National guidance for child protection 2021: consultation report


Q12: Implementation – The Scottish Government considers that Chief Officer Groups and local Child Protection Committees, supported by Child Protection Committees Scotland, the Scottish Government and a range of other partners, are the key fora for implementation of this Guidance.

Do you agree or disagree?

Stakeholder Event Themes

The main themes raised at the stakeholder events were:

There was a broad consent that the groups and organisations identified are the right ones to lead on the implementation of the guidance.

Involvement of the Chief Officers Group will be key to ensuring the right operational culture to support successful implementation is in place.

The scale of the task is considerable, including in terms of training requirements. Some smaller local authorities may welcome or need support.

The resource implications of implementation will need to be considered.

The largest proportion of respondents (48% of those answering the question) agreed that Chief Officer Groups and local Child Protection Committees, supported by Child Protection Committees Scotland, the Scottish Government and a range of other partners, are the key fora for implementation of the guidance.

Pie chart showing whether respondents agreed with the suggested approach for implementation of the Guidance:
Strongly agree 35%
Agree 48%
Disagree 8%
Strongly disagree 1%
Don't know 8%

Around 100 respondents made a further comment at Question 12.

A number of respondents made a general statement in agreement with the Chief Officer Groups and local Child Protection Committees, supported by Child Protection Committees Scotland, the Scottish Government and a range of other partners, being the key fora for implementation of the guidance. A follow on comment was that Chief Officer Groups and local Child Protection Committees bring together a range of partners within localities who know their communities. It was also reported that recent scrutiny activity has found well-functioning Chief Officer Groups and Child Protection Committees to be critical in leading improvements in child protection practice.

However, there was a call for clarification about who would be included in the 'range of other partners' referred to in the consultation paper and in Question 12.

It was noted that a multi-agency approach will be vital and pivotal to the successful implementation of the guidance. Both those who had agreed and disagreed at this question sometimes went on to discuss some of the underlying principles or structures that should underpin the implementation of the guidance. Connected to this was a disappointment that the guidance does not provide a clear outline or intention of the role of Scottish Government in respect of child protection.

Another theme was in relation to the commitments to strong and value-based leadership set out in The Promise'[9]. Further comments included that strategic leadership will be needed to take forward some of the very complex challenges highlighted by The Promise. For example: to change the understanding of risk in Scotland and to balance the rights of the child with a potential need for protection; and to build capacity, confidence and the ability of the workforce to further develop an already skilled approach to high quality risk assessment and planning.

Related to these overarching issues was a concern about the status of the guidance and that, because it is non-statutory, there could be variation in how agencies engage with it. References to 'direction' in the guidance were taken as meaning there is a clear expectation that the guidance will be followed, and it was noted that it is likely to form the basis of scrutiny by inspection bodies. Given this, it was suggested that:

  • A clearer statement of expectation from the Scottish Government should be included at the start of the guidance document.
  • The Scottish Government should commit to resourcing and facilitating the work necessary to make the guidance real for all of Scotland's children.
  • The collective responsibilities and accountabilities of all relevant partners needs to be clearly set out.

However, a different perspective was that local areas need to be given discretion to decide to what extent the guidance is implemented, depending on their local practices, with a one size fits all approach described as not helpful.

The learning available on what has been successful in multi-agency partnerships formed via Child Protection Committees was noted. It was also suggested that part of the experience and learning from children's professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic has been the perceived absenteeism of Adult Services in supporting adults with children who have been identified as requiring further support or protection measures. Whilst recognising the impact of the pandemic on all services, this was seen as highlighting the requirement to implement and interface the guidance within the existing national and local frameworks for Adult Services and Adult Support and Protection.

It was suggested that implementation will require a cohesive strategic governance framework and that this will not only sit with Chief Officer Groups and local Child Protection Committees. One suggestion was that a Public Protection / Protecting People approach should be taken, both nationally and locally, and that this should involve all the Public Protection / Protecting People Partnerships. In addition to Chief Officers Groups and Child Protection Committees, suggestions included:

  • Adult Protection Committees.
  • Alcohol and Drugs Partnerships.
  • Violence Against Women Partnerships.
  • Community Safety.
  • Community Justice and MAPPA.
  • Early Years and Early Intervention Boards.
  • Corporate Parenting Boards.
  • Integrated Joint Boards.
  • Community Planning Partnerships.

