The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland (MWC) has suggested that many mental health services the country are unaware of their responsibilities to help parents subject to compulsory mental health treatment to maintain contact with their children.
In its report, When parents are detained, the health watchdog has recommended that hospitals provide child-friendly spaces and urged them to provide better information to explain mental illness to children in a way they understand.
George Kappler, the MWC’s deputy chief executive, said: "When the state intervenes to disrupt the normal parent-child relationship, there is a duty placed on the state to try to mitigate the impact of that as much as possible."
"Section 278 [of the Mental Health (Scotland) Act 2003] is buried deep in an act which is 330 pages long. It's a pretty progressive piece of legislation, but we feel a lot of people still aren't aware of it."
When the MWC looked at a sample of paperwork from hospitals across the country, it found at least a quarter of patients had children under the age of 18, but this had not been recorded.
"Sometimes it comes down to leadership on a ward, or the training people had received," Kappler added.
"There were some pockets of good practice perhaps because people were parents themselves. It was inconsistent across the country, although everyone recognised it was good practice."
The report also makes recommendations for health boards and social work departments and encourages inter-agency working.
Norman Dunning, a board member at the MWC and the independent chairperson of a Child Protection Committee, said: "This report is not just a wake-up call for a neglected duty towards mentally ill parents but also a timely reminder of the effect that a parent's illness can have on children.
"Parliament is currently considering a new children's bill which will ensure better planning and coordination of children's welfare. If we are to get it right for our children we must make the links, ensure the duties are well known and, crucially, improve understanding of the importance of parent/child relations, especially at times of family crisis."
To read the full report go to