Harmful sexual behaviour by children and young people: Expert Group report

This report sets out proposals from the Expert Group on Preventing Sexual Offending Involving Children and Young People to improve prevention and early intervention in response to harmful sexual behaviour involving children and young people.

Annex A: Existing Frameworks and Strategies in Scotland that Contribute to Prevention and Responses around HSB involving children and young people

Programme for Government

National Performance Framework

Equal Protection from Assault Bill

Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017

Review of Section 12 of the Children and Young Person (Scotland) Act 1937

Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018

Age of Criminal Responsibility


National Child Protection Leadership Group

CAMHS Taskforce

National Parenting Strategy (2012)

Substance Misuse Strategy

Youth Justice Strategy

Pregnancy and Parenthood in Young People Strategy

Mental Health Strategy

Independent Care Review

Respect for all

Curriculum for Excellence

Child Protection Improvement Programme

Child and Adolescent Health and Wellbeing: evidence review

Universal Health Visiting Pathway in Scotland

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Realigning Children’s Services

Fairer Scotland Action Plan

Early years framework

Universal Health Visiting Pathway in Scotland

Relationships, sexual health and parenthood (RSHP)

Family Nurse Partnership

National Action Plan to Prevent and Tackle Child Sexual Exploitation

National Action Plan on Internet Safety for Children and Young People

Children, Young People and Families Early Intervention Fund

Equally Safe

National Child Protection Guidance (2014)

Rape Crisis Scotland

National Advisory Council on Women and Girls

Zero Tolerance

Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice

National Violence Against Women Network

Commercial Sexual Exploitation Multiagency group

National Trauma Training Plan

National Missing Persons Framework for Scotland

Caledonian System

Choices for life

Developing the Young Workforce

Scottish Attainment Challenge

Children and Young People Improvement Collaborative

Mentors in Violence Prevention Programme

National Improvement Framework for Education

Domestic Abuse Delivery Plan for Children and Young People


Violence Reduction Unit

Neglect Improvement Programme

The National Performance Framework is the Government's overarching vision for Scotland with broad measures of national wellbeing covering a range of economic, health, social and environmental indicators and targets.

The undernoted work is led by, supported by and/or funded by Scottish Government in order to deliver the many outcomes required to meet the measures of national wellbeing.

Many of the strategies, programmes and projects are interlinked and deliver across more than one policy area; or are interdependent for overall delivery of services and outcome. All require collaborative working between Scottish Government and among multiple public sector authorities and third sector service providers as well as adults, children and young people across Scotland.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): Scottish Government is committed to prevent ACEs, reduce the negative impact where they have occurred and support the resilience of children, families and adults in overcoming adversity. An additional £1.35 million is being invested in the development of the National Trauma Training programme to provide direct training to workers across sectors supporting those affected by ACEs.

Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Bill: recently passed by the Scottish Parliament. Scotland's age of criminal responsibility is eight years old which is the lowest in Europe. This Bill proposes to increase this to 12 years ensuring that children under 12 cannot be treated as criminal and can no longer have a criminal record.

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) Taskforce: June 2018 to 2020 - examining Scotland's whole approach to Mental Health services for children and young people.

Centre for Excellence for Looked after Child in Scotland (CELCIS): Scottish Government contributes to the development of a Child Protection section sitting within the existing CELCIS website to provide a national resource, primarily aimed at the multi-agency child protection workforce, but also including public information on what to do if you are worried about a child's wellbeing. A significant function of the site will be signposting and there will be links to resources, other sites and relevant organisations. Launched 2019.

Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice (CYCJ): is supported by Scottish Government to develop improvement in youth and criminal justice, contributing to better lives for individuals and communities. The multi-disciplinary practice development team provide support to practitioners, from advising on individual cases to service and organisational development including providing risk assessment and Safer Lives training across Scotland for anyone involved in the assessment of or interventions with those under 18 years involved in harmful sexual behaviour. Roadshows are undertaken detailing current research, best practice for assessment/intervention and also a risk formulation forum where practitioners can have a safe space to discuss cases and receive peer support. CYCJ provides access to a wealth of resources for practitioners including interactive online resources to help practitioners working with young people charged with an offence to understand the journey through the youth justice system.

Child and Adolescent Health and Wellbeing Action Plan: This 10 year plan is being developed to cover both physical and mental wellbeing. The aim is to bring together policies and actions relating to child and adolescent health and wellbeing to achieve better outcomes for children and young people. Educating and supporting young people in Scotland to use social media in a healthy way likely to be central to this plan.

Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017: sets in statute income-related targets to reduce levels of child poverty by 2030. The Act placed a duty on Ministers to publish Child Poverty Delivery Plan in 2018, and again in 2022 and 2026. The Act will also establish a statutory Poverty and Inequality Commission from July 2019, who will provide advice and challenge to Ministers on efforts to tackle poverty and inequality.

Child Protection Improvement Programme (CPIP): sets out actions being taken to improve child protection in Scotland as all children have right to be protected from abuse or neglect. The Programme includes ongoing work on neglect, child sexual exploitation, internet safety, child trafficking, leadership and workforce development, joint inspections, data and evidence and the Children's Hearings System.

Children and Young Persons Early Intervention Fund: funded by Scottish Government initially for 3 years and extended into a fourth year, 2019-20, supports organisations to deliver activities tackling inequality and poverty, supporting parents and carers, improve learning and build skills to help children, families and communities. This fund is supporting Stop it Now! Scotland, a national organisation which strives to prevent child sexual abuse by engaging with and supporting adults, families and communities, to develop "Upstream" an online resource where practical materials are available to members of the public concerned that a child may be at risk of sexual abuse. It is hoped this will go live from the end of 2019.

Stop it Now! Scotland also receives separate Scottish Government funding to:

  • provide direct interventions to individuals who may be likely to engage in abusive sexual behaviour. Interventions include programmes aimed at helping individuals understand problematic thinking/behaviour and how to develop ways to reduce risk/reoccurrence.
  • provide counselling and psychological therapies including piloting training in May 2019 with psychotherapists and counsellors working with individuals with trauma issues who have harmed others.
  • support the "Get Help" website which offers an online self-help treatment programme for those worried about their sexual behaviour online.

See Annex G for further detail on Stop It Now! Scotland's preventative work

Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937 - Review of Section 12: Scottish Government recently consulted on proposed amendments to this offence, which would modernise the definition of neglect to include emotional as well as physical neglect. Consultation responses have been published and next steps will be announced shortly.

Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill: gives children the same protection from assault as adults by prohibiting the physical punishment of children by adults. Aims to promote and safeguard the health and wellbeing of children. The Bill passed Stage 3 on 3 October 2019.

Children's Services - Realignment from 2015: programme run by Scottish Government and Community Planning partnerships to ensure that Scotland has the right services for children geared towards prevention and early engagement. Utilises wellbeing surveys for school children from P5 to S4 as recognised that before children's services can improve there needs to be an understanding of what young people feel that they need.

Curriculum for Excellence (2012): ensures all children and young people in Scotland develop the attributes, knowledge and skills they need to flourish in life, learning and work and to help them become responsible citizens. Learning for health and wellbeing is one of the curriculum areas within the curriculum for excellence and it is the responsibility of staff within a school to deliver. Learning for health and well-being is not a single subject but is organised into 6 areas including substance misuse and RSHP (see below).

Choices for life: substance misuse education programme primarily within Scottish Schools where pupils explore the impact that risk-taking behaviour has on life choices and health. Reviewed in 2016 following the Scottish Government 'What Works' report which acknowledged that some popular and well-meaning approaches, for example using lived experience testimonials, are associated with no, or negative preventative outcomes. Stand-alone, mass media campaigns are also considered ineffective.

The literature review found that children and young people benefit from prevention models that are delivered in a supportive environment, which use non-fear arousal techniques, and which provide the freedom to learn about alcohol and drug use within a broader conversation about choice and risk

In response Scottish Government commissioned a review of Choices for Life which found that although the programme engaged with large numbers of young people, there were variations and inconsistencies in delivery and frequency of sessions.

The Choices for Life programme includes an information microsite hosted by Young Scot, which curates and develops content for young people, and their parents, teachers and communities on alcohol, drugs and smoking. Since launch in 2015, Young Scot have seen an increase of over 50% engagement with Choices for Life content. Scottish Government will continue to fund the Choices for Life website as a new programme of work is introduced, in line with commitments made in the Scottish Government's alcohol and drug strategy to improve the programme of substance use education in schools and for those not present in traditional settings.

Developing the Young Workforce: Scotland's youth Employment Strategy (2014-21). By May 2018 the programme had achieved the target to reduce youth unemployment by 40% by 2021. Employability is a key priority as both part of a preventive approach and also as a targeted area of support for those already involved in offending.

