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Child Protection Data - Important Notice to Users


Child Protection Referrals

It should be noted that in currently available Child Protection Statistics, different local authorities may classify child protection referrals differently. For example, some local authorities start the referral process at a different point and some local authorities do not include unborn children. As a result of these differences, comparisons across years and across local authorities should be made with caution.

These differences are particularly noticeable by the large variation in the number of initial/pre-birth child protection case conference as a percentage of the number of child protection referrals across local authorities (ranging from 14% in Aberdeenshire, Scottish Borders and the Shetland Islands to 77% in West Dunbartonshire in 2009/10).

Revised Child Protection Guidance

Since the Scottish Office guidance, Protecting Children - A Shared Responsibility, was published in 1998, the child protection landscape in Scotland has developed considerably. New legislation, new areas of practice and new approaches have shaped activity at both national and local level. Online safety, child trafficking and the protection of children affected by parental alcohol and/or drug misuse are some of the specific issues that have become the focus of our attention in recent years. But one of the most fundamental developments has been the move towards children's services that put the interests of the child at the centre of every process and decision, building up from universal services: the Getting it right for every child programme has been instrumental in this.

As a result of this changing landscape, throughout 2010, policy makers within the Scottish Government worked and consulted with key users, practitioners and stakeholders in order to update the 1998 guidance. Scottish Government statisticians took this opportunity to ensure that the new guidance included common standards in procedures, and common definitions in order to address current inconsistencies in practice and recording across local authorities.

This exercise culminated in the Scottish Government publishing revised National Child Protection Guidance: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2010/12/09134441/0 on 13 December 2010. The revised guidance no longer uses the term 'Child Protection Referral'. Instead, a local authority will receive a 'Notification of Concern' which will require an initial investigation/enquiry to be conducted, which in turn could trigger a 'Child Protection Investigation', which in turn could result in an initial/pre-birth Child Protection Case Conference being held. The revised guidance also made it clear that unborn children should be placed on child protection registers, when necessary (again, this was an inconsistency in practice across Scotland).

Developed Child Protection Survey

In October 2010, a working group consisting of key users/stakeholders (i.e. local authorities, Child Protection Committees) was set up to discuss the implications of the new guidance, and how the Child Protection Survey should be developed to reflect this guidance and eliminate the current inconsistencies in the statistics reported. This working group agreed that future Child Protection Surveys would start counting the number of 'Child Protection Investigations' completed during the reporting period, and that this would be introduced from the 2011/12 Child Protection Survey (for which the reporting year commences on 1 August 2011).

Therefore, the results of the 2010/11 Child Protection Survey (which will be published in February 2012) will be the last time that statistics on Child Protection Referrals will be published.

Child Protection Survey - User/Stakeholder Consultation

During Summer 2011, the Scottish Government conducted a consultation of users/stakeholders in order to gain a more complete understanding of the use made of child protection statistics, the needs of current and potential users, and user views of the service provided, in order for these statistics to better support the beneficial use made of them. The results of this consultation are available at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Children/scotstat/scotstat

Child Protection Survey - Cross-UK Comparisons

In June 2008, the University of Edinburgh/NSPCC Centre for UK-wide Learning in Child Protection (CLiCP) produced a paper that provided comparative information on child protection statistics in each area of the UK. It outlined the data published in relation to the various stages of the child protection process - referral, investigation and assessment, case conference, case management and review. Where data was comparable, similarities and differences between the four areas of the UK were highlighted. A copy of this briefing paper can be found here: www.clicp.ed.ac.uk/publications/briefings/briefing03.pdf

In July 2011, the Scottish Government will be actively leading on a discussion with statistical colleagues in the other UK administrations to review this paper, and ascertain whether there are any, and the scale of the differences, between each set of Child Protection statistics produced across the UK.

In addition, as part of the User/Stakeholder Consultation mentioned above, we also plan to ascertain whether users/stakeholders have a need for a comparable dataset in order to enable comparisons across the UK to be made. If this consultation reveals a need for a comparable dataset, we will work with colleagues across the UK to develop a comparable data series and include it in our next publication due for release in February 2012.

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