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Timeline :: Kilbrandon Committee set up

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Concerns about what was then called 'juvenile delinquency' were to the fore in the UK in the early 1960s. Just as the Ingleby Committee (Committee on Children and Young Persons, 1960) in England and Wales was coming to a close, the Kilbrandon Committee was announced in Scotland, under the chairmanship of Lord Kilbrandon, who had been Chairman of Edinburgh University Settlement (information from Brian Ashley).

The committee's remit was as follows: 'to consider the provisions of the law of Scotland relating to the treatment of juvenile delinquents and juveniles in need of care or protection or beyond parental control amnd in particular, the constitution, powers and procedures of the courts dealing with such juveniles, and to report'.

Interestingly, rates of juvenile delinquency were low in Scotland, though they had increased in the second half of the 1950s; meanwhile the numbers of children in local authority care in Scotland were also low (the report itself estimates no more than 500 in total). In reviewing the situation of juvenile deliquents and children in need, the Kilbrandon report acknowledges that: 'The basic similarlity of underlying situation far outweighs the differences, and, from the point of view of treatment measures, the true distinguishing factor, common to all children concerned, is their need for special measures of education and training, the normal up-bringing process, for whatever reasons, having fallen short' (para 15).

There were no social workers on the committee; but there were people who knew about children's needs, including Dr Fred Stone, head of department of child and adolescent psychiatry at Glasgow Hospital for Sick Children and a member of the Scottish Advisory Council on Child Care and Norman Murchiston, a head-teacher who was 'recognised for his work with underprivileged and less able pupils' (Murphy 1992: 125). There were also a chief constable, four lawyers (two of whom were sheriffs - Allan Walker and Margaret Kidd, and two who went on to become sheriffs), a recently retired Chief Inspector of Child Care and Probation, Mr W. Hewitson Brown, who had chaired the 1946 Clyde Committee. Mr A.T.F. Ogilvie of the Home Deparment acted as independent secretary, assisted by Mr R.J. Edie from Education (see Murphy 1992: 125).

The Kilbrandon Committee  proposed education in a social context for both children in need and those who had committed offences - or 'social education', essentially the application of social and family casework (p.20). It recommended that juvenile panels should replace juvenile courts for both juvenile offenders and for those in need of care and protection (p.39). For this to be put into practice, a measure of reorganisation of local social services would be needed, bringing together all social services into a new department (called a 'matching field organisation') under the control of the deputy Director of Social Education, under the Director of Education. All childcare would therefore be dealt with in one place; a family service would be a key part of this.

This was a very different approach to that being taken in England and Wales. Youth courts were seen as an Ango-American device and there was a search for something that was more sympathetic to Scottish traditions, reflected in the Scottish tradition of tribunals. There was also a strong historical association with northern Europe, and especially the Scandinavian countries' approach to social pedadogy/social education, which became the founding principle of the Children's Hearing System and the associated reorganisation of social services/social work services; the idea was for the creation of social education departments driven by social work. It is noteworthy that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is itself build on a social education paradigm.

Bill Whyte suggest that it may be no coincidence that Lord Kilbrandon took over the chair of the commission looking at Scottish independence - social work can therefore be seen as part of Scotland's cultural renaissance.

The Kilbrandon Report was published in 1964, as Children and Young Persons, Scotland, Cmnd 2306 – there was a radical approach here, emphasising the needs of the child whatever the situation, as well as the importance of the impact of poor parenting. This was subsequently enacted in the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968, which was implemented in 1971, at which time both the youth courts and probation service were disbanded. Children's hearings replaced youth courts and probation functions became a social work responsibility.

Source: Professor Bill Whyte, 03/04/2017.

Further reading: Asquith, Stewart (ed.) (1995) The Kilbrandon Report: Children and Young Persons Scotland Children in Society Edinburgh: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.

Committee on Children and Young Persons (1960) Report of the Committee on Children and Young Persons (Chairman Viscount Ingleby) Cmnd 1191 London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.

Murphy, John (1992) British Social Services. The Scottish Dimension, Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press.

Stone, Fred (1995) Children's Hearings: The 1995 Kilbrandon Child Care Lecture, Available at

The Kilbrandon Report is available here: