10. Wellbeing and welfare
Section 96 of the Act refers to eight indicators of wellbeing, described in section 37 above. The Act does not alter the references to welfare that already exist in legislation. Welfare, as it relates to children and young people, is a term that is open to interpretation, but is often used in the context of identifying a need for compulsory intervention under the 2011 Act. In terms of Scottish Government policy on children and families, welfare and wellbeing are different, in that wellbeing is a broader, more holistic concept.
Links between welfare and wellbeing exist across the eight wellbeing indicators (SHANARRI), and while a child protection response may be required to make sure a child or young person is safe and their immediate welfare needs are addressed, child protection is not something which sits separately from wellbeing, it is part of the same range of support. Indeed, a series of low-level indicators of wellbeing need (whether obviously related or not) taken together can amount to a child protection issue.
Child protection concerns require taking prompt action to safeguard a child where an assessment indicates that the child may be at risk of neglect or physical, mental or emotional harm. The child’s wider wellbeing should also be assessed to ensure their current and future holistic needs are considered. Appropriate governance, with associated policies and procedures, must be in place to provide a seamless link between child protection and longer-term wellbeing considerations.
The relationship between welfare and wellbeing is strengthened by section 95 of the Act, which inserts a new section 23A to the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 to ensure that children’s and young people’s wellbeing is considered by local authorities when exercising certain functions. Section 23A of the 1995 Act (‘Sections 17, 22 and 26A: consideration of wellbeing’), relates to children who are in need and children who are looked after by the local authority, as defined by the 1995 Act. It also relates to children who are eligible for the provision of continuing care under Part 11 of the Act, for whom a welfare assessment is required.
Section 23A(2) of the 1995 Act says that the local authority must have regard to the general principle that these functions, which include safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children, should be carried out so that they also safeguard, support and promote their wellbeing. In this context, wellbeing is to be assessed using the indicators listed in section 96(2) of the Act.
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