A:

Since the cancellation of 2021’s exams was announced, our office has raised concerns around the appeals process.

When the SQA consulted around the 2021 appeals process, we raised concerns that their consultation wasn’t accessible to young people and didn’t encourage them to participate. Our own response to the consultation raised  human rights concerns with the process.

In April we highlighted that the SQA’s Alternative Certification Model needed to take exceptional circumstances into account, just as they are in years where there isn’t a global pandemic. We also published an FAQ about how to ask for extra support at school.

And currently we’re continuing to highlight the need for these critical changes, sharing the concerns of young people and pointing to where Scottish Government can step in if needed.

A:

The Commissioner for Children and Young People (Scotland) Act makes it so the Commissioner is independent of government:

  • the Commissioner is nominated by the whole Scottish Parliament, and appointed by the King,
  • the Commissioner can’t be removed from their post without a two-thirds majority vote in the Scottish Parliament.

The Commissioner also lays reports to the Scottish Parliament, but no MSPs direct or control the work the Commissioner does.

A:

The Commissioner’s powers are set out in the Commissioner for Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2003, as modified by the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.

Before the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act came into force, the Commissioner could only use their power of investigation to investigate cases involving the human rights of groups of children and young people. The Act changed this to allow the Commissioner to investigate cases affecting the human rights of an individual child or young person.

A:

Because the Commissioner is funded by public money, it’s important that their accounts are checked over – or audited – and that as a member of the public you have access to these audited accounts.

Like all public bodies, the Commissioner publishes an annual statement of expenditure each year as well as accounts. This says how much money’s been spent on:

  • public relations
  • overseas travel
  • hospitality and entertainment
  • external consultancy.

Our accounts are checked by:

The Auditor General for Scotland

The Commissioner must send their accounts to this person every year. Their office will inspect the accounts.

The Scottish Parliament

The Commissioner receives their approved budget on a monthly basis from the SPCB.

The Advisory Audit Board

The Advisory Audit Board (AAB) advise the Commissioner on, and review, the system of internal control and the arrangements in place for corporate governance, managing risk and auditing financial and management performance. The AAB will provide assurance through a process of constructive challenge. 

A:

The law that sets out the Commissioner’s role says that the Commissioner or a member of their staff has to be responsible for:

  • signing their accounts
  • making sure their finances are regular and correct
  • making sure resources are used economically, efficiently and effectively.

The Commissioner acts in the role of accountable officer, and in this role they are answerable to the Scottish Parliament.

This means that – while the Commissioner is independent – the law does say they should spend the money they get from the public in a reasonable way, and there are systems in place to make sure this happens in practice.

A:

The Commissioner is funded through public money, and ultimately through the people of Scotland.

But isn’t the Commissioner independent? How can that be if they get funding in this way?

The Commissioner’s funding doesn’t come through the Scottish Government, but from the Scottish Parliament.

The Commissioner requires Parliamentary approval of their budget each year via the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB).

The Commissioner’s financial year runs from 1 April to 31 March. Each summer, the SPCB writes to the Commissioner seeking a budget for the next financial year and an estimated budget for the year or years after that.

The SPCB looks at the Commissioner’s budget submission and may request oral or written evidence of the bid, agreeing changes if necessary before formal SPCB approval. The Commissioner’s budget submission forms part of the SPCB’s overall budget submission that must be approved by the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee.

A:

If you are a child or a young person and would like advice and information from the Commissioner’s office – or to tell us something you’re worried about – you can contact us:

  • using the form at the bottom of our website
  • texting 0770 233 5720 (Texts will be charged at your standard network rate)
  • calling our children and young people’s freephone on 0800 019 1179.

A:

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 or 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:

A:

The law that lays out the Commissioner’s powers says they can investigate enquiries around if 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.

There are limits to this power of investigation.

A:

The Commissioner has the legal power to investigate in some cases where they think rights promises to children and young people aren’t being kept in Scotland. It’s a way that our office can hold people in power to account and demand they make changes when they’re failing to follow the law around children’s human rights.

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