As a result of workshops run by the Children’s Parliament, key messages arose from the children. These are detailed below for the Family Law Committee to consider.
“For us, it’s our whole lives and it’s really big, but then the Sheriff gets to choose and it’s not big for him. It’s your life and he decides? That would make me nervous.” – Girl, 10
“If I were young, I would feel a mix of emotions because I don’t have a clue what is happening.”
“They say they want your opinion but they don’t even tell you who they are?!” – Girl, 10
“Children and young people have lived-experiences and these decisions affect their lives, so it is important their voices are heard. Children and young people are the experts in themselves. To understand what we need and how we feel, it is not enough for adults to voice their opinions. Children and young people must be consulted to inform better practice.” – Girl, 17
“I would feel shocked that they’re not going to speak to me in person.” – Girl, 10
“I would feel happy that the Sheriff can help.” – Boy 8
“I’d be a bit angry at my parents. Why can’t they sort it out? They are meant to be the grownups. It shouldn’t be a kid who has to decide.” – Girl, 9
“It would make me feel better to get a letter and the ‘What I Think’ form because you get to tell somebody what you feel like.” – Girl, 10
The children felt that the Family Law Committee should ensure that the form respected their rights in relation to privacy and information sharing and clarify how and with whom their information would be shared.
“Young children might have to rely on adults for [some] information. Not knowing that information might worry children and young people or they might be worried about who gets this information and knowing where you live.”– Girl, 17
The children felt that the Family Law Committee should ensure that the letters and form used language that all children would understand and that any difficult terms, such as ‘Sheriff’, were clearly defined.
“Sheriff is like an old Wild West.”
“Think about the P1, P2 and P3 children, they won’t understand this!” – Girl, 8
“That last sentence makes me feel frustrated and confused. Well, that was a big waste of time because it doesn’t matter what you say…” – Girl, 12
Children felt strongly that the form needed to have a more interesting design to make it more engaging for children.
“I would like there to be a lot more colour and pictures to make the form seem friendlier.” – Boy, 10
“Having pictures like a storybook would help the wee kids understand too.”– Girl, 10
“I think they should have pictures of things like butterflies and rainbows and footballs to help keep kids calm.”– Girl, 8
“For older children, faces can be quite patronising. Puts us off filling in the form. Maybe just asking how they feel and why and getting rid of the silly smiley faces might allow them to use their own words and express themselves better.” – Girl, 17
“I think it would be better to have different forms for older and younger children.”
The children felt that the Family Law Committee should do what they could to ensure that children are informed about the process, kept up-to-date about what is happening, and learn about any decisions made by the Sheriff and the reason for the decision.
“It’s really frustrating because people are making decisions about you and you don’t know the outcome.” – Boy, 12
Children were concerned about who they might ask to help them with completing the’ What I Think’ form.
“You can’t ask your parents because it’s about them and adults might make you change what you say” – Girl, 10
Children identified that while it might be exciting to receive something in the post, some children might feel uncertain about how to return their forms.
“A wee kid couldn’t put it in the letter box! They just couldn’t reach!”– Girl, 8
“[Posting a letter] might be quite worrying for a child if they need to rely on adults involved to post the letter and worry about them seeing what you’ve written. It might put a child off being honest in their form.” – Girl, 17