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Updated 6th April 2020 (8.30am)

In response to COVID-19, many changes are taking place at a rapid pace.  This page provides links to relevant guidance, legislation, resources and information about changes to current processes in order to support the Scottish justice sector as it works together to help individuals, families and communities during this time of crisis.

We will continue to update it daily as far as is possible.  If you are aware of other items that should be added, please e-mail us:

Coronavirus Community Assistance Directory

If you’re an individual or organisation in need of support/able to support others in response to COVID-19, you can find or give help on this new website which SCVO has set up to collate offers and requests from across the country.  Organisations are encouraged to register what they can offer.


Health Protection Scotland Guidance

UK Government Guidance

Scottish Drugs Forum Guidance


Coronavirus Act 2020

The Coronavirus Act 2020 enables action in 5 key areas:

  1. increasing the available health and social care workforce – for example, by removing barriers to allow recently retired NHS staff and social workers to return to work (and in Scotland, in addition to retired people, allowing those who are on a career break or are social worker students to become temporary social workers)
  2. easing the burden on frontline staff – by reducing the number of administrative tasks they have to perform, enabling local authorities to prioritise care for people with the most pressing needs, allowing key workers to perform more tasks remotely and with less paperwork, and taking the power to suspend individual port operations
  3. containing and slowing the virus – by reducing unnecessary social contacts, for example through powers over events and gatherings, and strengthening the quarantine powers of police and immigration officers
  4. managing the deceased with respect and dignity – by enabling the death management system to deal with increased demand for its services
  5. supporting people – by allowing them to claim Statutory Sick Pay from day one, and by supporting the food industry to maintain supplies.

It received Royal Assent on 25th March 2020.  Further details are available here.

Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill and related regulations

Following Royal Assent of the UK Coronavirus Bill, the Scottish regulations [The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020] came into force on 26 March and were laid in the Scottish Parliament on 27 March 2020.

The Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill was introduced by the Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, Europe and External Affairs, Michael Russell MSP, on 31 March 2020.  The Bill passed Stages 1-3 on 1 April 2020.

The Bill introduces considerable changes to a range of policy areas for a time limited period (initially 6 months with the potential for extension, to a maximum of 18 months total). Key aspects of the Bill, from a justice perspective, are proposals to empower the Scottish Government to:

  • Release people from prison
  • Extend the length for completion of all current community payback orders that include an unpaid work or other activity element by 12 months
  • Further vary or postpone community orders en masse as required
  • Allow trials to take place remotely and for evidence and documents to be submitted and served electronically
  • Increase the maximum amount that can be imposed by a fiscal fine to £500
  • Change how the Parole Board operates to allow it to sit remotely
  • Make changes in the law to prevent eviction of people from their homes
  • Makes changes to the children’s hearing process

It was announced during the Stage 1 Debate that the Scottish Government would not be including proposals to suspend jury trials as part of the emergency legislation (included in Schedule 4, Part 5) but that these would be the subject of further consultation and would be brought as separate legislation at the next available opportunity on the 21st April.

The Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre (SPICe) has produced a briefing on the Bill, which is available to read here.

Various bodies have provided responses/briefings to the Bill:

Changes to processes and services

NHS NSS triage centre for social care

NHS Nation Services Scotland (NSS) has set a helpline to deal with social care supplies during COVID-19. (24th March 2020)

At the moment, this helpline is to be used only in cases where there is an urgent supply shortage and a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19.  This will be reviewed regularly in the coming days and weeks.

The NHS NSS triage centre for social care can be contacted on: 0300 303 3020

When contacting the helpline, providers will be required to:

  • answer a series of short screening questions
  • confirm they have fully explored business as usual procurement routes
  • confirm they have a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 and therefore have a need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • provide their Care Inspectorate registration number.

The helpline will be open 8am – 8pm, 7 days a week.

Changes to the standard working procedure for Restricted Patients

Guidance has been produced (25th March) for practitioners who provide care and treatment to restricted patients.  Restricted patients are persons who are subject to a Compulsion Order and Restriction Order; Hospital Direction or Transfer for Treatment Direction. It is also relevant in relation to patients on remand who are subject to an assessment order, treatment order, temporary compulsion order or interim compulsion order.

COVID-19 in Prisons

WHO/Europe have published guidance on how to deal with Coronavirus in prisons and other detention centres (15th March).

Two people in HMP Kilmarnock have confirmed cases of Coronavirus (18th March) but around 64 people across 8 Scottish prisons are in isolation after showing symptoms (as of 5th April).

Advice and guidance has been sent to every prisoner via letters and in-cell TV messages. 

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament on 24th March the Cabinet Secretary for Justice said that processes to deal with COVID-19 were in place across the prison estate and that prisoners showing symptoms were self-isolating.

