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Publication - Research Publication

Role of the safeguarder in the children's hearing system

Published: 17 Nov 2017
Part of:
Children and families, Research
ISBN:
9781788512190

This research is to examine the role of the safeguarder in the children’s hearings system from the perspectives of six key stakeholder groups.

102 page PDF

1.3MB

102 page PDF

1.3MB

Contents
Role of the safeguarder in the children's hearing system
Appendix 1: research instruments

102 page PDF

1.3MB

Appendix 1: research instruments

Questionnaire

NB: A shortened version of this questionnaire was made available to sheriff participants in this project.

Q2.1 Please select your age group

  • Under 20 (1)
  • 20 - 29 (2)
  • 30 - 39 (3)
  • 40 - 49 (4)
  • 50 - 59 (5)
  • 60 - 69 (6)
  • 70+ (7)

Q2.2 Are you

  • Male (1)
  • Female (2)
  • Prefer not to say (3)

Q2.3 Are you currently a safeguarder?

  • Yes (1)
  • No (never have been) (2)
  • No (previously been a safeguarder) (3)

Display This Question:

If Are you currently a safeguarder? Yes Is Not Selected

Q2.4 Does the following statement apply to you? I have the authority to appoint safeguarders and/or I have worked with them

  • Yes (1)
  • No (2)

Display This Question:

If Are you currently a safeguarder? Yes Is Selected

Q59 Prior to becoming a safeguarder did you previously serve as a panel member?

  • Yes (5)
  • No (6)

Q3.1 How long have you been a safeguarder?

  • Less than 1 year (1)
  • 1 - 3 years (2)
  • 4 - 5 years (3)
  • 6 - 7 years (4)
  • 8 - 10 years (5)
  • More than 10 years (6)

Q3.2 In which of the following areas do you fulfil this role? tick all that apply

  • Aberdeen (1)
  • Aberdeenshire (2)
  • Angus (3)
  • Edinburgh (4)
  • Clackmannanshire (5)
  • Dumfries and Galloway (6)
  • Dundee (7)
  • East Ayrshire (8)
  • East Dunbartonshire (9)
  • East Lothian (10)
  • East Renfrewshire (11)
  • Falkirk (12)
  • Fife (13)
  • Glasgow (14)
  • Highland (15)
  • Inverclyde (16)
  • Midlothian (17)
  • Western Isles (18)
  • North Ayrshire (19)
  • North Lanarkshire (20)
  • Orkney Islands (21)
  • Perth & Kinross (22)
  • Renfrewshire (23)
  • Scottish Borders (24)
  • Shetland Islands (25)
  • South Ayrshire (26)
  • South Lanarkshire (27)
  • Stirling (28)
  • West Dunbartonshire (29)
  • West Lothian (30)
  • Argyll & Bute (31)
  • Moray (32)

Q3.3 What is your main occupation?

  • Lawyer (1)
  • Social Worker (2)
  • Teacher (3)
  • Other (please specify) (4) ____________________
  • Retired (please specify your main previous occupation) (5) ____________________

Q3.4 How many years have you worked in this occupation?If retired, how many years did you work in your previous main occupation?

Q3.5 In your role as a safeguarder, what do you spend most of your time doing? For example, scrutinising the reports of others, obtaining the child's views.

Q3.6 Are there any professional activities that you wish you could do more of in your role as a safeguarder? For example, speaking to family members, explaining the hearing process to the child.

Q3.7 Do you feel the role of the safeguarder is unique in the hearings process or does it overlap with the other roles in the hearings process? For example, child's representative, social worker

  • Yes the role is unique (1)
  • No there is some overlap with the other roles (2)

Display This Question:

If Do you feel the role of the safeguarder is unique in the hearings process or does it overlap with other roles in the hearings process? For example, child's representative, social worker No there is some overlap with the other roles Is Selected

Q3.8 What role(s) do you feel overlap with that of a safeguarder?

Display This Question:

If Do you feel the role of the safeguarder is unique in the hearings process or does it overlap with other roles in the hearings process? For example, child's representative, social worker No there is some overlap with the other roles Is Selected

Q3.9 Which of the following statements apply to the overlap between roles?