Children and Young People Improvement Collaborative: supports schools and services for children, young people and families to be as good as they can be, based on evidence of what works in improving outcomes and life chances including:

  • increased uptake of the 27 to 30 month Child Health Review, resulting in children's developmental needs being identified and responded to earlier;
  • help for dads in prison to understand their children's needs and build positive family relationships;
  • effective ways of engaging vulnerable families in early years and family centres, helping to build parenting confidence and skills;
  • engaging more parents in their children's early learning in nurseries and primary schools, so that they are more able to support their children's development;
  • improving multi-agency partnership working in health and social care services, making it easier for families to navigate and access services.

Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018: enhanced powers to intervene where abuse is occurring. Psychological harm as well as physical harm now a criminal offence. Advances considerations of children's rights and wellbeing in domestic abuse cases.

Domestic Abuse Delivery Plan for Children and Young People: taking forward key recommendations: introducing and evaluating a child-centred approach to ensuring safe contact for children in domestic abuse cases; developing a training programme that raises awareness of the issues around contact; and introducing a basic risk assessment and piloting specialist domestic abuse risk assessments in a family court.

Early Years Framework (2009): recognises the right of all young children to high quality relationships, environments and services which offer a holistic approach to meeting their needs.

Equally Safe: Scotland's strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls, delivery plan 2017-21. It aims to prevent and eradicate violence against women and girls, creating a strong and flourishing Scotland where all individuals are equally safe and respected, and where women and girls live free from abuse and the attitudes that help perpetuate it. The Scottish Government is taking forward key recommendations as the legacy of the Domestic Abuse Delivery Plan for Children and Young People including;

  • introducing and evaluating a child-centred approach to ensuring safe contact for children in domestic abuse cases.
  • implementing the Caledonian System which is a programme working with men convicted of domestic abuse-related offences to reduce reoffending and offers support to women and children. The 2016 independent evaluation of the Caledonian System found evidence that women who had engaged with the programme felt safer, and men who completed it posed a lower risk to partners and children. New funding of £2.8m over the next 2 years was allocated in August 2018 allowing expansion of the programme. A further 6 Local Authorities (making a total of 19), will now benefit from Caledonian.
  • funding the National Violence Against Women Network, which aims to improve capacity and capability of partnerships to implement ambitions of Equally Safe at a local level.

See Annex G for further detail of Equally Safe in School pilot developed by Rape Crisis Scotland and Zero Tolerance.

Fairer Scotland Action Plan (2016): 50 concrete actions to reduce poverty and tackle inequality by 2030. Linked initiatives include:

  • Good Food Nation - which aims to enable more people to have access to affordable, healthy, nutritious food with Fair Food Fund budget increasing to £3.5 million in 2019-20 with £2 million targeted to support children and families experiencing food insecurity during school holidays;
  • 40 Community Links Workers to work with GP surgeries to connect people with local services;
  • Every Child, Every Chance child poverty delivery plan: Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 requiring Scottish Ministers to meet ambitious child poverty targets by 2030. This plan is supported by a commitment of £50 million from Tackling Poverty fund. The Act also requires Local Authorities and Health Boards to work together to produce local child poverty action plans on an annual basis to evidence steps taken to tackle child poverty.

Family Nurse Partnership: preventative programme to improve life chances of the most disadvantaged children/families. It is an intensive, one-to-one, home visiting programme that is delivered to young, first time mothers aged 19 and under by specially trained nurses.

Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC): Scotland's approach to promote and improve outcomes and support the wellbeing of children & young people by offering the right help at the right time from the right people. GIRFEC puts the rights and wellbeing of children and young people at the heart of the policies and services that support them and their families - such as early years services, schools and the NHS. See Annex H for more detail on GIRFEC.

Independent Care Review: examining legislation, practices, culture and ethos of the care system across Scotland. Young people with experience of care and their families and providers of care and, particularly, children and young people in care now will inform its recommendations to improve both the quality of life and outcomes of young people in care.

Intervention for Vulnerable Youth (IVY): a specialised psychology and social work service that supports and contributes to the assessments and interventions detailed in the child's plan. The IVY project supports local authorities and partners across Scotland by providing evidence-based risk assessment, management plans and specialist psychological assessments for young people aged from 12 to 18 years who present significant risk to others. See Annex I for more details on IVY.

