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The Most Distinctive Feature of the Childrens Hearings System

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Established in 1971, the Hearings system has three principal components: the reporter, the children's panel and the Social Work Department. The System was developed for children who were deemed in need of supervision due to anti-social acts or because they were in need of care and protection. To determine the welfare of the child, and the appropriateness of compulsory measures of supervision, the hearing takes into account the social background of the child provided by a local authority or social worker, and sometimes school and medical records (Children’ s Hearings Scotland, 2005-2006).

This in itself suggests a forward thinking and post-modern constructivist approach to social care, protection and justice. The White Paper of 1965 was progressive in that it highlighted the rights of children as identified by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Hallett, 2000). In this sense, the separation of Welfare and Justice acknowledges the impossibility to separate the two completely, but also the necessity to address separate issues in different ways, to ensure the overriding goal of the rights of the individual, in this case, the dignity, respect and safety of a child.

The Hearings system gives children the opportunity to express their right to an opinion on any issue that affects them; supports their right to a positive sense of identity, and ensures that each child is treated as an individual. However, it has been suggested, that the overall principles of children’ s’ rights are not explicitly included in the Act itself (cf: Tisdall, 1996). Further, questions have been raised as to how to enforce the principles. Although, it is generally acknowledged that including provisions for children’ s rights is essential to communicating ethical/moral standards, and may be of some legal use (Marshall, 1997 as cited in (Waterhous & McGhee, 2002).

An ecological approach focuses and then broadens its view, to incorporate the living system that is human life and its institutions.

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