welfare based approach to our children who need care, protection and support. For over 50 years, the dedication and commitment of those working within it has been outstanding. However, the Independent Care Review was clear that the system needs to change - children's experiences and outcomes haven't always reflected that investment of care and skill. The Children's Hearings System must transform.

Our Hearings Our Voice, Better Meetings, the Voice and Inclusion Project are due very special thanks, along with the collaborative design groups. As well as Sheriff Mackie, the Promise Scotland and others on the Hearings System Working Group and as I say I apologise that I haven't managed to make it round everybody yet in this short time.

This report is the culmination of a huge, huge effort, ranging across many complex, technical and sensitive issues but what's next?

Anchored in the enduring strength of the Kilbrandon principles, which are re-validated by this report, the children's hearings system will respond and thrive. It has undergone repeated challenge and refinement over the years. That should give us confidence that, while the foundations remain sound, transformative work is needed to improve children's experiences - based on the voices and views of those with experience of the system.

We must ensure that the experience of all children, everywhere in Scotland, always lives up to the good intentions underpinning the system's work.

The depth and breadth of such a significant report demands serious consideration across Government, and in the responsible agencies. It is essential that those involved with the system, whether as participants or decision-makers, are able to help shape future reforms.

A great, great deal of care and energy has been taken to develop this independent report and we will respond to the report's challenges more fully later this year, giving it the full consideration that it deserved and is required. We appreciate there will be challenges but we will address those with resolve and positivity.

We will move forward with a programme of transformational change founded on this report. The Government will immediately embark on necessary further activity with the relevant agencies - to look closely at the legal, financial and workforce implications of the proposals.

Where early positive change is possible, then I am clear that should happen quickly. The changes that need new law or new structures will take a little more time. But I assure both children and families, and those working alongside them that there will be opportunities to contribute to the next stages in this process.

Children, young people and the care-experienced community - along with volunteers and practitioners - all want to see this work yielding positive, sustainable, transformational change and I am absolutely determined to deliver that for them.

Thank you. I hope you all enjoy today's well-earned celebration.

Company: Scottish Government

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