Mental Health Strategy (2017-27): mental health support and treatment for young people involved in offending who have mental health problems to be available across Scotland. Scottish Government funded Barnardo's Scotland to deliver trauma, bereavement and loss projects in Polmont 2016-18. CYCJ conducted research into bullying as an adverse childhood experience, exploring links to future violence and the establishment of an independent expert review of mental health and support for young people entering HMP & YOI Polmont.

National Action Plan on Internet Safety for Children and Young People: published in 2017, a four-year plan developed in partnership with Education Scotland, YouthLink Scotland, Young Scot, NSPCC, Barnardos, Respectme and Police Scotland, sets out priorities to ensure the appropriate training, support and information is in place to keep children safe online. A progress report will be published in 2019. Ongoing work includes:

  • a core internet safety reference group being established to enhance the cross cutting work across Government in Education, Police, Cyber Resilience and Digital Participation;
  • the commissioning of research to map online safety resources, guidance and training currently available to children, young people, families, parents, carers and professionals. It will identify where further work is required; and
  • supporting the awareness raising of Safer Internet Day in Scotland. This year saw the launch of a special recognition badge as part of Digital Schools Awards Scotland's scheme to promote excellence in digital learning and teaching in Scottish schools.

The Scottish Government funded YoungScot to develop a social media campaign (DigiAye) focusing on online safety and a cyber resilience engagement programme to work with disadvantaged communities developing their knowledge and understanding of cyber risks; and continues to support Young Scot 5Rights campaign to realise and promote young people's rights in the digital world.

The Scottish Government is an executive board member of the UK Council for Internet Safety (UKCIS) to ensure Scotland's interests are appropriately represented in a collaborative and coordinated approach to address online concerns such as harassment, bullying and criminal activity such as sharing of child sexual abuse imagery.

National Advisory Council on Women and Girls: raises awareness of gender inequality in Scotland and drives forward positive progress and policies to make a meaningful difference to the lives of women and girls.

National Missing Persons Framework for Scotland (2017): almost two-thirds of people reported missing are children and young people, many from a looked after, in care or residential setting. Preventive measures to be introduced to reduce the number of missing person episodes with prevention planning at a local level for vulnerable individuals and groups.

National Action Plan to Prevent and Tackle Child Sexual Exploitation: updated in 2016, acknowledges that technology is playing a significant role in changing the nature of child sexual abuse as the internet and social media makes it easier to access and share images, allows perpetrators to connect, and provides a sense of anonymity. The final report of delivery of the National Action Plan is due to be published in winter 2019. Work includes:

  • expansion of the national sexual violence prevention programme (see Annex G for more information on this programme) across secondary schools. External evaluation of changes in knowledge and attitudes indicated that this programme has been successful in improving young people's knowledge and attitudes relating to consent and healthy sexual relationships;
  • single and multi-agency training, and specific training for night time economy staff has been delivered across Scotland to support local areas, raising public and practitioner awareness of child sexual exploitation.

The Scottish Government is developing a multi-agency group on commercial sexual exploitation.

National Child Protection Guidance (2014): currently being updated and due to be published mid-2020. This provides a framework for agencies and practitioners at local level to agree processes for working together to safeguard and promote child wellbeing.

National Child Protection Leadership Group: supports, strengthens and improves, from a national perspective, activity on child protection across Scotland and maintains oversight of implementation of the actions in the Child Protection Improvement Programme.

National Improvement Framework for Education: with health and wellbeing central to development, work to deliver recommendations of the recent review of personal and social education will commence in 2019.

National Parenting Strategy (2012): championing the importance of parenting in making a positive difference to children and young people by strengthening the support on offer to parents, and by making it easier for them to access this support.

National Trauma Training Plan 2018: providing front line workers with the knowledge, skills and confidence to respond appropriately to those experiencing physical or sexual abuse.

Neglect Improvement Programme Pilot: in three local authorities across Scotland to address neglect (Inverclyde, Perth & Kinross and Dundee). The programme is looking at how education, health and children's services work together to tackle neglect, in order to influence practice change in a sustainable and scalable way.

Personal and Social Education (PSE) Review: In January 2019 the findings and recommendations of the review into PSE were published. The Review identified 16 recommendations to strengthen the delivery of Personal and Social Education in Schools. This will help to provide every young person with the opportunity to grow, achieve and succeed as individuals. A PSE Delivery and Implementation Group has been established to take forward these recommendations. The group is jointly chaired by Scottish Government and COSLA.

