4.1 The Policy Landscape
As our vision for child protection sets out, and its place within the GIRFEC national approach affirms, child protection is so much more than the formal child protection structures - important though these are - it also relates strongly to public services in health, education, communities, justice and others.
The GIRFEC approach is, as its name suggests, a holistic one - a framework for considering the need of every child and young person and the support they require - either through universal services or specific services.
The National Child Protection Guidance in Scotland was published in 2014 (revising and updating the 2010 guidance) in order to:
- set out a national framework to help shape local practices and procedures;
- improve how all professionals and organisations work together to give children the protection they need, quickly, effectively, timeously; and
- highlight the shared responsibility that our agencies and services have for protecting children and safeguarding their welfare.
There are recommendations in this report which will require updating aspects of the 2014 guidance.
Child protection is everyone's job. A national Child Protection Policy will allow us to more easily identify and address specific issues within the system as they arise.
Evidence demonstrates a correlation between neglect and poverty: it should come as no surprise that living in poverty and poor housing can present challenges that can, in some cases, have an impact on people's parental capacity. We must therefore ensure that our policies enable a holistic system to be built that acknowledges the challenges that families can face. This should recognise, value and foster strong and consistent relationships between children and young people and their families, carers and practitioners - across the spectrum of health; education; communities and housing - and help break the cycle of intergenerational poverty and its effects.
If we can ensure effective early intervention and family support, we can prevent children and young people reaching the care system. In its continuing work, the Child Protection Improvement Programme will connect with the Care Review, which is currently being developed. The experiences of children on the edge of care impact on their resilience and capacity and therefore on their outcomes. This is true whether a child remains on the edge of care or becomes looked after. The children impacted by the Child Protection Improvement Programme are most likely to be children either on the edge of care or who are already being looked after.
Through its focus on outcomes and early intervention, the government has a range of policy and legislative programmes underway which offer the opportunity to create the child protection system we aspire to across the key areas already identified: health; education; communities & housing, rather than focusing primarily on social work.
Health - The recent integration of health and social care has the potential to be a powerful instrument for change, strengthening a community-based approach to healthcare. This is reflected in our action to address addiction and mental health - key areas which continue to affect children's outcomes and in which joined up services have already been recognised as pivotal in supporting treatment and recovery for families. The publication of the new Mental Health Strategy for Scotland will support this. The revised Universal Health Visiting Pathway, in collaboration with local authority and 3 rd sector community support, continues to be critical in the early identification and prevention of neglect. Recognising the vital contribution of early support to good outcomes, the Maternity and Neonatal review has made recommendations on how to create the right experience and outcomes for mothers and babies based on the best evidence available. Alongside this, pilot Family Nurse Partnership sites are enabling us to test the provision of specific intensive support for young expectant parents.
Education - the Government is committed to raising educational attainment and to narrowing the attainment gap between the most and least affluent communities. To achieve this, it will be essential to address the root causes of this attainment gap, and all too often these are the same factors which give rise to heightened risks of child protection concerns.
Communities - The Child Poverty and Domestic Abuse Bills will provide a platform to create more resilient and safer communities: the Child Poverty Bill through its ambition to eradicate child poverty and monitor it closely in the meantime; the Domestic Abuse Bill through its introduction of an offence of domestic abuse which, when coupled with our Equally Safe Strategy, creates an environment hostile to domestic abuse. The Realigning Children's Services programme is working with Community Planning Partnerships ( CPPs) to support communities to make better decisions using high quality data on local need, to improve the lives of children in their area adopting a joint strategic commissioning approach. The Evidence and Procedures Review  is considering the needs of children and young people and vulnerable witnesses within the judicial process.
Housing - there is a strong commitment to increasing the affordable housing supply - with a target of 50,000 homes by the end of this parliament with 35,000 of these being for social rent. In addition, the Home Energy Efficiency Programmes for Scotland target fuel-poor areas to provide energy efficiency measures to a large number of households. This will help to reduce fuel poverty so facilitating income maximisation.
The work underway within CPIP, in tandem with the policy and legislative initiatives outlined above, offer opportunities for policy interaction to strengthen our national child protection policy. For example, learning from the Neglect Improvement Programme may well help to inform work across other policy areas through issues uncovered in the local test areas.
4.2 Stakeholder Engagement
We are fortunate that the Children's Sector is a vibrant and diverse community comprising local authorities, third sector organisations, research centres, national bodies, health boards and child protection-specific organisations, such as CPC Scotland, all of whom are committed to the debate on how to improve child protection outcomes across Scotland.
We have engaged with stakeholders in a variety of ways, from the independently-chaired Child Protection Systems Review Group, established to contribute to the review of the formal aspects of the child protection system, and the External Advisory Group, which includes representation of a wide-ranging group of stakeholders with a child protection interest, to the smaller stakeholder groups, such as the Child Trafficking and Exploitation Group, and via updates on the Scottish Government website. Internally, we have also sought to engage other policy areas with an interest in child protection - across the Scottish Government - by means of a virtual group; the Internal Advisory Group.
At the Child Protection Leadership Summit in June, Paul Brannigan, one of our guest speakers, reflecting on his own childhood, challenged leaders from local authorities, the third sector and government to "stand in the shoes of the child". We have started working to listen and involve children and young people's voices and will develop this further as we implement the programme.
Email: Judith Ainsley
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