  • The overlap between roles complements/assists the role of the safeguarder (1)
  • The overlap between roles can make the role of the safeguarder more difficult (2)
  • The overlap between roles can negate the role of the safeguarder (3)

Q3.10 In your opinion, to what extent are you clear about what is expected of you as a safeguarder?

0 (1)

1 (2)

2 (3)

3 (4)

4 (5)

5 (6)

6 (7)

7 (8)

8 (9)

9 (10)

10 (11)

1 (1)

Q3.11 In your opinion, what is the key function/role of a safeguarder?

Q3.12 To what extent do you think that those involved in the Children's hearings and court proceedings understand the safeguarder role/remit?

0 (1)

1 (2)

2 (3)

3 (4)

4 (5)

5 (6)

6 (7)

7 (8)

8 (9)

9 (10)

10 (11)

1 (1)

Q3.13 In your opinion, are there any particular people or roles where the safeguarder role/remit is not fully understood?

  • Yes (1)
  • No (2)

Display This Question:

If In your opinion, are there any particular people or role where the safeguarder role/remit is not fully understood? Yes Is Selected

Q3.14 Please indicate what roles, in your opinion, do not fully understand the safeguarder role/remit

  • Children's reporters (1)
  • Lawyers (2)
  • Panel members (3)
  • Sheriffs (4)
  • Social workers (5)
  • Other (please specify) (6) ____________________

Q3.15 Do you have any suggestions on how to improve the understanding surrounding the role/remit of safeguarders?

Q3.16 Do you feel that your advice/recommendations are properly valued by those working in the Children's hearings and court proceedings?

  • Yes (1)
  • No (2)

Display This Question:

If Do you feel that your advice/recommendations are properly valued by those working in the Children's hearings and court proceedings? No Is Selected

Q3.17 Are there any particular people or roles that you feel do not value your advice/recommendations?

  • Children's reporters (1)
  • Lawyers (2)
  • Panel members (3)
  • Sheriffs (4)
  • Social workers (5)
  • Other (please specify) (6) ____________________

Q3.18 In your opinion, to what extent does the involvement of a safeguarder lead to a better/different outcome for children?

0 (1)

1 (2)

2 (3)

3 (4)

4 (5)

5 (6)

6 (7)

7 (8)

8 (9)

9 (10)

10 (11)

1 (1)

Q3.19 Please provide more information about whether the involvement of a safeguarder leads to better/different outcomes for children

Q3.20 In your opinion, does the involvement of a safeguarder have any impact on the number of appeals?

  • Yes (1)
  • No (2)
  • Don't know (3)

Q3.21 To what extent do you feel that the 7 practice standards for safeguarders introduced in 2015 provide a good framework for the safeguarder role?

0 (1)

1 (2)

2 (3)

3 (4)

4 (5)

5 (6)

6 (7)

7 (8)

8 (9)

9 (10)

10 (11)

1 (1)

Q3.22 Using your own personal experience, please rank the following practice standards in order of importance

______ Putting the child at the centre (1)

______ Contributing to the development of relationships with all involved (2)

______ Acting with independence of practice (3)

______ Providing clear and timely reports (4)

______ Maintaining confidentiality (5)

______ Acting with integrity, honesty and fairness at all times (6)

______ Keeping up to date with skills and knowledge (7)

Q3.23 To what extent do you feel that your underlying professional skills/qualifications help you in your role as a safeguarder?

0 (1)

1 (2)

2 (3)

3 (4)

4 (5)

5 (6)

6 (7)

7 (8)

8 (9)

9 (10)

10 (11)

1 (1)

Q3.24 Please list the skills/qualifications/qualities you feel are important to the safeguarder role

Q3.25 Do you feel that you have been provided with the appropriate training and support to fulfil your role as a safeguarder?

  • Yes (1)
  • No (2)

Display This Question:

If Do you feel that you have been provided with the appropriate training and support to fulfil your role as a safeguarder? No Is Selected

Q3.26 Please list any additional training or support that you would find useful

Q4.1 To what extent has the 2013 shift to a national panel made a difference to the way in which safeguarders work?

