National guidance for child protection 2021: consultation report
Annex B: Scottish Government Response to the Consultation

Annex B: Scottish Government Response to the Consultation

Q1: Advice and Accessibility – This guidance seeks to provide advice to local partnerships and agencies to inform the development of local guidance, and has been structured in sections that are intended to be standalone and accessible to practitioners seeking advice on particular aspects of practice.

a) In your view, does the guidance fulfil these objectives?

b) If you do not think the guidance fully fulfils these objectives, or if any sections are not sufficiently standalone please explain your view and suggest how improvements could be made.

Summary of key themes from analysis report: The guidance was described as comprehensive and thorough, but this inevitably means it is a long and relatively complex document. Online publication, including the use of hyperlinks, will help readers navigate the document and developing tailored/accessible versions for key groups – such as children and families – will be important.

It was suggested that the guidance is likely to be a helpful source document for partnerships when shaping their local guidance. However, there was also a concern that the intended audience is not clear and that it is a mixture of strategic and operational guidance. Meeting the needs of a very wide audience was acknowledged as challenging, including because it may mean that the document cannot be too specific or prescriptive.

Scottish Government response: Our aim is to make the National Guidance as accessible as possible. The Guidance will be web-based, published on the Scottish Government website in HTML, as a PDF, and as a PageFlip document. These formats will give users an option for how they engage with the Guidance. It will be navigable, searchable, and mobile friendly. Hyperlinks will be included throughout the Guidance to connect different sections, and to link to external resources. The Guidance will be updated, where required, to ensure that it is current with legislative, policy and practice developments. The Scottish Government is committed to a regular review of the Guidance.

The Guidance underpins local multi-agency child protection procedures, guidance and training which will need to be updated as result of the revision. Practitioners in particular roles in every area will need to engage with the detail of the full guidance to consider where local adaptations are required. There will be a need for adaptation and change of local guidance, procedures and practice to align with the revised national guidance and then subsequently implement those adaptations and changes. Child Protection Committees, supported by Child Protection Committees Scotland, the Scottish Government and a range of other partners will lead this work on implementation and adaptation.

The Scottish Government acknowledges that there is a strong appetite for a document that is accessible to children and families, and that explains the key aspects of protective responses. Following publication, an early action will be to co-produce a "Guide to the Guidance" for children and families. This will include engaging with children and families to find out what they would find to be most useful.

The audience of the Guidance is broad. It describes the responsibilities and expectations for all involved in protecting children in Scotland, and states that everyone has a role in protecting children from harm. It seeks to balance our aspirations and direction of travel whilst providing practitioners with what they need to do their jobs in the current context.

Q2: Legislative and Policy Development – This revised guidance seeks to reflect legislative and policy developments since 2014 and include relevant learning from practice and research.

a) Are you aware of any additional legislative or policy developments, research or practice that should be included?

b) If so please provide further details.

Summary of key themes from analysis report: Overall, it was felt that the legislation section provides a comprehensive framework of developing local practice and that the coverage of policy themes is robust and thorough. Themes which respondents thought could be given more prominence included The Promise, The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), transitions to adult services and the role of Education Services. It was noted that the Guidance, and in particular the coverage of policy and legislation, will need to be kept up to date in order to remain relevant and at its most useful.

Scottish Government response: We have engaged directly with some respondents to better understand their views and reflect them in the final Guidance. Some text, including the role of Education in Part 2A, has been reordered or strengthened to give greater prominence where appropriate.

We have also engaged with The Promise Scotland who have helped to ensure that links with The Promise are well embedded throughout the Guidance and that language in relation to voice, workforce supervision and poverty have been strengthened. We have incorporated suggestions from the Children and Young People's Commissioner to further strengthen the focus on rights, relationships, collaboration and support for families, building on strengths. A new graphic in Part 1 has been included which pulls these themes together.

The Guidance now gives greater prominence to the direction of travel, reiterating our commitment to the ambitions of The Promise and other strategic developments whilst ensuring that it is aligned with the current context that practitioners work in.

