Child protection learning and development 2024: national framework

Framework to support multi-agency learning and development relevant to child protection in Scotland. This highlights key learning for all workforces according to the level of responsibility they have for child protection.

This document is part of a collection

Section 1: Introduction

1.1 The previous National Framework for Child Protection Learning and Development ("the Framework") was published in 2012 to support the design and delivery of child protection learning and development. It sought to clarify key learning requirements relevant to different groups of workers and practitioners, depending on their roles and responsibilities.

  • This revised version of the Framework incorporates:
  • National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2021 – updated 2023
  • significant changes in Scottish legislation, policy and practice development since the original publication (further referenced below)
  • updated workforce groups, knowledge and skills descriptors, detailed in Section 3: workforce groups and key learning

Process and governance

1.2 The revision of the Framework was undertaken by learning and development practitioners representing the National Learning and Practice Development group and Child Protection Committees Scotland, supported by a multi-agency group of stakeholders representing the key agencies involved in child protection (social work, police, health and third sector), alongside the Scottish Government.

1.3 The multi-agency representation within governance groups highlights a key element of this document. It should be seen as a resource for all learning and development practitioners, leaders and managers responsible for workforce development relevant to child protection, regardless of which agency they come from. It can be used flexibly and alongside single agency frameworks for learning to emphasise the key themes of the National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2021 – updated 2023 and the longstanding key message that 'It Is Still Everyone's Job'.

Context of the Framework

1.4 While there were several strategic documents to consider, the most significant influences on this revised Framework were:

National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2021 – updated 2023

Getting it right for every child

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

Independent Care Review (The Promise)

1.5 The National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2021 – updated 2023 (NGCP2023) highlighted important themes for practice, and these will be key to updating all learning and development resources. The key themes below should fully sit within the 'Getting it right for every child' (GIRFEC) continuum – wellbeing to welfare to protection - supporting a proactive, preventative approach to practice. They are as follows:

  • rights-based approach (supporting and embracing UNCRC)
  • needs-led/strengths-based approach (supporting relationship-based practice)
  • trauma-informed/enhanced practice (supporting understanding of childhood adversity and trauma)
  • holistic assessment (supporting strengths/resilience, identifying risk/concerns within a child's experiences)
  • recognising diversity and inclusion (supporting sensitivity of language, culture and communication differences)

1.6 Learning from research and practice has reinforced a need to place emphasis on understanding the impact of trauma and diversity on personal and individual growth and development. The impact will vary, depending on the level of personal resilience, support and response available in the life of any individual, at any age and stage. In general, the younger the individual when the experience happens, and/or the more heightened and persistent the trauma or adversity is, the greater the impact is likely to be on the individual's capacity and functioning throughout their life.

1.7 Evidently, research in adversity and trauma is also applicable to adults, parents and carers as much as it is for children, highlighting the need for a holistic and whole family approach to assessment and intervention. It is important that all learning resources reflect this aspect of practice, and the reason the National Trauma Training Programme highlights that trauma-informed practice should be front and centre of all multi-agency learning and development.

1.8 More recent social research highlighted the need for a broader approach to child protection which includes harm that happens to children and young people in our communities, making a distinction between familial and non-familial harm (and where there may be crossover). The term used to overlay identification and prevention of different types of harm that can happen in communities is 'contextual safeguarding'. The research shows the parallels between child protection and adult protection. Examples include older young people who sit in the transitional area between children's and adult services; younger adults who are also parents; or adults (including parents) who are themselves at risk of harm or exploitation within our communities. It reinforces the importance of holistic assessment of need, in both child and adult protection work.

1.9 Children have the right to be cared for and protected from harm (Article 19, UNCRC). Children should have every opportunity to grow up in a safe environment in which their rights are respected, protected and fulfilled, their wellbeing supported and their needs met. In Scotland, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Act 2024 directly incorporates the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (the "UNCRC") into domestic law (within the limits of the devolution settlement) and is key to making sure Scotland is the best place to grow up. That means that, when a public authority is delivering its duties under an Act of the Scottish Parliament, a Scottish Statutory Instrument or common law powers, public authorities must comply with the UNCRC requirements in the Act and children, young people and their representatives can use the courts to enforce their rights.

1.10 Scotland's Independent Care Review (The Promise) established an aspiration for children, that 'We grow up loved, safe and respected so that we realise our full potential' (The Promise, 2020). The intention of this Framework is to contribute to that aspiration by supporting the development of a confident and competent workforce.

1.11 While child protection procedures may be considered for a person up to the age of 18, the legal boundaries of childhood and adulthood are variously defined. There are overlaps, as described in Part 1 of the NGCP2023. For the purposes of clarity (and recognising the varied approaches across legislation), this Framework defines 'child' as a person up to 18 years of age.

For the purposes of this Guidance, the protection of children and young people includes unborn babies, and children and young people under the age of 18 years.

National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2021 – updated 2023

Multi-agency context

1.12 Experience has shown a critical need for all services across multi-agency partnerships to work more closely together. This includes all workers and volunteers in any role supporting children, young people and adults, providing direct or indirect support, taking a whole family approach to any support and intervention.

1.13 A key message for all of us is that we all have a shared responsibility and a role to play, however limited, in ensuring that children and young people live safely, and thrive, in our communities.

1.14 To underline this key message, all workforces need to be supported through learning and development opportunities to build the necessary knowledge, skills, understanding of child welfare and protection appropriate to their role and responsibilities towards the longstanding message that it is 'everyone's job' to make sure children 'are alright'.

1.15 The National Framework for Child Protection Learning and Development in Scotland 2024 reflects legislative and policy positions at the time of publication. All practitioners have a responsibility to remain aware of changes to legislation, policy and practice that impact on how frontline services should respond. Learning and development professionals should ensure that materials are continually reviewed against further developments, reinforcing key strategies and good practice.

Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC)

1.16 'Getting it right for every child' is the national approach to improving the wellbeing of children and young people across services in Scotland. Initially implemented in 2006, 'Getting it right for every child' policy and guidance was further revised and updated by the Scottish Government in September 2022. It promotes a holistic approach to child welfare and protection, aiming to ensure that every child receives "the right help, at the right time, from the right people".

1.17 The key principles of 'Getting it right for every child' include:

  • the importance of early identification of need, using a shared understanding of wellbeing, and early support
  • the crucial role that universal services play in providing a flexible scaffold of support for all children and young people where it is needed, for as long as it is needed, including care or protection
  • the importance of a co-ordinated multi-agency approach of promoting, supporting, and safeguarding the wellbeing of children and young people

1.18 The GIRFEC National Practice Model sets out a shared framework and approach to identification, assessment and analysis of wellbeing needs. All practitioners who work with children and families should be familiar with the National Practice Model (below), and with the effective use of chronologies, as they form the basis for child protection assessment and planning.

The GIRFEC National Practice Model



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