0 (1)

1 (2)

2 (3)

3 (4)

4 (5)

5 (6)

6 (7)

7 (8)

8 (9)

9 (10)

10 (11)

1 (1)

Q4.2 What changes, if any, have you seen since the 2013 shift?

Q4.3 Have there been any changes in practice since 2013 around how safeguarders gather children's views?

  • Yes (1)
  • No (2)
  • Don't know (3)

Display This Question:

If Have there been any changes in practice since 2013 around how safeguarders gather children's views? Yes Is Selected

Q4.4 What changes in practice have occurred?

Q5.1 What is your role in the Children's hearing (or court) system?

  • Children's reporter (1)
  • Lawyer (2)
  • Panel member (3)
  • Sheriff (4)
  • Social worker (5)
  • Other (please specify) (6) ____________________

Q5.2 How many years have you worked in this role?

Q5.3 In which of the following areas do you normally fulfil this role? tick all that apply

  • Aberdeen (1)
  • Aberdeenshire (2)
  • Angus (3)
  • Edinburgh (4)
  • Clackmannanshire (5)
  • Dumfries and Galloway (6)
  • Dundee (7)
  • East Ayrshire (8)
  • East Dunbartonshire (9)
  • East Lothian (10)
  • East Renfrewshire (11)
  • Falkirk (12)
  • Fife (13)
  • Glasgow (14)
  • Highland (15)
  • Inverclyde (16)
  • Midlothian (17)
  • Western Isles (18)
  • North Ayrshire (19)
  • North Lanarkshire (20)
  • Orkney Islands (21)
  • Perth & Kinross (22)
  • Renfrewshire (23)
  • Scottish Borders (24)
  • Shetland Islands (25)
  • South Ayrshire (26)
  • South Lanarkshire (27)
  • Stirling (28)
  • West Dunbartonshire (29)
  • West Lothian (30)
  • Argyll & Bute (31)
  • Moray (32)

Q5.4 Which of these statements apply to you in this role?

  • I have the authority to appoint safeguarders and have done so (1)
  • I have the authority to appoint safeguarders and have not done so (2)
  • I do not have the authority to appoint safeguarders but have worked with them (3)

Q5.5 Since 2011, how many hearings have you attended where a safeguarder is present?

  • 0 (1)
  • 1 - 10 (2)
  • 11 - 30 (3)
  • 31 - 50 (4)
  • More than 50 (5)

Q5.6 In your opinion, what are the types of situtations or circumstances in which a safeguarder should be appointed?

Q5.7 In your opinion, what is the key function/role of a safeguarder?

Q5.8 In your opinion, to what extent does the involvement of a safeguarder lead to a better/different outcome for children?

0 (1)

1 (2)

2 (3)

3 (4)

4 (5)

5 (6)

6 (7)

7 (8)

8 (9)

9 (10)

10 (11)

1 (1)

Q5.9 Please feel free to provide more information about whether the involvement of a safeguarder leads to better/different outcomes for children

Q5.10 In your opinion, does the involvement of a safeguarder have any impact on the number of appeals?

  • Yes (1)
  • No (2)
  • Don't know (3)

Q5.11 In your opinion, is it better for the safeguarder to appear at the proceedings to present their report?

  • Yes (1)
  • No (2)
  • Don't know (3)

Q60 Are you aware of the 7 key practice standards for safeguarders that were introduced in 2015?

  • Yes (4)
  • No (5)

Display This Question:

If Are you aware of the 7 key practice standards for safeguarders that were introduced in 2015? Yes Is Selected

Q5.12 Using your own personal experience of working with safeguarders, in how many cases did the work of the safeguarders you have worked with since 2015 adhere to the 7 key practice standards?

All of them (1)

Most of them (2)

Few of them (3)

None of them (4)

Putting the child at the centre (1)

Contributing to the development of relationships with all involved (2)

Acting with independence of practice (3)

Providing clear and timely reports (4)

Maintaining confidentiality (5)

Acting with integrity, honesty and fairness at all times (6)

Keeping up to date with skills and knowledge (7)

Q5.13 Do you feel that the role of the safeguarder is unique in the hearing process or does it overlap with the other roles in the hearings process?

