The law that lays out the Commissioner’s powers says that he can investigate enquiries around whether service providers have failed to:
- uphold the rights, interests and views of individual children and young people when taking actions or making decisions that affect them, or
- uphold the rights, interests and views of a group of children and young people when taking actions or making decisions that affect them.
But there are limits to this power of investigation. The law says that the Commissioner can’t investigate a case if:
- it relates to matters reserved to the UK Government,
- it concerns the decision-making of a court or tribunal in a particular case, or
- it concerns a case currently before a court of tribunal.
The Commissioner also can’t investigate an issue if another body in Scotland is able to investigate it. Some other organisations who can investigate issues are:
When will we investigate?
We will only investigate if we think that we have the power to do so, based on a clear set of criteria to make sure we are using our powers effectively.
We may also be able to address issues in other ways including:
- carrying out work at policy level,
- undertaking research, or
- through strategic litigation.
What happens if we can’t investigate or take forward an issue?
Even if we can’t investigate, we may be able to give you information and signpost you to organisations who can either:
- carry out an investigation, or
- offer specialist information and support such as legal advice.
Find out about some of these organisations.
Who can bring an issue to the Commissioner?
We encourage children and young people to contact us directly, but anyone concerned about a child or young person’s rights can get in touch with us. This includes:
- carers or relatives,
- professionals, and
If we are considering an investigation – or taking forward a child or young person’s issue in another way – we need to have consent to do it.
If a child or young person is 12 or over, we’ll need their consent to continue.
If a child or young person is under 12, we’ll need their parent or carer’s consent to continue.
We will especially need to do this if we need to contact another body, for instance a local authority.
What kind of issues can I bring to the Commissioner?
The Commissioner’s job is to protect and promote the rights of children and young people— so, the issue must involve children’s rights.
You can see some information here about the rights of children and how those rights should be protected in law, policy and practice . If you are not sure, please ask.
The issue must relate to a service provider.
That means anyone who is providing a service to the public.
It could be a Local Authority, a private company or a school.
Our case studies highlight some examples of issues the Commissioner has dealt with in the past.
What happens when I send an enquiry to the Commissioner?
When an enquiry comes into the office – whether it’s through the website, in person, or by email, post or telephone – we will record your concerns on a confidential case management system.
We may ask some questions or request more information to help us understand the issue or issues.
The Advice and Investigations team will discuss your enquiry from a children’s rights perspective to determine what actions are within our legal powers and how to achieve the best outcome for the child or young person involved.
Depending on the issue we may:
- provide information about the child’s rights,
- signpost to another organisation who can offer specific advice, information or resolution,
- assist a child or young person in taking their problem to another organisation, or
- progress an issue – particularly if it affects other children and young people – by requesting information from a service provider or other action.
In some cases, consideration will be given to using the Commissioner’s powers of investigation.
Will the information I share with the Commissioner be treated as confidential?
The Commissioner will treat information in confidence and will not share it without consent, except where we think there is a risk of harm to a child.
In these cases, we will share information with the police or social work department. We do not need consent to do this.
Sometimes, in order to take forward an issue, we may need to share information with another organisation. We will ask for consent before doing this.
If the issue is about a child over the age of 12 years, we will need to get their consent too. The law says that children over the age of 12 are presumed to have capacity to control their own information. For children under 12, we will need the consent of a parent or carer.
What if I am unhappy with the response I receive from the Commissioner?
If you’re not happy with our response, you can make a complaint.