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A UWS BA (Hons) Criminal Justice student from Airdrie has been awarded a prestigious Carnegie Trust Undergraduate Vacation Scholarship which will see her embark on a piece of independent research to assess the impact of mock children’s hearings on the professional development of social workers.

Stephanie Spence (20), who has recently completed her third year in Criminal Justice at UWS’ Lanarkshire campus, first got the idea for her research topic following a Youth Justice module which examined the Children’s Hearings System, a system which ensures the safety and wellbeing of children and young people.

Up until recently, professionals involved have trained via observing panels in action. However, with the introduction of GDPR, and the impact observers have on children and families, this approach has been phased out to be replaced by a new system of mock hearings.

Stephanie said: “I’m thrilled to be awarded this scholarship from The Carnegie Trust. I took part in a mock children’s hearing as part of a Youth Justice module which was overseen by the Scottish Children’s Reporter for South Lanarkshire. When she told us they were rolling this method out as the new way to train practitioners I was immediately interested in carrying out research around this to develop an understanding of the impact mock panels will have on professionals as there is little contemporary research on this topic.”

Over the course of her summer holidays, Stephanie plans to attend a minimum of two mock hearings being delivered to practitioners, as well as conducting focus groups and interviews to gather information. She will then write up her findings into a report for the Children’s Hearings System to help inform their training programme, as well as delivering a poster presentation to the Carnegie Trust sharing her findings.

Over the course of her summer holidays, Stephanie plans to attend a minimum of two mock hearings being delivered to practitioners, as well as conducting focus groups and interviews to gather information. She will then write up her findings into a report for the Children’s Hearings System to help inform their training programme, as well as delivering a poster presentation to the Carnegie Trust sharing her findings.

Supervising Stephanie’s research is Dr Johanne Miller, Lecturer, Criminal Justice and Criminology at UWS. Commenting on the award of the scholarship, Dr Miller said: “It is a significant achievement for Stephanie to secure a prestigious Carnegie Trust Undergraduate Vacation Scholarship.

"The research Stephanie will conduct this summer will be incredibly useful for the Children’s Hearings System as they roll out this new training mechanism for practitioners, whilst Stephanie will develop vital skills around managing a research project, skills that are transferable and highly sought after.”
Dr Johanne Miller, Lecturer, Criminal Justice and Criminology at UWS

Children’s Reporter Joanne Lee is leading a number of the sessions at Hamilton and will be spending time with Stephanie during her research project, Joanne said: “Since the mock Hearings launched in Lanarkshire, around 30% of delegates attending have been from our intended audience of social work students. The other delegates are experienced professionals from a variety of services we work with.

“By facilitating these professionals to be better informed about the role of the Reporter, the referral/investigation process and the Hearings System, we hope they can better participate in Hearings going forward, leading to more robust discussions and decisions for the children we deal with.”

Katy Lang, Senior Practitioner at Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA), said: “We are keen to better understand through this research if the learning objective of better equipping professionals to engage with the Hearings System is met through the module and we are delighted to be working with Stephanie and the University of the West of Scotland for this purpose. Stephanie will be seeking to undertake her research in a minimum of two SCRA Localities until September to enhance her analysis of this new approach.”

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