National guidance for child protection 2021: consultation report
Assessment Section

Assessment Section

Q5: Assessment Section - A new section of this National Guidance (Assessment Part 2B) provides advice about child protection assessment practice.

Is this section sufficiently clear and does it cover all of the aspects you would expect?

There were no particular issues raised at the stakeholder events.

A small majority of respondents (51% of those answering the question) thought the assessment section sufficiently clear and covers all of the aspects you would expect.

Pie chart showing responses to whether the assessment section is sufficiently clear:
Yes 51%
To some extent 40%
No 4%
Don't know 5%

Around 80 respondents made a further comment at Question 5.

Many respondents welcomed the guidance on assessment, finding it comprehensive, clear and easy to understand. The focus on children's rights, The Promise, and GIRFEC principles was welcomed. However, it was suggested that the GIRFEC section could reinforce the 5 key GIRFEC questions and include hyperlinks to the resilience matrix. Some respondents commented that there could be greater clarity on incorporating the UNCRC into assessment in practice.

As with other parts of the guidance, there were comments around the benefit of national frameworks set against the need to tailor responses to the individual child. Some respondents suggested that there should be reference to models of assessment practice other than those in the text, to avoid those included in the guidance being seen as the preferred model. Responses to Equally Safe: Scotland's strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls (VAWG) was given as one example. Where domestic abuse or any other form of VAWG may be a factor, the model of assessment should be sensitive to the patterns of coercive control that may pose additional safety risks to children and their non-abusive parents/carers.

Whilst this part of the guidance is a useful link to Part 3, it was suggested that the information in Part 2B could be incorporated into Part 3, as part of the journey of intervention, care and protection.

Assessment and Support

Several respondents commented on aspects of the guidance that could be strengthened to support practitioners. These included:

  • The Scottish Government's National Risk Framework to Support the Assessment of Children and Young People should be included.
  • The role of partners that may have a more peripheral involvement with a child, but can still contribute towards the assessment, should be covered.
  • Guidance on assessment and decision-making when deciding whether a concern should be a child protection case or an IRD would be helpful.
  • References to motivational interviewing would be welcome.
  • The disability toolkit to support the assessment of children with disabilities could be referenced.
  • A more detailed explanation of key concepts and references would support the development of local guidance and practices. Significant case review and access to minimum datasets were given as examples.
  • Significant harm must be assessed in each case, but there is no fixed definition of this term in the guidance; practice examples would be helpful for practitioners.

In respect of general support for the workforce, it was suggested that there should be specific reference to workforce wellbeing.


The inclusion throughout the guidance of information on trauma-informed approaches was welcomed. It was noted that the trauma references could be more specific to assessment and strengthened. For example, trauma-informed practice and disguised compliance should be included, as should the impact of trauma and intergenerational trauma. The impact of intergenerational trauma on parenting capacity and the ability to change was suggested as another area for inclusion.

Given the importance of the content on trauma, and because those using the guidance may access some but not all of it, it was suggested that there should be a dedicated section on trauma, with key resources in Appendix F.

Child Development and Assessment

The reference to using a development lens in assessment, as opposed to having a focus on chronological age, was welcomed. However, it was noted that practitioners and managers would benefit from support in understanding how to implement this in practice, in particular when working with older children or young people over 18 years of age.

Capacity to change

A number of respondents welcomed the section on capacity to change. It was suggested that tools used to assess capacity to change could be included. It was noted that there could be more on the assessment of parenting capacity and a parent's ability to change within timescales linked to the needs of the child.

Strengths-based Approaches

The inclusion of strengths-based approaches was seen as positive, although it was suggested there could be more detail on what this means in practice.

It was reported that a number of local authorities do not use Signs of Safety or FGDM. It was felt that the guidance should be clearer on whether it is suggesting that Signs of Safety should be adopted where it is not already in place. It was also suggested that it is not clear where Signs of Safety and FGDM fit into the assessment process.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls

Respondents felt this section provides a useful reminder of areas that could be overlooked in assessments. It was suggested that it could include details of the 'Start Again Syndrome', as this approach may not necessarily benefit the child.

Neglect and poverty

Some respondents observed that the guidance could provide more detail on neglect and poverty in relation to assessment. Others commented that assessment practice should take structural inequalities into account.

Domestic Abuse

Comments from respondents on domestic abuse issues included highlighting the challenges when children move from one local authority area to another, if this happens before a child has been placed on the Child Protection Register. Assessment processes should consider how moves between local authorities can be managed, to ensure that children do not fall through the cracks.

It was suggested that expanded guidance on the use of the Domestic Abuse Stalking and Honour Based Violence Risk Indicator Checklist, and the Safe and Together assessment tools would be helpful. Further guidance on the assessment of young people who are harming others, or are being harmed in a relationship, and the link to child protection would also be beneficial.

Defensible decision-making

Defensible decision-making should be included; it was suggested that the term 'professional judgment' does not sufficiently capture the need to record actions, and the reasons for taking them. There could also be more detail on professional curiosity and professional assertiveness.

Graded Care Profile

There were some differing views on the inclusion of the Graded Care Profile. Some welcomed its inclusion or felt there should be a stronger focus on it, as one of the standardised tools that can be used in assessment. Others felt that if it remains relevant, more of an explanation should be provided.

Other comments

Several other revisions were suggested, most of these focused on perceived omissions in the draft guidance:

  • Pre-birth assessment could usefully be included or referred to in this section, or there could be a link to pre-birth assessment in Part 4 of the guidance.
  • The chronology section could be stronger, including by presenting the benefits of chronology in child protection assessment and planning.
  • Safe and Together should be included.
  • Clearer strategies for working with resistant families was requested.
  • A flowchart illustrating the process would be helpful, or moving the summary at the end of the section to the start could be considered.
  • The roles of the named person and lead professional should be included.
  • Guidance on the transfer of cases, including roles and responsibilities, would be a useful inclusion.
  • Greater clarity is needed on the interface between adult and child protection.