  • Yes the role is unique (1)
  • No there is some overlap with the other roles (2)

Display This Question:

If Do you feel that the role of the safeguarder is unique in the hearing process or does it overlap with the other roles in the hearings process? No there is some overlap with the other roles Is Selected

Q5.14 What role(s) do you feel overlap with that of a safeguarder?

Display This Question:

If Do you feel that the role of the safeguarder is unique in the hearing process or does it overlap with the other roles in the hearings process? No there is some overlap with the other roles Is Selected

Q5.15 Which of the following statements apply to the overlap between roles

  • The overlap between roles complements/assists the role of the safeguarder (1)
  • The overlap between roles can make the role of the safeguarder more difficult (2)
  • The overlap between roles can negate the role of the safeguarder (3)

Q5.16 In your opinion, to what extent are the reports generated by safeguarders useful?

Extremely useless (1)

Moderately useless (2)

Slightly useless (3)

Neither useful nor useless (4)

Slightly useful (5)

Moderately useful (6)

Extremely useful (7)

1 (1)

Q5.17 Do you have more confidence in the decision that is made when a safeguarder has been involved?

  • Yes (1)
  • No (2)
  • Don't know (3)

Q5.18 To what extent do you feel a safeguarder's underlying professional skills/qualifications help them in their role?

0 (1)

1 (2)

2 (3)

3 (4)

4 (5)

5 (6)

6 (7)

7 (8)

8 (9)

9 (10)

10 (11)

1 (1)

Q5.19 Please list the skills/qualifications/qualities you feel are important to the safeguarder role

Q5.20 Do you feel that safeguarders have the appropriate training and support required to fulfil their role as a safeguarder?

  • Yes (1)
  • No (2)
  • Don't know (3)

Display This Question:

If Do you feel that safeguarders have the appropriate training and support required to fulfil their role as a safeguarder? No Is Selected

Q5.21 Please suggest additional training or skills

Q5.22 Would you feel confident about raising any issues/complaints about safeguarder performance?

  • Yes (1)
  • No (2)
  • Don't know (3)

PARTICIPANT INFORMATION SHEET

School of Law

THE ROLE OF SAFEGUARDERS IN THE CHILDREN’S HEARINGS SYSTEM

Introduction

This is a study commissioned by the Scottish Government which seeks to examine the role of the safeguarder in the Children’s Hearings system and the perceptions of key stakeholders involved. In the next 3 months, we will be seeking to talk to a wide variety of professionals, including social workers, panel members, safeguarders, sheriffs and lawyers, about the issues relating to the use of safeguarders and the introduction of the Safeguarder Panel across Scotland being managed by Children 1 st.

Questionnaires and interviews

We will be sending out questionnaires to all Reporters, panel members and safeguarders, and to a sample of sheriffs, lawyers and social workers across Scotland. These questionnaires will be anonymous, although we will also be asking questionnaire respondents whether they are happy to be interviewed at a later stage in the research. Their contact details, if provided for interview, will be devolved from the questionnaire responses at the point of data extraction.

The interviews will only take about an hour to conduct, and we can meet respondents at their office or other appropriate venue, at a time that suits them best. The information provided at interview will be strictly confidential and no names will be mentioned in any subsequent reports or publications. All data gathered during the study will be destroyed within five years of completion. Respondents can withdraw their data at any time during or after the interview should they subsequently wish not to participate. The researchers would like to digitally record the interview, if respondents are happy with that, although only the research team will have access to those transcripts.

Researcher Contact Details:

The research team consists of Claire McDiarmid, Monica Barry and Michelle Donnelly at the School of Law, and Stephen Corson in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Strathclyde. The principal researcher is Claire McDiarmid and if respondents wish to clarify anything about the research, they can contact Claire on claire.mcdiarmid@strath.ac.uk or alternatively Helen Baigrie, The Secretary to the University Ethics Committee at ethics@strath.ac.uk or on 0141 548 3707.

Consent Form

PROFESSIONAL RESPONDENT CONSENT FORM

School of Law

THE ROLE OF THE SAFEGUARDER IN THE CHILDREN’S HEARINGS SYSTEM

I confirm that I have read and understood the information sheet for the above project and the researcher has answered any queries to my satisfaction.

