Who are Child Welfare Reporters?

Child Welfare Reporters, formerly known as Bar Reporters, are individuals who are appointed by the court to prepare reports in family actions in the Court of Session and in Sheriff courts across Scotland. There are believed to be approximately 400 Child Welfare Reporters in Scotland, most of which are practicing solicitors or advocates.

At present, prospective Child Welfare Reporters write to the Court of Session or one or more of the Sheriff Principals of the six Sheriffdoms across Scotland to seek appointment to their individual lists of Child Welfare Reporters. Those successfully appointed are added to lists for the Court of Session and the six Sheriffdoms, from which individual sheriffs can appoint a Child Welfare Reporter for a specific case.

The appointment of Child Welfare Reporters is due to change once Section 9 of the Children (Scotland) Act 2020 is enacted. It makes provision for Child Welfare Reporters to be appointed to a list maintained by the Scottish Ministers. It also makes changes in respect of a requirement for minimum training for Child Welfare Reporters and expands the number of persons who can be appointed as Child Welfare Reporters.

The ordering of a Child Welfare Report by a court

If you are involved in a family action in a Sheriff Court or in the Court of Session, your solicitor may have discussed with you the possibility of a Child Welfare Report being ordered. A court can decide to order a Child Welfare Report when, for example, it considers that it would benefit from more information before making a substantive decision.

When a court decides to order a Child Welfare Report, the default rule is that the parties to the action are to meet the cost of the report equally, though the court can order that one of the parties meet the full cost in the first instance.

It usually takes between six and eight weeks for a report to be prepared and sent to court. In the Sheriff Court, the Sheriff will usually include a deadline in the interlocutor (an order from a Child Welfare Hearing) for the lodging of the Child Welfare Report.

What does a Child Welfare Reporter do?

Child Welfare Reporters can be asked to seek the views of the child and/or carry out enquiries and report to the court on the best interests of the child.

If a Child Welfare Reporter is to be instructed in your case, it is very important that you discuss with your solicitor the proposed scope and extent of the Child Welfare Reporter's investigations prior to their appointment.

The court must be very specific in its appointment of a Child Welfare Reporter. In the Sheriff Court, for example, the Sheriff must complete a Form F44 which gives specific directions to the Child Welfare Reporter.

What can the court order ask of a Child Welfare Reporter?

The court has the discretion to order a Child Welfare Reporter to carry out a number of enquiries, including (but not limited to) visiting the home of a party to an action, interviewing parties and other relevant persons (such as family, friends and childminders/nannies), interviewing teachers, interviewing health visitors/GPs/other health professionals, interviewing social workers, obtaining a note of previous convictions for parties to an action, observing contact between a child and parent and observing the child in the home environment before and after contact etc.

The Child Welfare Reporter will produce a report detailing their investigations and providing recommendations to the court on the child's best interests. A copy of the report is lodged with the court and is usually sent to the parties' solicitors. The judge can, however, direct that the views of the children be included in a separate report which is sent to the court only. The judge may summarise the child's views at a hearing.

What do you do if a Child Welfare Reporter is instructed in your case?

If you are involved in a family action at a court in Scotland where a Child Welfare Reporter has been instructed, you ought to ask your solicitor to ensure that the Child Welfare Reporter is provided with your pleadings and productions, so that they can get a good understanding of your case.

The Child Welfare Reporter will usually want to interview you. It is important that you are able to provide them with truthful and accurate information about your situation so that they can consider this as part of their investigations.

The Child Welfare Reporter will usually ask you questions, but you should clarify with them if you will get an opportunity at the end of the interview to provide any further information you consider to be relevant or if they would be willing to allow you to send a written communication with further information you consider to be important to your case. It is important that you are able to get your position across to the Child Welfare Reporter succinctly but fully so that they have a good understanding of your case when preparing their report.


Garry Sturrock

Senior Associate