National guidance for child protection committees undertaking learning reviews

Guidance to support child protection committees to reflect, learn and improve child protection systems and practice when a child or young person dies, is significantly harmed, or was at risk of death or significant harm or where effective practice has prevented harm or risk of harm.

1. Introduction

This guidance replaces the National Guidance for Child Protection Committees – Conducting a Significant Case Review (2015). All references to ‘Initial Case Review’ and ‘Significant Case Review’ in other current policy and guidance documents will be understood as referring to a ‘Learning Review’ as defined by the present guidance.

This guidance is primarily intended for members of Child Protection Committees (CPCs) across Scotland, whilst it also has relevance for Chief Officers Groups, the Scottish Government and the Care Inspectorate. However, it should also be read and understood by a wide multi-agency audience.

Protecting children and young people is an inter-agency and inter-disciplinary responsibility overseen by CPCs and it is the CPC, on behalf of the Chief Officers Group, that decides whether a Learning Review is warranted and agrees how the review is conducted.

The overall purpose of a Learning Review is to bring together agencies, individuals and families in a collective endeavour to learn from what has happened in order to improve and develop systems and practice in the future and thus better protect children and young people. The process is underpinned by the rights of children and young people as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).


The Learning Review approach stemmed from Scotland’s commitment to strengthen its learning culture. In 2017 Protecting Scotland’s Children and Young People: It is Still Everyone’s Job – Child Protection Systems Review highlighted the need to “move beyond apportioning blame to learning together about what is helping and what is hindering efforts to help children”. The report made three recommendations in this regard, fully adopted by the Scottish Government’s Child Protection Improvement Programme, which informed the development of the present guidance.

The 2019 Protecting Children & Young People - Child Protection Committee and Chief Officer Responsibilities guidance states that Chief Officer Groups should be advised by the chair of the CPC of any cases that should be considered in respect of meeting the criteria for warranting a Review. Once agreed that there is a need to undertake a Review, the CPC should consider and agree how the Review is to be undertaken and who should lead the Review, and ensure that appropriate communication of the case has taken place in respect of key contacts. Once a Review is concluded, all findings and recommendations should be considered by the Chief Officers Group.

Definition of a child

For the purpose of this document a child is a person under the age of 18, although there may be exceptions for care leavers who were in receipt of aftercare or continuing care at the time of the incident that led to a Learning Review Notification.

A comprehensive definition is provided in the National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland.

Supporting resources

In the supporting documents alongside this Guidance, there is a resource toolkit containing exemplars of reports and action plans and ideas for disseminating and embedding learning.



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