I understand that my participation is voluntary and that I am free to withdraw from the project at any time.

I understand that any information I give at interview will remain confidential and that I will not be identifiable in any reports or publications resulting from this research.

  • I agree to being interviewed for this research. Yes / No
  • I consent to the interview being tape recorded. Yes / No

Name:………………………………………………………

Date:………………

Signature: ………………………………………………………………………………..

Agency: …………………………………………………………………………………….

Safeguarder Interview Question Schedule

NB Interview question schedules were slightly tailored for each of the seven stakeholder groups

THE ROLE OF SAFEGUARDER IN THE CHILDREN’S HEARINGS SYSTEM

Safeguarder Interview Schedule

Initials: …………

Date: …..………..

Time: …......……

Skills and experience

1. For how long have you been a safeguarder?

2. Are you employed in any other capacity? If not, have you recently been employed? [probe: what is your background?]

3. Why did you decide to become a safeguarder? [probe: what was your motivation?]

Reasons for safeguarder appointments

General

4. Why do you think safeguarders should be appointed? [probe: the ultimate recommendation, a second opinion, filling a gap in knowledge. Should they be appointed as a matter of course?]

5. Do you think the statutory test – “to safeguard the interests of the child” is adequate to identify the circumstances in which children’s hearings should appoint safeguarders? [probe: not the ‘best’ interests? Should there be a test for sheriffs, if so, what?]

6. Do you think it is right that children’s hearings and sheriffs have to consider a safeguarder appointment in every case?

Specific

7 . Can you give some examples of the kinds of circumstances / cases in which you have been appointed? What is the most common situation in which you are appointed?

8 . Why do children’s hearings and sheriffs give reasons for safeguarder appointments? [probe: is it to justify the decision or to identify your focus?]

9. To what use do you put those reasons in conducting your investigation? [probe: do you regard them as providing your remit? Is there ever any uncertainty as to the reasons for or focus of your appointment?]

10 . Since the advent of the national panel in June 2013, have you ever been appointed in circumstances which, in your view, were inappropriate? [probe: where you think you lack qualifications or a focus, where another professional ought to have reported or another service been allocated (e.g. legal rep or advocate?]

11. Since 2013, roughly how many times have you been appointed as a safeguarder? Are you able to comment on the proportions of these appointments made by panel members versus sheriffs? [ probe: why? Have the number of your appointments dropped since 2013 – taxi rank influence?]

Perceptions of the safeguarder role

12 . Would you say that the safeguarder role is clear to all concerned? [probe: for safeguarders themselves, panel members, reporters, sheriffs, lawyers, social workers and children and their families.]

13 . Do you think that different agencies / stakeholders have different expectations of safeguarders? [probe: does this lead to any disagreements/tensions?]

14. In your opinion, what are the advantages and disadvantages of safeguarders? [probe: how important is your independence?]

Decision-maker practice

15. Do you always get a copy of the hearing’s or sheriff’s reasons for appointment?

16. In your view, what do panel members hope to achieve by appointing a safeguarder?

17. And what do sheriffs hope to achieve by appointing a safeguarder?

18. Is your function recognisably different when appointed by a children’s hearing compared with when appointed by a sheriff in referral proceedings or a sheriff in appeal proceedings?

19. Do you think decision-makers should have more guidance and a more consistent streamlined approach in terms of making safeguarder appointments?

20. Do you think it would help if sheriffs and panel members had a list of potential reasons for appointment (a kind of drop down menu) that they can use when appointing a safeguarder?

Preparing a report

21. Could you explain how you conduct an investigation in an individual case? [probe: how do you obtain the child’s views; gather ‘missing’ information; clarify facts; assess contact; diffuse conflicts; balance the welfare of the child with the rights of parents?]

22. What is the purpose of obtaining the child’s views? Do you always indicate where your recommendation differs from the child’s views and why? [probe: do you always relay the child’s views back to the decision-maker? What about the views of relevant persons?]

23 . How do you report back to the hearing or court? [probe: verbal or written? What users do you have in mind when putting it together? do you refer back to the reasons for your appointment? Do you always give a recommendation?]

24 . Do you know if your recommendations tend to be accepted or rejected? [probe: in what circumstances/cases and if rejected, why?]

25 . In your view, what makes a “good” safeguarder report? [probe: is the timescale adequate for writing ‘good’ reports; are the terms of reference clear to the safeguarder? Should there be a template for safeguarder reports?]

26. In what ways do safeguarders’ reports contain different information than social workers’ or other professionals’ reports? [probe: how do you ensure that your role is complimentary to the work undertaken by others, rather than overlapping?]

27. What are your views on whether social workers should get a copy of the safeguarder report in advance of the hearing?

Appeals

28. What is your understanding and experience of your role in appeal proceedings?

29. Have you ever instigated an appeal in your capacity as a safeguarder? If yes, can you provide details and explain why? [probe: hearing or court decision? Type of case?]

Training and skills

30. What training have you ever undertaken as a safeguarder? [Probe: pre- and post-2013; how useful did you find it? How much do you draw on it in conducting an assessment?]

31. In which areas do you feel that you would benefit from additional, specific training? [probe: why and who should provide this? Might a specific postgraduate qualification help in any way?]

32. Do you think other stakeholders are aware of your background? Do you think it is important, or makes any difference, for them to know this?

33. Have you ever been appointed directly by a hearing or a sheriff specifically because of your background, skills or experience, or any other basis? [ Probe: where the taxi rank principle has been bypassed because of the need for a particular gender/profession of safeguarder, or a personal preference?]

34. How important is it that safeguarders are paid for this work? Are the current fees [ NB: have them to hand] adequate?

Centralisation

35. What do you think about the move to a national safeguarder service? [probe: what issues or gaps was the panel meant to address? Has it been effective in this? Taxi rank system? Performance and monitoring framework; safeguarder feedback sheets and complaints procedures ]

36. In what ways do the Practice Standards guide your work as a safeguarder?

37. How do you feel about management of the safeguarder panel sitting within an independent, 3 rd sector, charitable child welfare organisation? [probe: what if it was sitting within the local authority or within SCRA, for example?]

Added value of safeguarders

38. How would you define effectiveness in terms of safeguarder appointments? [probe: for example, bringing new information to light; helping to defuse conflicts; speaking for the child.]

39. Do you feel that your input (including reports and recommendations) is valued and respected by children and families, panel members and sheriffs, and other professionals in the children’s hearings process?

40. In your experience, how often does your recommendation differ from social work’s recommendation? [probe: do safeguarder recommendations tend to converge with, or diverge from, social work? In which areas do your recommendations tend to differ, e.g. frequency of contact? How often do you identify an issue or an important person in the child’s life that no one else has considered?]

41. Do you think that, in children’s hearings and court proceedings, safeguarders are seen as experts and, if so, by whom and in what areas? [probe: do you regard the role as one for a professional or layperson?]

42. Many professionals are involved with children within the hearings system – e.g., their own representatives or advocacy organisations like Who Cares? to assist in providing views; legal representatives to act on their instructions; social workers to set out a care plan; and, reporters to consider grounds and identify the need for compulsory measures in the first place. What is it that safeguarders bring to the process which is unique and which cannot be obtained from any of these other professionals?

43. What, if anything, needs to change to ensure the sustainability and effectiveness [by their definition above] of the safeguarder role in the future?

44. Is there anything else you want to say about safeguarders and the Children’s Hearings system that we haven’t discussed already?

Thank you.

Time finished……………

Safeguarder Focus Group Schedule

NB: Focus Group schedules were slightly tailored for each stakeholder group

CLARITY IN THE ROLE OF THE SAFEGUARDER :

Based on all the views and experiences of the key stakeholders, we drew up the following definition of a safeguarder:

Keeping the child at the centre, the safeguarder’s role is to inform decision-making through independent information gathering (including, as appropriate, the child’s views), and analytical and objective reporting in the child’s best interests.

1. Do you think this encompasses all the key functions of the safeguarder in both Children’s hearings and the court?

We found in some of the discussions at interview that stakeholders were often unsure of what the safeguarder was meant to be doing in the court setting versus the Children’s Hearings setting.

2. What do you see as the main differences in the safeguarder’s role between being appointed by the Children’s Hearings and being appointed by the court?

