Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC): policy statement

Provides an overview of the policy and legislative context for GIRFEC. It gives an outline of the core components of the policy, including refreshed values and principles, and ambitions for how we can do more in practice.

6. Range of Support

We know that with the right support at the right time, every child and young person can reach their full potential. The GIRFEC approach is about getting the right support to all children and young people, including those with particular support needs. This includes, but is not limited to, young carers, armed forces children, children and young people who experience inequality and adversity in relation to their sex, gender reassignment, race, sexual orientation, experience of poverty, refugee, asylum or immigration status, children and young people with experience of care, children and young people who are at risk of neglect or abuse, children and young people in conflict, or at risk of being in conflict, with the law and children and young people with additional support needs, which includes disabled children and young people. GIRFEC recognises that children and young people may have multiple and overlapping experiences which should be considered.

Addressing the social and economic circumstances in which people live is essential to supporting children, young people and families. Addressing multiple and overlapping inequalities is key to preventing long term adversity and trauma.

Evidence shows that having safe, supportive relationships with trusted adults helps children and young people to address and overcome adversity and trauma, and go on to reach their full

potential. Growing up experiencing adversity or trauma such as abuse, neglect, domestic abuse, community violence, homelessness or growing up in a household where adults are experiencing poor mental health or substance use can impact on a child or young person’s healthy development and potentially have long-lasting impacts into adulthood.

There are critical moments when timely and proactive support can make a long-term difference to a child or young person. For example, when a child or young person experiences a significant

loss, or an adult they depend on is experiencing significant struggles, or their emotional security is affected by a transition between a school or service. Evidence shows that having safe, supportive relationships with trusted adults helps children and young people to address and overcome adversity and trauma, and go on to achieve their full potential.

Children and young people may need support to access their education. Children and young people’s wellbeing can also be impacted by circumstances that create a barrier to their learning. Article 28 of the UNCRC makes clear that all children and young people have the right to education no matter who they are. It is vital that additional support needs are identified, provided for and reviewed in line with the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004. This supports children and young people to access the right support at the right time, from the right people in order that they fully benefit from their education.

The Additional Support for Learning Review, led by Angela Morgan, considered implementation of the additional support for learning framework. It made a number of recommendations seeking to improve the experiences of children and young people with additional support needs. In 2020, Scottish Government and COSLA published a joint action plan which set out the measures we would take to address the findings of the review. We have achieved progress in a number of key areas and we continue to work with partners to ensure:

  • support is put in place to encourage and strengthen children and young people’s participation in the development of key policies and guidance;
  • deeper understanding and celebration of the achievements and successes of all children and young people with additional support needs; and
  • meaningful engagement with parents and carers and supporting families to access the right support at the right time; and
  • positive and sustained collaborative working underpinned by our ambition for all children and young people to be valued, respected, included and supported to reach their full potential.

Article 19 of the UNCRC concerns the protection of children from all forms of violence, abuse, neglect and bad treatment while in the care of their parents or anyone else who looks after them. Child protection (see glossary) processes fall at the urgent end of a range of services which include prevention and early intervention. The GIRFEC principles and approach should be applied consistently across the range of services. Children who are subject to child protection processes may already be known to services and may already have a child’s plan in place. Child protection processes should build on existing knowledge, strengths in planning and partnerships to reduce the risk of harm, and to meet the child’s needs.

The National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2021 reflects this integration of child protection within the GIRFEC range of support and uses GIRFEC language and core components to frame identification and proportionate responses to child protection concerns within the National Practice Model (please see Practice Guidance 1). The guidance outlines the range

of support for all children, from universal support through to protection from significant harm, underlining that the wellbeing and safety of children are indivisibly connected. There is a clear articulation of the importance of GIRFEC to protecting children, particularly in recognising that all children must receive the right help at the right time.

Within the GIRFEC framework is a range of support from universal, additional, specialist and intensive services which can be delivered through single agencies (see glossary) or jointly through an integrated approach. This scaffold of support consists of:

  • Family and community provide everyday support and care;
  • Universal provision supports development and builds resilience;
  • Additional support works to overcome disadvantage and supports learning;
  • Specialist and intensive help addresses more complex needs that impact health and wellbeing; and
  • Compulsory intervention ensures action to overcome adversity and risk.



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