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This guidance has been superseded by the 2021 Learning Review guidance, available at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
Initial case review (ICR)

Initial case review (ICR)

The CPC may not immediately appreciate that a case is significant. An Initial Case Review (ICR) is, therefore, an opportunity for the CPC to consider relevant information, determine the course of action and recommend whether an SCR or other response is required. The ICR process is summarised in the box below. An ICR should not be escalated beyond what is proportionate, taking account of the severity and complexity of the case and the process and its timescales, should not detract from agencies taking whatever urgent action is required to protect any other children and young people who may be at risk. Findings from the Audit and Analysis of Significant Case Reviews indicate that an ICR should always be undertaken.[6]

CPCs should develop their own local operating protocol for handling ICRs. This should identify who has delegated authority to accept the initial notification, instruct any further information-gathering and make a decision on whether to proceed to an SCR. Each local ICR operating protocol should be agreed with the Chief Officers Group. It should firmly reflect this guidance but retain sufficient flexibility to suit local structures.

Where time limits are referred to it is important that they are adhered to. If there is good reason for delay, the report should record the reason for that delay.

Summary of the ICR process

Step 1: Potential significant case notified to CPC as soon as practicable after the event or when a series of events suggests an SCR may be appropriate.

The initial case review notification form should be used (Annex 1): This includes:

  • A statement about the current position of the child, and, if they are alive, what actions have been or will be taken on their behalf;
  • A brief description of the case and the basis for referral;
  • Any other formal proceedings underway;
  • A summary of agency/professional involvement; and
  • Lead contacts for each agency;

When complete, the initial case review notification form should be passed to the CPC coordinator or nominated person who notifies all agencies or individuals involved with the child using the ICR report template (Annex 2).

Step 2: Agencies gather information and submit a report(s) to the CPC or mandated sub group as soon as possible but no longer than 14 calendar days using the ICR Report template (Annex 2, Part A). The information gathering process should include:

  • A summary of involvement including background;
  • An outline of known key issues;
  • Any identified elements of emerging practice;
  • Any identified areas for improvement;
  • Any particular sensitivities (for example, from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), Police, Scottish Children's Reporter Administration (SCRA) or any other agency, about cases where there are ongoing, or likely to be, criminal proceedings, Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI), Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy Review (SUDI), Scottish Children's Reporter Administration (SCRA) or disciplinary proceedings).

If agencies cannot reasonably complete the ICR Report for the CPC within the suggested times, the reasons for this should be recorded.

Step 3: The CPC or mandated sub group meets to consider the information as soon as possible. Within 28 days of the ICR being agreed, the CPC or mandated sub group, convenes to consider agency/service information. Having a considered chronology and a timeline for this stage can help with decision making and identifying information gaps. The output of the meeting will be either:

  • Further information required to enable a recommendation - set timescale for completion and supplementary meeting; or
  • Sufficient information available to enable recommendation to progress to SCR or not (recording rationale).

Step 4: CPC or mandated sub group decide whether or not to proceed to a significant case review (SCR):

  • An SCR should only be undertaken when the criteria are met; where there is potential for significant corporate learning; and where an SCR is in the public interest and in the best interests of children and young people and their family. If there is no clear consensus within the CPC as to whether or not to progress to an SCR, the final decision rests with the CPC Chair.
  • The CPC may decide that no SCR is needed but follow-up action by one or more agencies is required. This may be the case if, for example, there has been a misunderstanding of guidance, or if local protocols need to be reinforced. The CPC may want to draw appropriate guidance to staff's attention or review training or protocols on a particular theme. They may also decide to initiate local action to rectify an immediate issue or to undertake single agency action. Follow-up action should be agreed and scheduled into the CPC's future work programme.
  • Where the CPC is satisfied there are no concerns and there is no scope for significant corporate/multi-agency learning or it is clear that appropriate action has already been taken they may decide to take no further action.

Step 5: Ratification of decision

The CPC should report the outcome of an ICR to the Chief Officers Group for full ratification.

Step 6: Notification and recording of decisions

All decisions (including no further action) and the reasons for these decisions should be recorded by the CPC in a report, using the headings in Annex 2 and a record of decision making.

Each CPC should maintain a register of all potentially significant cases referred to it. This allows for evidencing the decisions made; monitoring the progress of the reviews; monitoring and reviewing the implementation of recommendations; and identifying contextual trends (such as prevalence of substance misuse).

A written record of the decision (Annex 2, part B) should be sent to all agencies directly involved with the child and recorded in the child's case files and the case files of relevant adults. If a decision is made to proceed to an SCR, the CPC should advise the child/young person and/or family/carers of the CPC's intentions. See section on Family/Carers Annex 7.

Notification should be sent to the Care Inspectorate, using part B of the initial case review report (Annex 2) and, if appropriate, for parallel processes to other relevant parties (for example, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS). The Care Inspectorate's role is to collate information about the relationship between initial case reviews and significant case reviews, in order to understand more about the rationales being applied across the country in determining whether SCRs are carried out.