Child Protection Improvement Programme report

Report on the key messages and next steps of the Child Protection Improvement Programme.

1.0 Executive Summary

1.1 Our vision for a child protection system in Scotland is one that keeps children safer from abuse and neglect by placing the wellbeing of Scotland's children at the heart of everything it does by:

  • being rooted in GIRFEC;
  • both engaging early and supporting families;
  • empowering practitioners to intervene to protect children when support is not working; and
  • having a transparent and learning culture which values and supports its workforce.

1.2 The Child Protection Improvement Programme ( CPIP) was established in February 2016. There are nine interconnected work strands which are helping to deliver our child protection system vision (the Child Protection Systems Review; Neglect; Child Sexual Exploitation; Child Trafficking; Child Internet Safety; Children's Hearings; Inspections; Leadership; and, Data and Evidence - see Sections 5.1-5.9). Partnership with stakeholders has been fundamental to the programme's delivery through the External & Internal Advisory Groups; a Systems Review Group and other strategic and working groups. This report sets out the key messages from CPIP so far and the actions that we will take forward in the next phase of the programme.

1.3 A review of the formal elements of the child protection system (child protection committees; initial and significant case reviews; the child protection register and case conferences) was conducted. This review, led independently by Catherine Dyer, former Crown Agent and Chief Executive of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, included representatives from key stakeholder groups. Its findings have focused on three thematic areas: Leadership, Governance and Accountability; Developing a Learning Culture, and, Shared Values. Twelve recommendations emerged from the review and the Scottish Government has accepted these in full.

1.4 An Improvement Programme has been started in response to Neglect as it is the primary maltreatment issue faced by Scotland's children and there are known weaknesses in the current assessment of, and response to, the problem. The improvement programme has been complemented by work to update research on the current state of neglect in Scotland and what works well in tackling it. As part of this work, we have examined the current legislative protection that exists in relation to child neglect. The existing offence relating to child neglect dates back to 1937 and. inevitably. the understanding of childhood neglect has evolved over the intervening time. We have therefore concluded that there would be benefit in amending section 12 of the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937 (the child cruelty provision).

1.5 The implementation of the Scottish Government's National Action Plan to Prevent and Tackle Child Sexual Exploitation, updated in March 2016, has continued to progress. Action has taken place to advance knowledge and awareness of Child Sexual Exploitation ( CSE), including publishing a definition of CSE and launching an award-winning awareness raising campaign. Work is underway to develop an approach to collecting consistent local information on CSE, along with a range of other activities. The CSE National Group to Prevent and Tackle Child Sexual Exploitation has been instrumental in working with Scottish Government on these implementation activities.

1.6 The Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 (the 2015 Act) has led to the drafting of a national trafficking strategy and includes an agenda for children and young people. Work to be undertaken covers: revision of the presumption of age guidance; the commitment to put the Guardianship Service on a statutory footing and listening to stakeholder reflections on the UK national referral mechanism pilots.

1.7 The Scottish Government's Programme for Scotland contained the Scottish Government's commitment to publishing a refreshed child internet safety action plan by March 2017 to ensure appropriate training, support and information is in place. We have been working with stakeholders to develop the action plan and to take forward ongoing work, such as working UK Safer Internet Centre to provide briefing sessions for practitioners and engagement with social media and industry.

1.8 The multi-agency Children's Hearings Improvement Partnership ( CHIP) has scrutinised the impact of recent legislative and practice changes to the Children's Hearings System leading to actions around influencing the treatment of 16 & 17 year olds by the care and justice system and implementing the recommendations of " The role of the Solicitor in the Children's Hearings System [1] ". These are already in progress. CHIP will continue to look at process improvements - especially where the youngest children are involved and will also look at relevant recommendations from the Systems Review.

1.9 A short-term working group, comprising those organisations currently contributing to the inspection and scrutiny of children's services, has been convened to devise and recommend a new framework of inspections, focussing on the needs of the most vulnerable. In doing this, the group will consider feedback from other work streams across CPIP and the role of self-evaluation within the inspections framework. The new framework will be in place, as the old one concludes, at the end of 2017.

1.10 The programme's data and evidence work stream has reviewed existing child protection data, identifying what data is available that can be used to inform child protection policy and practice and also identifying gaps in both available data and the wider evidence base Areas for improvement include evidence of the immediate impact of child abuse, prevention of child abuse and reducing the risk of harm for key vulnerable groups such as disabled children and looked after children.

1.11 The child protection leadership and governance landscape is complex with many agencies involved and individuals often playing more than one role. The Review Group identified the need for a National Child Protection Leadership Group to further support, strengthen and improve activity on child protection across Scotland. This Leadership Group, once established, will develop regional leadership events for local child protection leaders to network, share good practice and horizon scan for new risks.

1.12 There has been broader learning from the programme in three areas: firstly, the need to focus more on child protection in the wider context of GIRFEC - the protection of children beyond the specific requirements of the formal child protection system; secondly, an enhanced understanding of the factors that can impact parents' capacity to meet their children's needs and a corresponding awareness of the range of policy areas that can contribute to keeping children safer - including preventing abuse, and, thirdly, the requirement for the Programme to take a more strategic approach to involving children and young people. This learning will inform future programme actions.


Email: Judith Ainsley

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