2 Introduction and Research Aims
2.1 This review considers the views and experiences of children and young people on child protection systems in Scotland. It aims to inform service delivery, communications on child protection and potential ways to engage children and young people on this issue.
2.2 The findings of this review will form the basis for further research on gathering the views of children and young people on child protection systems in Scotland.
2.3 This review is one of two reviews commissioned by the Scottish Government in March 2013 to consider evidence on children and young people's views. The parallel review is part of the Scottish Government's work to inform the UK's next report on implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Its purpose is to explore children and young people's experiences and views in order to input to the Scottish Government's contribution to the UK State Party's periodic review, which is due to be submitted in January 2014.
2.4 The specific objectives of the two reviews were to collect, collate, analyse, review, summarise and present evidence on the views of children and young people in Scotland. The reviews considered research, consultations, reports and other relevant data undertaken by government, Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), academics and the public sector on children.
Context for child protection
2.5 The definition of 'child protection, according to the Scottish Government's National Guidance for Child Protection, is protecting a child from abuse or neglect. It is not necessary for abuse or neglect to have happened: a risk assessment identifying the potential or risk of significant harm is sufficient. The terms 'abuse' and 'neglect' cover a range of different circumstances where a child is maltreated or at risk of maltreatment. It can include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect (where a child's physical and/or psychological needs are not met) (see the National Guidance for Child Protection for more details).
2.6 The National Child Protection Guidance provides a national framework for practitioners to understand and agree processes to safeguard and protect the wellbeing of children. The Guidance is based on the principles of Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC), on the UNCRC, on the Children's Charter, the National Framework and the principles that underpin the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. The Guidance states that all agencies that work with, provide services and support children and their families have responsibilities in relation to child protection.
2.7 The Guidance emphasises the importance of child protection systems taking account of the 'reactions, perceptions, wishes and feelings of the child'. This should include consideration of a child's age and levels of understanding and requires different approaches to ensure that communication is effective.
2.8 This review aims to analyse and draw conclusions focussing on children and young people's experiences of child protection systems in Scotland. It took two approaches to considering evidence.
2.9 Firstly, the review considers a number of areas relevant to child protection that are also included in the UNCRC review of children and young people's views. These cover children and young people's experiences in areas such as the Children's Hearings System, being looked after and domestic abuse.
2.10 Secondly, it considered evidence specifically relating to the following areas: children and young people's experiences and expectations of child protection services; how would they expect or did they get information about child protection services that helped them to make contact or a referral; their views on the process in regards to what would help, what would help more, and how would they want it, or were, their opinions or thoughts taken into consideration; their expectations and experiences of how/when information should be or was shared; their expectations and experiences of how things would or did change in their lives as a result.
Methodology for review
2.11 The review's methods mirrored those for the UNCRC review on children and young people's views and experiences. A call for evidence for both reviews was issued to leading organisations, networks and email lists by the review team, the Scottish Government and through other networks. This sought to reach the range of different organisations, services and research bodies that would have evidence on the views and experiences of children and young people in Scotland.
2.12 The review team sought evidence from research, consultation, evaluations and evidence from other participatory activities that reflected the views and experiences of children and young people. The evidence had to relate to children and young people in Scotland, be in the public domain and provide information that would be of value to the review.
2.13 In addition to wider calls for evidence on children and young people's views and experiences, contacts were made through national child protection networks to gather specific evidence for this review. The review included requests to centres for excellence, lead organisations and through searching online and relevant databases on children and young people's views on child protection systems.
2.14 The review on children and young people's views and experiences in child protection systems focuses on evidence gathered since 2008, in line with the parallel review on children and young people's views on the UNCRC.
2.15 Evidence was gathered between March and April 2013 for the review and then identified by topic and applicability to both the child protection review and the wider UNCRC review.
2.16 The remit for the review did not include evidence from outwith Scotland. However, key findings from a small number of studies from elsewhere in the UK are included to provide additional context for the review.
Reflections on methodology
2.17 Although additional searches were made by the review team around children and young people's experience in child protection systems, more evidence may be available but has not been accessed or come to the attention of the review team. In addition, the review found a range of relevant consultation or participation activities that were not currently recorded or where work was still ongoing. These should be taken into account in the second phase of the child protection review.
2.18 Evidence passed to the review team had to be in the public domain in line with the review's criteria. However, some of this evidence is not easily accessible as it was produced for internal service purposes. The references for evidence are not always detailed and access to the evidence may require direct contact with the named organisations.
2.19 In addition, some of the evidence relating to children's views on child protection systems did not include much detail about the context for the activity; was small-scale and/or did not analyse findings in depth. However, it was decided to include this evidence because of its relevance to the review aims.
2.20 Taking the above into account, a small amount of evidence was not included as it: did not meet the criteria of being based on children and young people's views and experiences; was undertaken prior to 2008; gave insufficient information about the activity or findings; did not include information on methods and/or ethics; compromised confidentiality; and/or was difficult to summarise for this review because of the nature of the evidence.
2.21 Attention was given to ensuring, where possible, that the evidence took account of different age groups, disability, ethnicity, geographical diversity, socio economic factors, sexual orientation and other areas that impact on children and young people's inclusion. However, most of the evidence gathered did not provide this level of detail so it is difficult to identify the specific characteristics of the samples of participants.
Notes on the review
2.22 A child is defined in the UNCRC as being under the age of 18 and it is this age range which is the focus of the study. There are, however, some examples where specific studies have included older young people - for example, care leavers or young parents. Where studies include this extended age range it is noted in the text.
2.23 The term 'children and young people' is generally employed throughout the review. However, where specific pieces of evidence are being discussed, the terminology used by the authors is employed.
2.24 Where possible, the methodology undertaken for each piece of evidence is briefly described before summarising key findings from that study or consultation. Readers are encouraged to visit the source documents for more detail.
2.25 The Scottish Government has developed a number of tools and resources which provide more details on child protection and associated systems and processes. Further details of policy relating to children and young people can be accessed through the Scottish Government's website and through specialist networks such as WithScotland.
2.26 More information on the UNCRC and related policy is available through:
Email: Donna McLean
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