Stand Up For Siblings partner SCRA has embarked on a new piece of research which will explore the impact of virtual Hearings during the COVID-19 pandemic on participation, rights and decision making.

The research includes an online survey aimed at foster carers and kinships carers.

The survey is open for six weeks, closing on Sunday 20 March. The survey will measure foster and kinship carers views about participating in virtual Hearings. It will also ask them about the perceived impacts of virtual Hearings on the children in their care and explore barriers to participation such as digital exclusion. Interviews with foster and kinship carers may also be undertaken.

Dr Catherine Nixon from SCRA who is leading the research explained: “The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 significantly restricted the delivery of Children’s Hearings in Scotland. Although the rapid development and subsequent refinement of virtual Hearings has allowed SCRA to continue to meet the needs of children, little is known about the long-term acceptability of virtual Hearings to children, families and their caregivers.

“The Keeping The Promise 2021-2024 strategy developed by SCRA commits to undertaking research in order to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and to use the knowledge gathered to inform our improvement journey. Understanding how virtual and hybrid Hearings have impacted upon the participation and rights of children and families, as well as the decision making process, is part of that commitment.”

The research, which has been developed in consultation with young people from Our Hearings, Our Voice includes a number of other strands:

  • Interviews and focus groups will be conducted with parents, residential carers and secure care staff about their views of participating in virtual Hearings. These interviews will aim to understand how attending Hearings virtually differs from the experience of face-to-face participation. They will also explore perceptions about the impact of virtual Hearings on decision making, rights and participation.


  • Participatory research will be undertaken with children and young people to explore their views on Virtual Hearings. This research will explore the same issues that will be explored with parents and carers, but will adopt a child-centred and child-led approach to data collection. Our Hearings, Our Voice Board Members will act as co-researchers in this element of the study.


  • Case File Analysis using data routinely being collected by SCRA in relation to Children’s Hearings will be undertaken to explore the inclusion of the child’s voice within Hearings held during the pandemic. Data on the decision making process will also be recorded, including the effect of Hearing type on rates of continuations, deferrals, appeals and requests for early reviews of decisions. Face-to-face Hearings will be compared with virtual Hearings conducted with and without RAVHI.

The intention is to publish the findings from each research element as soon as they become available as the findings will be used to inform future refinements of virtual Hearings. All findings should be available in early 2023 on SCRA’s website.

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