Safeguarders Research

Year: 2015
Topic: Children's hearings system, Corporate parenting, Legislation, Permanence
Author: CELCIS

Safeguarders may be appointed by children’s hearings or courts in cases where it is thought necessary in the interests of the child. Their primary role is to make an independent assessment of what plans and arrangements are in the child’s best interests and to provide a report based on that assessment to assist decision-making.

Little research has been conducted to explore the conditions under which they are appointed or the impact that their appointment has on the process. This is important because of the need to ensure that the right decisions are made for children and that these decisions are made in as timely a way as possible. This study explores these issues from the perspectives of various stakeholders in the process, including social workers, panel members and safeguarders themselves.

Main findings 

  • The work of safeguarders is regarded very positively by panel members and social workers.
  • Many social workers believed that appointments of safeguarders were at times unnecessary, duplicated their own assessments and led to avoidable delays. In contrast, panel members believed that the appointments were nearly always needed and could save time in the long run.
  • Both social workers and safeguarders thought that in certain cases conflict at hearings could be better to managed to reduce the need to appoint a safeguarder.
  • Some panel members did not trust the objectivity of social work recommendations.
  • Panel members tend to prefer the flexible and succinct formats used in safeguarder reports compared with social work reports.
  • Social workers could make explicit the nature and extent of multi-agency contributions to their recommended plans.
  • Some support was expressed for the idea that safeguarders ought to be involved in all cases concerning permanence away from home, while an alternative view was that these should go directly to the Sheriff Court.

What next?

In response to the findings, the research Advisory Group formulated a plan for action (included in the report).