Scotland

Children's panel reforms backed by MSPs.

youth sitting on steps
Image caption The system aims to address issues related to youth offending

Plans to overhaul the children's hearing system have been supported by MSPs, but concerns have been raised over how the reforms will work.

The Children's Hearings Bill creates a national body to oversee the 40-year-old system, presently run by councils.

The volunteer-led system aims to address issues related to youth offending outside the criminal courts.

Holyrood's local government committee backed the bill, but cited a lack of detail in aspects of the legislation.

Ministers say modernising Scotland's unique children's hearing system will lead to more consistent standards and better support for vulnerable young people.

The committee backed the general principles of the bill, which still faces a series of parliamentary votes before becoming law.

But MSPs said they were still in the dark over the powers of the new post of national convener, which the bill would establish.

'System strengths'

Committee convener and Labour MSP Karen Whitefield MSP, said: "The committee agreed to support the general principles of the bill, although there were concerns that much would depend on the views of whoever is appointed as the national convener.

"The committee's main concern is to ensure that in the future the strengths of the children's hearing system are bolstered and that decisions continue to be made in the best interests of the child."

MSPs also expressed concern over proposed changes to the definition of a "relevant person", usually a parent, and urged ministers to consider a requirement to provide a report on the child's view in advance of hearings.

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