National guidance for child protection 2021: consultation report
GIRFEC Practice Model

GIRFEC Practice Model

Q3: GIRFEC Practice Model – Our aim is to ensure that the guidance is fully integrated with the language and core components of the Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) practice model.

Do you think the revised National Guidance for child protection is integrated with the GIRFEC practice model?

Stakeholder Event Themes

The main themes raised at the stakeholder events were:

The revised National Guidance is aligned with GIRFEC and the GIRFEC principles appear to be embedded.

The role of universal services is expressed more clearly than previously.

GIRFEC is being refreshed, but the timing of the revised guidance means this has not been taken account of.

There could be greater clarity on the named person in the guidance.

The integration of GIRFEC emphasises that the support and protection of children is part of a continuum, allowing the 'right help at the right time'.

A majority of respondents (64% of those answering the question) thought that the guidance is integrated with the GIRFEC practice model.

Pie chart showing responses to whether the guidance is integrated with the GIRFEC practice model:
Yes 64%
To some extent 32%
No 2%
Don't know 2%

Around 105 respondents made a further comment at Question 3.

Overall observations

Some comments simply noted that the draft guidance is integrated with the GIRFEC national practice model. Other respondents gave more detail, with comments including:

  • Support for the common use of language, tone, ethos and principles, as a result of incorporating GIRFEC.
  • Acknowledgement that early identification of need is included in the guidance.
  • Recognition of the linking of GIRFEC to child protection processes, assessments and plans, with child protection as part of a continuum of need/support helping agencies to identify and act on concerns at an early stage.
  • Agreement that the guidance is centred on the child, giving priority to their voice.
  • Appreciation of the emphasis on support for the participation of families in the child protection process.
  • Agreement with the emphasis on a multi-agency approach, supported by useful descriptors in Part 2 of the guidance on the roles and responsibilities of the relevant organisations.
  • Support for the links between GIRFEC and contextual safeguarding, although it was noted that it would be useful if there was more detail on the definition and application of contextual safeguarding.

Respondents also drew attention to helpful additions to the revised guidance. This included a welcome for the rights-based approach to child protection, in particular the emphasis on implementation of the UNCRC. The resilience matrix was acknowledged as a useful tool for practitioners when undertaking assessments. References to the 'my world triangle' were also seen as helpful.

There was acknowledgment that the SHANARRI well-being indicators feature in the draft guidance, although it was suggested that some aspects, such as the need for the child to be active, may have been given less prominence.

Wider changes suggested

Some respondents observed that GIRFEC could be more explicit in some parts of the guidance. Connected suggestions included being clearer about the involvement of families or providing separate guidance specifically for families. It was also suggested that guidance on engaging young people with GIRFEC should be included within the guidance.

It was observed that some practitioners lack detailed knowledge of GIRFEC, and that the guidance should include some explanation; this would strengthen the links between GIRFEC and child protection. It was also suggested that more could be done to promote GIRFEC and trauma-informed care across all children's pathways, to ensure a consistent approach.

Very much in line with comments made (and covered at Question 2 above) about the principles that should underpin the guidance, there were a number of references to The Promise and the outcomes of the Independent Care Review. It was suggested that there is capacity for the child protection guidance to better anticipate the changes that will result from the implementation of the findings of the Review and for The Promise to be given a higher profile within the guidance.

It was noted that GIRFEC is due to be refreshed, and there were queries as to how this will impact on the guidance, both in terms of the relative timelines for publication and how the revised GIRFEC will be included and reflected in the guidance. It was suggested that there should be strong alignment between the two documents, including around legal and policy positions.

It was felt that the guidance could put more emphasis on 'it's everyone's job', to encourage awareness across all staff in services that support the children, with education and early years specifically mentioned.

The information on 'significant harm' was generally seen as helpful, although an alternative perspective was that the term could be confusing and potentially result in professionals being less likely to raise concerns if it was perceived to be a threshold to be met. A connected suggestion was that it would be helpful if the continuum of support, from universal services to significant harm, was illustrated.

