National child protection guidance

The National Child Protection Guidance in Scotland 2021 describes the responsibilities and expectations of everyone who comes into contact with children and young people, families and carers.  

The guidance: 

  • provides a national framework covering the areas listed on these pages. It is used by local areas to develop their policies, practice and training tailored to the needs of their communities.  
  • has been developed through extensive consultation and collaboration to ensure that full account is taken of developments and new thinking.  
  • incorporates our understanding of best practice and what works from various sources, including practitioner and stakeholder experience, inspections, research and case reviews 
  • sets out how all agencies and individuals involved with children and young people should work together.  It replaces the previous National Guidance published in 2014
  • is for everyone who supports children and families whether they work in health, police, third sector, local authority or education roles. It emphasises that everyone has a job in making sure children are safe and well

Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) 

The guidance is set within the framework of Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC).  This is an approach to improving outcomes for children and young people, recognising that all children must receive the right help at the right time.

This approach recognises that the best protection for children is through support early on before specialist services are required. 

In line with the GIRFEC approach, the guidance has a strong focus on: 

  • children’s rights 
  • engagement and collaboration with families 
  • building on existing strengths. 
  • supporting a holistic approach 

The National Guidance emphasises the need to take account of circumstances that impact on wellbeing and safety including poverty and poor housing.   

The aim is for a more holistic approach that reduces stressors in families and communities. This is in line with the findings of the Independent Care Review and The Promise. 

Implementation of the guidance 

Implementation of the guidance will mean greater consistency in the support and protection that children and families receive across Scotland.  

Following publication of the guidance in September 2021, a National Implementation Group was established for a two-year period. This group will provide strategic support and oversight to local areas who are implementing the Guidance. This group will come to the end of its role in September 2023, but many aspects of guidance development work will continue after this time. 

Focus on learning 

Learning from cases where children have died, been significantly harmed or where effective practice has prevented harm, is a vital part of effective and improving child protection responses. 

Reflecting on learning enables professionals to identify good practice in protecting children. This may happen at the local level in response to one case however any changes it leads to are made throughout the whole of Scotland. 

When a child or young person is significantly harmed or dies, or where good practice has prevented harm, the National Guidance for Child Protection Committees Undertaking Learning Reviews supports Child Protection Committees to make sure they are equipped to effectively reflect, learn and improve child protection systems and practice. 

If you are concerned about a child or young person

Call 999 if they are in immediate danger

Call the police on 101 if you think a crime has been committed

More about reporting a concern and for advice and support

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