More mediation questions answered by Cyrenians Senior Mediator

We were honoured recently to host an event on Conflict Resolution Day led by Cyrenians Senior Mediator Alan Jeffrey. In addition to working for Cyrenians, Alan delivers workshops on conflict resolution, anger management and mediation skills. Alan mediating has mediated simple procedure cases for University of Strathclyde’s Mediation Clinic and Edinburgh and Borders Court Mediation. He also runs the Mongoose and Cobra website, where he blogs about relationships, mediation and conflict.

Following the event, Alan generously offered to answer questions posed during the event but which we ran out of time to put to him. Here is one such question.

If a case is already in the hands of Cafcass (CAFCASS is the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service in England and WALES) who have already conducted a ‘wishes and feelings’ report after speaking to the children, where does article 12 of UNCRC sits here? We know most judiciary decisions rarely move away from their recommendations. Not sure what is the equivalent and the position in Scotland.

I have to apologise and say I’m not overly familiar with CAFCASS, though I have heard of the ‘wishes and feelings’ assessment. My understanding is that it aligns with Article 12 in the sense that children have a dedicated space for sharing their thoughts, feelings and opinions on their situation. I am unsure in the English and Welsh context whether as children age they are invited to be part of meetings, etc.

Article 12 doesn’t say that adults have to do what the child has said or wants. It, in my translation, outlines that children must have a space to be heard within these processes and that they should be considered in a serious way that considers their evolving capacity as they age (as outlined by article 5 of the UNCRC). It does not say however that adults MUST follow the children’s wishes should it be decided these are not in the best interests of the child. Though if we contradict a child’s wishes then we should be able to justify that this is indeed in their best interest. I am heartened to see in the question that CAFCASS rarely move away from the recommendations borne from the ‘wishes and feelings’ assessment.

How young people are included in decision-making processes that affect them in Scotland is outlined by the GIRFEC approach (Getting It Right For Every Child) which outlines a national child-centred framework applicable nationally. We also have the children’s hearing system which is quite unique in some senses.

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