The Scottish Prison Service have produced this page to summarise their latest updates.

BBC News is reporting that almost a quarter of SPS staff are absent from work during COVID-19 (article on 2nd April 2020)

The Scottish Government have now published legislation to empower Scottish Ministers to authorise prison releases in future – please see above.

The World Prison Brief website is collating a list of news articles from around the world about COVID-19 and prisons (updated 3rd April 2020).

Guidance on visiting prisons

As of 24th March, all visits to Scottish prisons have been suspended, with the exception of critical agent visits which will continue to be facilitated (although, with the reduction in court business, it is anticipate that these types of visit will reduce).

From 26th March 2020 families of those in Scottish prisons can contact a new family helpline, set up to provide support and guidance. The number is 0131 330 3888 and it is available Monday – Friday, 9am-3pm.

The Scottish Prison Services has put a list  of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for families and visitors on their website. (Updated 27th March 2020)

Ministry of Justice (UK Government) Guidance on COVID-19 and visiting prisons (Updated 31st March 2020)

From 1st April 2020,  the SPS can accept money for prisoners transferred via an online banking facility, set up to support those in custody during the COVID 19 outbreak. This will provide a safe way of sending money to friends and family. Further details are available on the SPS website.

Guidance on third sector partnership working in prisons

CJVSF and the Scottish Prison Service issued a letter to CJVSF members on 1st of April to update CJVSF members on the current situation regarding third sector work in prison and the processes put in place by SPS in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

As a result of the decision to suspend all prison visits (other than critical agent visits) any third sector organisation looking to maintain contact with someone in prison will need to do so through the “Email a Prisoner” system.

CJVSF will continue to act as a conduit for information for the third sector from SPS and will be able to raise any issues regarding prison working and COVID-19 with SPS on behalf of members. You can read the full letter here. 

COVID-19 and Social Work

During the COVID-19 pandemic justice social work will continue to maintain critical services wherever possible. The Chief Social Work Adviser to the Scottish Government wrote to all Chief Social Work Officers on 19th March regarding business continuity and service prioritisation during the outbreak.  A further briefing to the Judicial Institute for Scotland (dated 1st April 2020) set out a helpful summary of the impact of COVID-19 on justice social work.  This includes:

  • CJSW are continuing to provide criminal justice social work reports remains a priority  notwithstanding the impact of restricted access to both social work offices and prisons.
  • Most, if not all, Unpaid Work operations have been suspended.  Group work relating to the Moving Forward: Making Changes sex offender programme and the Caledonian System domestic abuse programme have also been suspended (see separate section below for further detail on the Caledonian System at this time)
  • The management of individuals subject to the Multi Agency Public Protection
    Arrangements (MAPPA) continues.
  • Sustaining the parole process is a priority. A short-read parole report has been agreed between PBS and Social Work Scotland, focusing on the basic JSW information required to inform their decisions.
  • Prison-based social work continues to operate, prioritising statutory work. However, some teams are no longer able to access prison-based offices and SPS Information Systems cannot be accessed remotely
  • JSW remain committed to being available for the provision of bail
    supervision assessments and other essential duties if required
  • JSW offices have been closed in some areas with staff redeployed to work from
    home; in others, a skeleton rota of staff is being maintained to ensure business
    continuity as far as possible and allow for health and safety (i.e. social distancing).
  • The reporting of individuals on orders and licences for face-to-face contact is
    significantly reduced and restricted to where there are concerns about risk and need.
  • For many individuals, monitoring and compliance of orders is now being conducted
    by telephone interview or, where the technology is available, using video platforms
    (e.g. Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp).
  • The delivery of National Outcomes & Standards for social work services in the justice
    system and associated practice guidance have, by necessity, had to be relaxed with
    resources being allocated in accordance with risk and need. This has been agreed
    with Scottish Government.

Social Work Scotland have also created a dedicated COVID-19 page which you can find here.

Police Scotland

Police Scotland have produced this page setting out their response to the outbreak, which sets out the additional powers the police have been given to deal with COVID-19 and what this means for policing in Scotland. The page also contains a Frequently Asked Questions section.


As of 17th March, no new criminal jury trials will be commenced or new juries empanelled in Scotland until further notice, due to the outbreak of COVID-19.  Where jury trials have already commenced these will run to conclusion of the trial, if practical to do so.  As of 19th March, the number of summary cases called also started to reduce, with cases involving custody or non-custody cases involving domestic abuse, sexual offending and violence being prioritised.   Following the lockdown announcement on 23rd March 2020, the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service has confirmed that no member of the public should attend court/hearings on Tuesday and a number of courts will now be closed completely. Legal professionals should attend as required.

Further details are on the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service website (25th March 2020). 

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has produced information for anybody that was due to attend court over the coming weeks (updated 30th March).