3. Do you see yourself as a party to proceedings in court - what does this involve?

4. What do you do in proof proceedings - are you involved in negotiating, or leading evidence in relation to, the grounds of referral?

5. What do you do in appeal proceedings - are you involved in demonstrating that the decision was, or was not, justified?

6. Would you say that the role takes on a distinctive (legal) character in court proceedings?

REASONS FOR APPOINTMENT OF SAFEGUARDERS :

One thing we found was that safeguarders, panel members and sheriffs had differing views about whether a) it was important to record a ‘reason’ for appointing a safeguarder, and b) whether that safeguarder should be given a ‘remit’ or ‘steer’ as to the purpose of their investigation and report.

7. Do you think safeguarders should be given a remit for their appointment?

8. In your experience, does it make any difference to the quality of safeguarder reports or the clarity of safeguarder appointments?

9. Do you think sheriffs should record reasons for safeguarder appointments?

10. Is it ever unclear why you have been appointed by a sheriff?

11. Would it be helpful if sheriffs provided a remit for your appointment?

Several stakeholders thought that panel members may appoint a safeguarder because

a) they may find the decision too difficult to take without the reassurance of a second opinion of a safeguarder;

b) they may wish to put off making that decision by appointing a safeguarder and leaving the decision to another set of panel members; or

c) to almost pacify other parties around the table in a situation of conflict.

12. Do you think these are common concerns for panel members?

13. Do you think safeguarders are often appointed by panel members to assist them in making difficult decisions?

The so-called ‘taxi rank’ principle - of allocating the next safeguarder on the list when an appointment request comes in – was seen as a positive change amongst all stakeholders, because it was fairer and more transparent.

14. Do you think this allocation process is equally appropriate in the court setting as in the Children’s Hearings setting?

15. When might it be more appropriate to ‘choose’ a specific safeguarder because of their gender or expertise, for example?

INVESTIGATIONS AND REPORTING :

16. Our research found that panel members frequently follow safeguarder recommendations, why do you think this is the case? Do you think panel members scrutinise safeguarder reports?

Safeguarders at interview, as well as other stakeholders, were often sceptical about their role in observing – or more specifically – assessing the quality of contact between a parent and child, and there are also issues for social work about how much contact should be allowed if a child is being considered for permanence.

17. Could we ask you for your views on the role of safeguarders in observing or assessing contact?

TRAINING, SKILLS AND EXPERTISE:

18. The research identified that safeguarders’ underlying professional skills are valued, particularly by decision-makers. What makes professional skills so crucial to the role?

One of the key findings from the research was that stakeholders felt safeguarders lacked the confidence to operate in a court setting because they did not have an adequate training in court processes. Some also felt that they lacked training in panel procedures and lacked knowledge of resources in the local area that could be used as part of an intervention with children or their families.

19. What do you think about the level of training – and therefore confidence – of safeguarders?

THE CENTRALISATION OF SAFEGUARDERS:

You will all be aware that a National Safeguarder Panel came into operation in mid-2013, overseen by Children 1 st, with accompanying Practice Standards and supervision arrangements.

20. Are you aware of any changes that have occurred in safeguarder policy, operation or actual practice since that time three-plus years ago? For example, do you think there are more or less safeguarders, with more or less skills and expertise? Do you think having Children 1 st overseeing the role of safeguarder has made a difference to practice?

We experienced a lot of uncertainty amongst stakeholders about whether safeguarders should be professionally trained as safeguarders and equally, whether their own professional background was a help or a hindrance in fulfilling the role of safeguarder in both children’s hearings and the courts. Some safeguarders mentioned that there was no ‘professional identity’ amongst them, no ‘esprit de corps’ as one person put it. They felt somewhat isolated in the role with little peer support or group identity.

21. Do you think this is an issue generally for safeguarders and how does it affect their work? How also do you think this could be remedied in the future?

22. The research suggested that there was no desire for a professional qualification in safeguarding but there was some appetite for the development of a professional identity for safeguarders (taking into account that this is a paid role). How do you think this could be achieved in practice?

23. In what ways do safeguarders add value to children’s hearings proceedings? Is there anything else that they could do to add more value to proceedings?


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