The inclusion of advice on how to address harm below the significant harm threshold through single and multi-agency Child Plans, was welcomed.

Process-related comments

There was also a range of specific suggestions for GIRFEC-related issues or themes that should be covered, or about which expanded coverage would be welcome. These included:

  • How to identify whether concerns should be progressed under the child's wellbeing criteria or child protection.
  • Detail on actions if there is an Initial Referral Discussion (IRD) process is in place, but it becomes clear that child protection is not required.
  • Guidance on the transfer of children with a Child's Plan if they move between local authorities.
  • Expansion on the role of housing services in the management of risk and early intervention.
  • More on education staff and their role in the welfare and protection of children.
  • Acknowledging the role of speech and language therapists and other allied health professionals.
  • Clarity on the processes for unaccompanied asylum seekers.

It was also suggested that the linkages between GIRFEC assessment and child protection processes could be clearer.

Group-related comments

In terms of the guidance's coverage of groups of children or young people, it was suggested that there is an opportunity for the guidance to be reviewed from a gender and intersectional perspective. Other comments included:

  • More information generally on professional responsibilities towards 16-17 year olds, including young people in transition and/or not in education would be welcome. Specifically, clarity on when GIRFEC should be applied and when Adult Support and Protection legislation would be more appropriate.
  • GIRFEC may not be as helpful for children with complex needs. It was suggested that other models, for example the mental health services Care Programme Approach, could be included in the guidance. It was also noted that it cannot not be assumed that all health services have a detailed understanding of GIRFEC assessments and processes, and that practitioners may require support from partners and stakeholders so that these can be utilised in clinical practice.
  • In cases of domestic abuse, children's rights of participation are especially helpful in ensuring the child's voice is heard. It was noted that the guidance could place more emphasis on the input of children.


A number of respondents commented that they found the language and/or terminology relating to GIRFEC to be unclear or inconsistent. Further comments included that the use of jargon and acronyms should be avoided.

Respondents also commented on the language that should be used, including that:

  • The inclusiveness of language is important; the guidance could better reflect the need for children to be central to decisions affecting them, whatever their needs or developmental stage.
  • The use of specific phrases would be helpful, as these would assist local implementation of the guidance. 'The team around the child' and 'What is getting in the way of helping this family?' were given as examples.

In relation to specific phrases or language, comments included that:

  • The change of terminology from Child Protection Case Conferences to Child Protection Planning Meetings was welcomed by some as being in line with GIRFEC, but was felt to be confusing by others. There was a connected concern that it has the potential to downplay the importance of the meetings.
  • 'Chemistry of risk', and how it is applied in practice, could be better defined. Similarly, it was noted that the terms 'national practice model' and 'practice model' are both used and could be more clearly defined.

As at other questions, a number of comments were made about the use of 'named person', and there was a call for both clarity about, and consistency in, its use. Further comments included that:

  • The Named Person Service has been repealed and is no longer a legal requirement.
  • In relation to the role of a Midwife as 'named person', this is not currently a Midwife's function, and the Family Nurse should be mentioned as the 'named person'.
  • More information could be included on the named person/lead professional role in instances where young people aged 16 and 17 years are at risk of specific harm, in particular when they are not in education.

Information sharing

There were contrasting views on information sharing as it related to GIRFEC. For some respondents, the sections on information sharing provided clarification. Others found the guidance useful but commented that it could have been expanded and strengthened, for example, by including advice about information sharing when there are concerns around the child's wellbeing, rather than an 'at risk' situation.

It was also suggested that the guidance could reinforce the need for families and individuals to be included in decisions about information sharing, other than when to do so would be contrary to protecting the child's wellbeing.

Visual design

Some respondents felt that the diagrams showing how GIRFEC fits into child protection guidance worked well. Others suggested that visuals, including the coloured illustrations, should be used so that the linkages between GIRFEC and child protection are clear from the beginning of the guidance, thereby helping to emphasise the continuum between the two.