Research Report

The Role of the Safeguarder in the Children's Hearings System



McDiarmid C, Barry M, Donnelly M & Corson S (2017) The Role of the Safeguarder in the Children's Hearings System. Scottish Government. Social Research series. Edinburgh.

1.1 Background In 2013, under the auspices of the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 (‘the 2011 Act’) responsibility for safeguarder recruitment, appointment and administration was transferred from local authorities to the Scottish Ministers and a national voluntary organisation, Children 1st, was contracted to set up and administer a national Safeguarders Panel. In September 2016, the Scottish Government commissioned the University of Strathclyde to undertake this study to understand the role of the safeguarder in the children’s hearings system. There have been two such previous studies: The Role of the Safeguarder in Scotland (Hill et al, 2000) and Safeguarders Research (Gadda et al, 2015). As in the 2000 study, the current research team was able to conduct interviews with sheriffs and to include them in the data collected through a questionnaire, thereby offering some further information on the safeguarder role in court proceedings. This current project has also been able to consider some aspects of the framework put in place by Children 1st to promote consistency and quality in performance of the role. There is little academic discussion of the role though it is covered by Sutherland (2008: 10-026 - 10-028) and by Norrie (2013: 2-21 – 2-33). The Scottish Government has also published Practice Notes on the Role of the Safeguarder (Scottish Government, 2016) which is a comprehensive statement, for safeguarders themselves, of the work which they should undertake. In implementing this, together with the statement on the Practice Standards for Safeguarders (Scottish Government, 2015), Children 1st has done much to ensure that the context in which safeguarders operate is clearly defined. 1.2 Aims and Objectives of the Research The aims of the research were as follows: 1. “to identify and quantify the added value that safeguarders bring to decisions relating to children and young people in children’s hearings proceedings from the perspective of practitioners and professionals (including safeguarders themselves); and 2. to inform future development and support requirements for the role of safeguarder within the children’s hearings system through delivering an understanding of how the role of a safeguarder is perceived in practice and how the role impacts on decision-making, both positively and negatively”. The research questions were:  to explore how the current system of safeguarders operates, and is managed, from all agency perspectives;  to elicit safeguarder and other agency perspectives of the role and effectiveness of safeguarders and how that role interacts/overlaps with other key roles in the children’s hearings system;  to identify the skills and qualifications deemed essential to the effectiveness of the safeguarder role; and  to identify the type and extent of management, support and training needs currently in place and potentially required to ensure the future effectiveness of the safeguarder role and safeguarder panel. In this report, Chapter 2 describes the methods used and outlines the demographics of the various respondents who participated in the fieldwork. Chapters 3 – 6 present findings, with some discussion at the end of each. Chapter 3 offers an understanding of how the safeguarder role is conceived in practice. Chapter 4 examines the reasons for appointment of safeguarders as part of its exploration of how the current system of safeguarding operates and ways in which the role impacts on decision-making. Chapter 5 continues this exploration from all agency perspectives through an examination of the work which safeguarders actually undertake including investigation, reporting and recommendations, and views of stakeholders on aspects of this. It also looks specifically at the structure, content and quality of safeguarder reports (by comparison also with social work reports). Chapter 6 explores stakeholder views on administration of the current system for safeguarders and also identifies skills and qualifications required for fulfilment of the role of safeguarder and safeguarders’ management, support and training needs. The final Chapter, Chapter 7, provides further analysis of the findings including in relation to the effectiveness and added value of safeguarders.

FundersScottish Government
Title of seriesSocial Research series
Publication date17/11/2017
Publisher URL
Place of publicationEdinburgh
ISSN of series2045-6964

People (1)


Dr Michelle Donnelly

Dr Michelle Donnelly

Lecturer in Law, Law