A national advocacy service to support children involved in the children’s hearings system has come into force.

The service is provided under s 122 of the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011, which came into force on 21 November. It requires the chairing members of children’s hearings to inform children of the availability of children’s advocacy services, for which ministers have made provision with £1.5m of funding in 2020-2021.

A Children’s Hearings Advocacy expert reference group was set up to support the design, delivery and implementation of the service, which will be offered Scotland-wide by 10 third sector providers. The funding will support the training and provision of advocacy workers to help children put their views forward at hearings and have them taken into account.

Children’s Minister Maree Todd commented: "This service will put the views and interests of each child at the heart of their hearing."

Jacqui Dunbar, project lead of Our Hearings, Our Voice, an independent board for eight to 18-year-olds who have experience of the children’s hearings system, added:

"Children and young people often tell us they don’t feel their views are heard or fully taken into account within their hearings. We welcome the new advocacy provision as a great step towards ensuring that children and young people across Scotland have someone supporting them and further promoting their rights within their hearings."