A number of respondents identified sectors or key agencies that they saw as key to successful implementation. Suggestions for sectors that should be involved included:

  • Education, including representatives of the independent school sector.
  • Health. Specific suggestions included that speech and language therapists and allied health professionals should be seen as key players.
  • The third sector, including third sector interfaces.
  • Sporting bodies.

The importance of involving and engaging with operational staff was also highlighted.

Suggestions for other agencies or organisations that should be involved included:

  • Children's Hearings Scotland. This included at a local level.
  • Scottish Association for Social Work.
  • Social Work Scotland.
  • The Care Inspectorate.
  • The Scottish Social Services Council.

Returning to The Promise, the importance of the guidance being owned by those it applies to – children and families – was highlighted. It was suggested that it would be helpful to understand how Scottish Government, in partnership with services, intends to support children and families to understand the guidance.

Further comments relating to how the guidance should be implemented included that:

  • The approach should be collaborative and co-ordinated at a regional and national level.
  • There should be a formal launch, and a robust communication strategy or plan. Coverage should include an indication of when local areas are expected to implement the new guidance.
  • There is a need to offer guidance and clarity for work across partner agencies to reduce the variability in the interpretation of training, policies and programmes.
  • The Care Inspectorate reported that it is committed to supporting improvement and the implementation of the guidance through its approach to scrutiny and through providing support and improvement advice via the link inspector allocated to each local authority area.
  • Chief Officer Groups and local Child Protection Committees should be supported, including by offering training and opportunities to make connections.
  • National training modules should be developed, in conjunction with the third sector, in order that there is buy in and consistency of key elements, such as culture, principles, values and key processes (such as information sharing) applied everywhere.

There was also support for a lifetime management plan detailing how often the guidance will be refreshed and who will be responsible for undertaking this task.

In terms of timescales for the implementation, it was suggested that they should:

  • Be ambitious but realistic.
  • Reflect the range of activity required, and view implementation as a process rather than an event. It will be important to allow sufficient time to work through the process.
  • Take account of the particular challenges for smaller local authorities with limited resources to allocate to preparation and implementation.

Many respondents were clear that the way in which the guidance is implemented in practice at local level will be crucial to achieving the improvements in the protection of children to which the revised guidance aspires. There was a call for the resources and investment required for local areas to develop, analyse, and improve current policy and practice to be considered, and it was suggested that the changes to practice required will be more significant in some areas than in others.

Respondents identified a range of specific activities or support that will be required for successful implementation of the guidance across local areas. At a local level, these included:

  • Putting in place a change team with the appropriate range of skills to initiate and sustain change and improvement efforts.
  • Carrying out an assessment of to what extent current local strategy, procedures, guidance and practice is aligned with the new guidance. One suggestion was that local areas will require external facilitation to explore how their system currently works, what particular aspects need to change and to provide the support for a stage-based implementation plan that develops a new system.
  • Reviewing and revision of local procedures and guidance as required. Including signposting and connection of local guidance to key areas of the national guidance.
  • Awareness raising work and planning for the introduction of new ways of working, including training for staff.

A number of the other suggestions also related to training programmes or requirements and included that:

  • The new guidance will need to be incorporated into relevant improvement plans, including learning and development activity.
  • Existing training programmes and resources, including websites etc., will need to be revised to reflect the new guidance.
  • Across sector training should be provided to help reinforce that child protection is everybody's responsibility, not just that of Social Work, Health and the Police.
  • Training should be child-centred, involve lived experience, be intersectional and recognise the diversity of children who are subject to child protection processes.
  • It should include training on children's rights and what these mean for child protection, as well as how to effectively facilitate children's participation in decision-making.

Specific suggestions as to how local areas could or should be supported with implementation included providing a briefing document on the specific changes from the 2014 guidance, highlighting where these changes will impact on operational practice.