Publication - Consultation paper

National guidance for child protection - revised: consultation

Consultation on a revised version of the National Guidance for Child Protection to ensure it is consistent with the legislative and policy framework and current practice developments. The current version of the National Guidance for Child Protection was published in 2014.

National guidance for child protection - revised: consultation
2. Introduction

2. Introduction

This consultation is seeking views on updated National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland, which will replace the current National Guidance published in 2014. 

The National Guidance describes the responsibilities and expectations of everyone who works with children, young people and their families in Scotland. It sets out how agencies should work together with children, young people, parents, families and communities to protect children from abuse, neglect and exploitation. 

The National Guidance should underpin local multi-agency child protection procedures, guidance and training and can inform pre-qualifying practice education. It should provide a source document to enable Child Protection Committees to develop local guidance for their partnership. Local guidance, aligned to the National Guidance, provides fuller detail on local processes and operational issues. The National Guidance is set within a broader range of materials, guidance and training which local areas should draw on to inform local practice and policy development. 

The National Guidance is structured in sections that are intended to be standalone, to be accessible to practitioners who seek advice on particular aspects of practice, such that the relevant issues or themes can be accessed without the guidance having to be read in its entirety. 

A range of practice notes will be accessible through links to more detailed content on a range of specific issues. 

Consultation responses will be analysed alongside the feedback from online engagement sessions. Views will inform the final content of the revised National Guidance, which will be published in spring 2021, and child protection improvement work more generally. The final revised National Guidance will be published online. This will ensure accessibility and allow the National Guidance to be updated regularly to reflect legislative, policy and practice developments.


The Child Protection Improvement Programme (CPIP), published in 2016, states that the National Guidance for Child Protection should be revised "to ensure it is consistent with the legislative and policy framework and current practice developments." 

This revision has involved consultation and collaboration with a wide range of partners to consider and reflect the range of legislative, policy and practice developments. It incorporates our understanding of best practice from various sources, including practitioner and stakeholder experience, inspections, research, and learning from Significant Case Reviews (SCRs). The Joint Strategic Inspection of Services for Children and Young People: Review of Findings from the Inspection Programme 2012-2017 has also provided evidence about areas of progress and areas for improvement. The revised National Guidance for Child Protection is integral to the rights-based Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) approach; and the GIRFEC National Practice Model is integrated within the revised National Guidance. The safety and wellbeing of children are inseparably connected.

The revised guidance also integrates the (previously separate) guidance for health professionals – the 'Pink Book' – and more clearly defines the role, function and contribution of health practitioners and designated services to child protection processes. This is intended to underline the multi-agency nature of child protection. Parallel work is also underway to develop an accountability framework for Health Boards to support NHS Chief Executives in assuring themselves of the adequacy of their child and adult protection arrangements.

Meaning of 'child'. Within the National Guidance, the term 'child' is taken to mean a child or young person up to 18 years of age. In general terms, while respecting the implications of different legal definitions of a 'child', the National Guidance considers the protection of unborn babies and of children under the age of 18 years, as explained in detail in Part 1.

The broad objectives of this revision are to: 

  • Ensure children's rights and voices are central to child protection.
  • Underline the need to engage with families to offer support and reduce risk of harm.
  • Support consistency in understanding about key processes when agencies must work together to prevent and respond to significant harm.
  • Integrate essential changes in legislation and national guidance.
  • Reference key developments and sources in relation to policy, research and practice.

The intended outcomes of this revision are to: 

  • Support a reduction in the incidence of significant harm to children and of child death in Scotland. 
  • Improve professional inter-agency practice, supervision, management, training and development.
  • Promote a shared, rights-based inter-agency ethos and philosophy of care and protection, as experienced by children, families and communities.

Direction and leadership: This revision has been co-ordinated and reviewed through a National Guidance Steering Group (see Annex B). This group was formed at the start of this process to oversee each step of the redraft. The membership of this group is drawn from key stakeholders organisations and other key interests. This Steering Group reports to the National Child Protection Leadership Group.

Timing: The timing of this revision follows the publication of the Independent Care Review, which provided in depth evidence about the need for tonal as well as systemic shift in preventative support and protective action. This is in line with our national commitment to Getting it right for every child, and to uphold and incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots law. 

The consultation had been planned to commence in April 2020, but was postponed because of the significant additional pressures on organisations and services due to the impact of COVID-19

Over the last few months, services have had to adjust practice rapidly to reflect public health imperatives. While many children and families have adapted with extraordinary resilience and strength, some child protection concerns have been heightened during and after lockdown. In the interim, the Scottish Government published COVID-19 Supplementary Child Protection Guidance. The learning from the pandemic may inform adapted practice which could be sustained beyond 2020. (See question 12).

Engagement with Children, Young People and Families regarding the guidance is taking place through some established groups, involving those who are likely to have experienced child protection processes. Children and young people will also be engaged in the development of a signposting document, setting out what the guidance means for them.

The Practice Notes will highlight the experience of child protection activity for children and young people.