What changes are there to children’s hearings during Covid-19?

April 16th 2020

A guide to the new laws for children’s hearings during Covid-19

Temporary new laws have been put in place for the time being for children’s hearings and for looked after children. The changes aim to protect children during this difficult time.

What will my hearing look like?

Some children’s hearings are now going ahead face to face. Other hearings are still only happening virtually. If your hearing is happening face to face, some people might not be there in person and might join by video instead – this is called a ‘hybrid hearing’. When you receive your invitation from the Reporter, you should also receive information about whether you are to attend your hearing in person or virtually.

The Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration have produced information about what to expect at a face to face hearing which you can read here. They also have information about virtual hearings which you can read here

No matter what type of hearing you have, it is important to remember that you still have the right to have an advocate, a lawyer or both at your hearing with you. 

If you are unsure about an upcoming hearing you can contact Clan Childlaw by phone, email or Facebook messenger.

Below are some other specific changes to the law that may be useful for you to know about. 

Attendance at Children’s Hearings 

Normally, young people and relevant persons have an obligation and right to attend a children’s hearing. There is a duty to make sure this happens and for anyone who wishes to be deemed a relevant person to be able to attend a pre-hearing panel. However, this is not the case just now.

  • At the moment, there is no obligation on a child or relevant person to attend a hearing unless they have been specifically asked. However, very importantly, they continue to have the right to participate.

Panel Members 

Normally children’s hearings have 3 members, and they have to be made up of male and female members.

  • Now if it’s not possible to have 3 members there might be fewer panel members at your hearing and you might not get both male and female panel members.


A child or a relevant person usually has 21 days from the date of their hearing to appeal the decision made by the panel. 

  • Now, they have 42 days to appeal.

Child Protection Order 

If a sheriff thinks a child is in danger and may experience significant harm due to neglect or other treatment, they will grant what is called a Child Protection Order or a CPO. Usually this will mean you have to stay somewhere other than where you usually stay.

Normally this has to be enforced within 24 hours of the sheriff making it, and a review hearing has to take place within two working days. 

  • Now, changes have been made so there will no longer be a review hearing of the CPO within 2 working days.
  • The CPO will last for 8 working days. If the Reporter decides a hearing is needed, the hearing must take place within those 8 working days.

Compulsory Supervision Order (CSO)

Normally, CSOs expire after a year (and a day) or when children turn 18.

Normally, 3 months before this happens there must be a review hearing, to decide if the CSO should be continued after this time. 

  • Reviews should still take place as they normally do – 3 months before 1 year has gone by or 3 months before the child’s 18th birthday.
  • However, now CSOs will last for an extra 6 months. They  will expire after a year and 6 months, or 6 months after a child’s 18th birthday. This is in case a review can’t take place before the CSO would normally expire, and to make sure that the CSO doesn’t expire without a review taking place. 
  • You have the right to request a review of the CSO. If you are worried about this please contact Clan.

Interim compulsory supervision order or interim variation of compulsory supervision order (ICSO or IVCSO) 

These are short term orders that panels or sheriffs sometimes make when they cannot make a long term decision about what should happen. Normally both types of interim orders (ICSOs and IVCSOs) have effect for 22 days and have to be renewed before 22 days are up. 

  • Now they can (if appropriate) last for 44 days, or a sheriff can make them last longer. 

Emergency Transfers 

If a child or young person is subject to a CSO which says they have to stay at a certain place, the local authority can move them to a different place if this has to happen to protect the child or young person’s safety.  Normally, a review hearing has to happen within 3 working days of the child or young person being moved.

  • If a child or young person is moved in these circumstances, a review hearing must still take place. 
  • However, the review hearing can now take place within 7 working days of the move, rather than 3.

We have listed some of the changes that will affect most people who have children’s hearings coming up. However, there are more changes that have been made. This list does not include everything.

If you have any questions about your children’s hearing you can call Clan Childlaw, text us, email us or message us on Facebook Messenger.

Read the Scottish Government Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 – Guidance on looked-after children and children’s hearings provisions here.

You can download a printable pdf of this guide here.

This is intended as a guide to the law in Scotland as at August 2020 and not as an authoritative statement and interpretation of the law. If you have any questions or would like further information please call 0808 129 0522 or email info@clanchildlaw.org.