Publication - Advice and guidance

National Guidance for Child Protection Committees for Conducting a Significant Case Review

Published: 31 Mar 2015
Children and Families Directorate
Part of:
Communities and third sector

This guidance has been superseded by the 2021 Learning Review guidance, available at

National Guidance for Child Protection Committees for Conducting a Significant Case Review


A potentially complex set of activities may be triggered by a significant case - most likely, the death of a child. It is important that local services do not interfere with, or contaminate that activity. This is vital in relation to evidence gathering where there is, or there is the potential for, a criminal investigation, whether of staff or a third party. The key requirement is to maintain good local ongoing dialogue with the COPFS and/or Police Scotland to ascertain where they are in their considerations and agree what can be progressed in the SCR. Efforts should be made to minimise duplication and ensure, as far as is practicable, that the various processes are complementary even if their purpose is somewhat different. These inter-related processes are less likely to take place if a significant case does not involve a death.

In Protecting Children and Young People: Child Protection Committees [19], COPFS recognised the importance of child protection and encouraged the involvement of COPFS with CPCs - especially in relation to investigations and proceedings on the death of a child. If not already the case, CPCs should seek to ensure they have a named contact in the PF's office who can pursue any ongoing dialogue needed.

There will also be agency-specific work that is routinely undertaken, particularly on the death of a child (for example, when this occurs in hospital or is unexpected such as in the case of sudden unexpected deaths in infancy). Any SCR will need to be co-ordinated to dovetail with such work to avoid duplication of effort and unnecessary further review.

Cross-authority SCRs

In the case of a potential cross-authority SCR the relevant CPCs should agree a way of joint working and, if required, joint commissioning of a lead reviewer. It may be worth considering a lead reviewer who is independent of the CPC areas involved.

Cross border (UK) SCRs

To date, cross border SCRs have been rare. Children, young people and their families/carers do become involved with services across borders. Depending on individual circumstances such cases could be considered for an SCR involving two or more countries.

It is not possible to provide definitive guidance, as each case will be unique. However, building on the experience and learning of those CPCs who have done cross border SCRs the following points are suggested for consideration:

  • Early contact with the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB), England and Wales, or Area Child Protection Committee (ACPC), Northern Ireland to identify a link person there and provide that body with a link person within the Child Protection Committee.
  • Make available the remit of the SCR and request the LSCB/ACPC remit.
  • Enter into a memorandum of understanding or data sharing agreement[20] which should be explicit in its terms about access to records, staff, family members etc.
  • Consider having a member of the LSCB/ACPC as a member of the review team for specific meetings and tasks.
  • Agree a communication strategy, which should be clear about media handling and what information may be made available in any report. It must be borne in mind that in England and Wales there is a duty to make public every SCR and in Northern Ireland, case management review (CMR) executive summaries are published. As there is no requirement to publish SCRs in Scotland any references to data from Scotland may have to be redacted.
  • Consider joint contact with the family (or other significant persons) to make them aware of the cross border nature of the SCR and establish what arrangements will be carried out for feedback.
  • In some cases, consideration should be given to the need for specialist information (for example, forced marriage, honour based violence and female genital mutilation).