First Minister Jack McConnell promised the Scottish executive’s
legislative programme for the next two years would deliver “justice
and respect” and “ensure no child is left behind or held back”.
Alongside the lofty ambitions was a string of proposals likely
to be of significant interest to those working in social care.
A Vulnerable Adults Bill will create a list of people deemed
unsuitable to work with vulnerable adults, similar to
Employers will be required to check the list and it will be an
offence for someone on it to seek work caring for vulnerable
Local statutory and multi-disciplinary adult protection
committees will also be set up to investigate abuse and implement
Ann Ferguson, who manages Age Concern Scotland’s elder abuse
project, welcomes the bill, particularly the local protection
committees. “We will be pressing for very clear guidance on how
they would operate and for a process of monitoring [their]
effectiveness,” she says.
The Adoption Bill, expected to be introduced early next year,
will replace existing court orders with a single permanence order
catering for all children and allow joint adoption by unmarried
couples, including same-sex couples.
Improved adoption and fostering support services and a national
system for fostering allowances are also planned.
However, the bill will be shaped by the consultation on Secure
and Safe Homes for our Most Vulnerable Children, the final report
of the executive’s adoption policy review group.
Baaf Adoption and Fostering Scotland director Barbara Hudson
welcomes the bill but warns the measures must be properly
She suggests it should also look to speed the progress of court
applications and produce consistent guidelines for courts.
The Scottish Human Rights Commission Bill will set up a body to
review laws, monitor public authorities and make recommendations
The commission will have the power to obtain information and
gain access to prisons but it will not be able to investigate
Scottish Human Rights Centre director Rosemarie McIlwhan says it
is right that individual complaints should continue to be tackled
by the courts.
But she says the commission must have sufficient enforcement
powers and resources to do its job, which could include tackling
issues such as prison conditions and asylum policies.
The Children’s Hearings and Integrated Services Bill aims to
reduce paperwork in the children’s hearings system. It will place
duties on agencies to work together and clarify the grounds for
referral to a hearing.
It will also restrict the system to cases where compulsion is
required against children or their parents, amid evidence it is
being used for children in need in general.
Building on the Getting it Right for Every Child consultation,
which ends on 30 September, the legislation will also allow
agencies to be held to account for failing to carry out the
recommendations of a hearing.
Maggie Mellon, director of children and families at charity
Children 1st, welcomes the focus on children’s needs as well as
But she calls for more preventive services to meet the needs of
those children who will be excluded from the hearings system as a
result of the legislation.
The Summary Justice Reform Bill is expected early next year and
will make granting bail more difficult for serious, dangerous and
It will also give courts more freedom to impose conditions on
bail and make the punishments for breach more severe and
Alan Baird, chair of the Association of Directors of Social
Work’s criminal justice committee, fears the move is a knee-jerk
reaction to the Rory Blackhall murder case, where the chief suspect
committed suicide while on bail awaiting trial on sex charges.
Baird says it is important to wait for the outcome of a national
audit of sex offenders being carried out by councils, police and