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament,  the Lord Advocate said that the Scottish Government would be seeking to alter the limits to the length of time a person can be held in custody before trial to allow the authorities to detain people in the result of any delays caused by the outbreak.


The Parole Board for Scotland will continue to hold casework meetings, Tribunals and Oral Hearings. These will be conducted remotely by teleconference and/or Skype.  They have developed the following guidance to support the new processes:

Children’s Hearings

As of 23rd March all children’s hearing will be held remotely. Children’s Hearings Scotland (CHS) have been working closely with Scottish Government, the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) and Social Work Scotland on contingency measures to both reduce the number of hearings, and ensure when hearings do take place they can be carried out remotely. A joint statement from SCRA and CHS can be found here. You can find further information on the Children’s Hearings Scotland Scotland website.

Changes to health services

NHS Scotland has been placed on emergency footing and all non-urgent elective care will be postponed.  Further details in this Scottish Government update (Updated 17th March 2020)

Changes to Legal Aid

The Scottish Legal Aid Board has set up a web page (Updated 16th March 2020) to outline issues they have changed or clarified in light of the most common concerns solicitors have raised with them around the COVID-19 virus.  They have a four point plan (20th March 2020) to help address the concerns.

The Minister for Community Safety, Ash Denham, released a statement on 25th March setting out the Scottish Government’s response to ongoing issues with legal aid.

Caledonian System

Community Justice Scotland have produced Guidance notes to help Caledonian System Managers to make the difficult decisions about how to prioritise work with domestic abusers and support and safety planning work with their partners and children.  The Guidance notes are available to download from the CJS website (updated 19th and 27th March 2020).

Changes to SHORE Guidance

Interim SHORE guidance has been developed by the prison service and the Scottish Government to support people to obtain appropriate housing on release from prison.  The interim guidance (updated 26th March 2020) is available to download here.

Changes to Regulations and Inspections

Care Inspections

The Care Inspectorate is scaling down inspections during this time and putting in place arrangements which will involve gathering information, assessing the level of risk in care services and establishing assurances about the quality of care people experience.  They have revised their notification guidance and are only making visits to services when absolutely necessary. They have also introduced flexibility around registration practices and provided guidance on staffing.

Further details can be found on their dedicated COVID-19 page.

Prison Inspections

HMIPS is postponing all routine inspections and will carry out liaison visits on a risk assessed, essential visit basis only.   All independent prison monitoring duties have also been suspended. Further details in this update from HMIPS (26th March 2020).

The Chief Inspector of Prisons in Scotland issued this message on 31st March, outlining their contingency planning arrangements.


The SSSC have agreed regulatory changes with Scottish Government to enable an effective response from services (effective from 18th March). Changes include:

  • People working in social service roles in nurseries, care homes, care at home and housing support services, residential childcare services and school care accommodation service can currently work for six months without being registered.
  • Workers registered to work in one kind of service can be immediately redeployed to work in another kind of service without any need to change their registration status with the SSSC.
  • Social workers have to be registered with SSSC before they can practise.  They have prioritised processing social work applications.
  • They will continue accepting fees and renewals, but if people don’t pay, or don’t send in their renewal they will stay on the Register.
  • They will be changing referral guidance for the sector, and only requiring them to refer the highest risk situations, such as abusive behaviour.
  • SSSC can extend the amount of time people need to complete their qualification and will not remove people from the Register at the end of their period of registration during the pandemic.
  • Anyone who has been removed from the Register for not completing their qualification can apply and SSSC can look at putting them back on.
  • SSSC are planning to contact people who have recently left the Register to make sure they are aware that they can still work in the sector (other than as a social worker) even if they are no longer on the Register.

They have put up answers to Frequently Asked Questions  on their website (updated 23rd March 2020).

The new Coronavirus legislation includes changes to social care regulation.  Further details about these changes can be found here (updated 27th March 2020).

Information for third sector delivery organisations

COVID-19 Third Sector Hub

The Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations has set up a third sector information hub on COVID-19. It includes information about :

  • COVID-19 – Symptoms and how to prevent it spreading
  • Coronavirus Community Assistance Directory – A directory for organisations and individuals to share offers of and requests for assistance during the outbreak.
  • Funding – Response from funders and what funding is available
  • Employment/ HR – How to support and protect your staff, volunteers and beneficiaries
  • Governance and risk
  • Volunteering
  • Fundraising – Fundraising, events and trading
  • New Service Delivery Models
  • Remote working – Advice for those remote working
  • Resources – Links to official resources and information.

COVID-19 Helpline for Scottish Businesses

A helpline providing businesses across Scotland with advice and guidance on COVID-19 has been set up. The business helpline number is 0300 303 0660. The helpline will be open Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5.30pm.