Pregnancy and Parenthood in Young People Strategy: under this strategy, the resource, "Key Messages for Young people on Healthy Relationships and Consent - a resource for professionals working with Young People" has been developed as part of the Scottish Government's work on supporting positive relationships and sexual wellbeing in all young people. The messages set out that relationships should be mutually respectful, consensual, positive, healthy and enjoyable. They are applicable to all romantic relationships - from those that are about holding hands to those where young people are sexually active, regardless of whether they are in same sex or mixed sex relationships.

Respect for all: launched November 2017, an anti-bullying strategy for all working with children and young people. Adopts a holistic approach, drawing the distinction between bullying behaviour and actions which result from prejudice, which may be considered criminal behaviours (sexual harassment or assault) where Police should be contacted.

Respectme: launched 2007, Scotland's anti bullying service, funded by the Scottish Government and managed by Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) and LGBT Youth Scotland.

Relationships, sexual health and parenthood (RSHP) education: the report of the LGBTI Inclusive Education Working Group committed the Scottish Government to updating the existing RSHP teaching guidance for schools in 2019. RSHP education is a key part of Health and Wellbeing within Curriculum for Excellence. RSHP education focuses on equipping children and young people with the knowledge, skills and values to make informed and positive choices about forming relationships. Ongoing development of a teaching resource website to instill greater confidence in teachers delivering RSHP education. Strengthening sexual harassment and consent education are key strands of RSHP teaching guidance review.

School Nursing: The Scottish Government is currently in the process of refreshing the school nursing service for families. This includes increasing the number of additional qualified School Nurses by 250 by the end of 2022 following a Programme for Government commitment.

Substance Misuse Strategy: refreshed strategy published November 2018, which aims to develop more effective responses to children at risk of parental substance misuse. Recognises that wider family plays a role in supporting recovery of family member plus these family members also need support. The Scottish Government also invests in a range of funds which support families affected by drugs and alcohol use, including the Partnership Drugs Initiative, Scottish Families affected by Alcohol and Drugs, and the Family Recovery Initiative Fund.

Rape Crisis Scotland (RCS): funded by the Scottish Government to assist in provision of a national sexual violence prevention programme for secondary schools which provides modules on gender, consent, sexual violence and how it can be prevented, sexualisation, pornography, social media, the impact of sexual violence and how to access support. It is estimated that by 2020 this will have reached approximately 48% of Local Authority secondary schools.

Scottish Government is also funding a partnership from 2017-20 between Zero Tolerance (ZT) and RCS to deliver and trial a "whole school" approach to promoting gender equality and preventing gender based violence. See Annex G for more details.

Youth Justice strategy "Preventing offending: Getting it Right for Children and Young People" 2015-20: builds on a preventative approach to offending by young people, looking at the needs as well as the actions of young people. The strategy promotes a multi-agency Whole System approach, with a focus on improving life chances and developing capacity. This strategy and the previous Youth Justice framework, along with the roll out of the whole system approach to offending behaviour across Scotland since 2011, has contributed to a fall of 78% of under 18s being prosecuted in court since 2006-07.

This is a preventative approach, recognising that a child's early years are their most important and that their environment and wellbeing in this key stage of life can have a significant impact on their future lives and life chances. It is also acknowledged that adolescence is a critical period of opportunity and brain development. The strategy is founded on a shared vision of prevention, diversion, and managing and supporting children and young people to change their behaviour. The strategy is supported by the Youth Justice Improvement Board. The Scottish Government have also provided funding to train practitioners in the risk assessment tool assessing young people involved in offending behaviour, called START:AV.

Universal Health Visiting Pathway in Scotland (2015): the programme consists of 11 home visits to all families - eight within the first year of life and three child health reviews between the ages of 13 months and 4-5 years. The Pathway is being rolled out across all Health Boards with full implementation expected by January 2020.

Violence Reduction Unit: receives direct funding from Scottish Government. Work includes training Police Scotland Campus Cops - allocated officers who work in schools across communities building relationships between young people and the police to increase their engagement to provide violence prevention and early intervention for young people particularly those most at risk children. The Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) Programme is a peer education programme allowing young people to explore and challenge the attitudes, beliefs and cultural norms that underpin gender based violence. The programme uses a "bystander approach" to address various forms of violence including bullying, sexting, name calling, coercive controlling behaviour and harassment. The programme delivery is supported through Education Scotland with additional Scottish Government funding to provide three MVP Development Officers who provide support to local authorities and schools across Scotland. It is delivered in 23 local authorities, working to build sustainability for continued delivery.


Email: Child_Protection@gov.scot

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