A supporting narrative has been developed for use in wider communications around the launch of the revised Guidance which is intended to reiterate the commitment to the Promise vision and set out how our approach to child protection in Scotland aligns with and supports strategic developments. The narrative is available as a supporting document on the Guidance website.

The Scottish Government is committed to a regular review of the Guidance to ensure that it is current with legislative, policy and practice developments.

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.

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

b) Please explain your answer.

Summary of key themes from analysis report: Respondents generally thought that the revised guidance is fully integrated with the language and core components of the Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) practice model. It was suggested that 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', but that there could be greater clarity on the named person. 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.

Scottish Government response: Following a break due to COVID-19, work on the co-production of refreshed GIRFEC policy, statutory and practice guidance has restarted and will be published in 2021. These will reflect the role of GIRFEC in keeping with The Promise, UNCRC incorporation and learning from the COVID-19 pandemic. The materials will include an information Sharing Charter and practice guidance to provide clarity to organisations on the appropriate circumstances and considerations regarding sharing information with partners. These will be aligned with the revised National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland.

We have worked with Scottish Government GIRFEC policy leads and legal directorate colleagues to revise the sections on named person and information sharing. Wording on named person has been revised to provide clarity about the non-statutory status of the role without undermining the intentions of this function.

The supporting narrative reiterates our commitment to delivering transformational change in the way that children are supported and protected. The National Guidance sets protection of children from significant harm from abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence within a continuum of proportionate, rights-based response to support families and prevent harm. We are making progress but have more to do to improve our approach to family support, and improve child protection investigation, assessment and planning.

Q4: Practices and Processes – Part 3 seeks to accurately and proportionately describe the practice and processes critical in the protection of children.

a) Are there any practices or processes that are not fully or clearly described in the guidance?

b) If so, please state which processes/practices are not fully or clearly described and suggest how the description could be improved.

Summary of key themes from analysis report: The guidance seeks to accurately and proportionately describe the practice and processes critical to the protection of children. Many of the general comments acknowledged the prescriptive nature of the relevant sections of the guidance. Although some felt this will support consistency in practice across Scotland, there was also a concern that maintaining local flexibility, and reflecting the contextual differences in various areas, may be challenging.

There was an acknowledgment that child protection work can leave children and families feeling disempowered; ensuring they are at the centre is a challenge for all partners. The inclusion of a distinct section on the principles of involving children and families in child protection processes was therefore welcomed. However, it was felt that the guidance could do more to ensure that the experiences, needs and 'voice' of children and families are integrated into the Initial Referral Discussion (IRD) process in particular.

Scottish Government response: With regards to implementation of the Guidance, we recognise that there should be a balance between national consistency and local flexibility. Of fundamental importance is that all children should have their rights to support and protection upheld, and should be able to expect a consistent standard of support and protection irrespective of where they live. We have discussed this with the Children and Young People's Commissioner's Office and the National Child Protection Leadership Group. There is agreement that there should be an appropriate level of top-down prescription of minimum standards so that every child in Scotland can expect a consistent experience, while allowing a degree of local variability in implementation of those standards. There should be a clear articulation between local and national guidance with local areas able to describe the reasons for divergent arrangements or practice.

The Guidance acknowledges that in rural and island areas, access to assessment and support services may be reduced, and therefore child protection structures may require tailored adaptation. The Guidance provides clarity on shared responsibilities and standards across diverse structures, and provides prompts for consideration of specific rural and island challenges in various contexts.

The Guidance advocates an approach that is rights-based, collaborative, has a focus on relationships and support for families, and seeks to build on strengths. The voices and experience of children and families have been integrated throughout the Guidance.

A Children's Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment (CRWIA) and an Island Communities Impact Assessment (ICIA) have been undertaken and published alongside the Guidance.

A set of practice insights have been developed by practitioners, service managers and academics on some specific topics. The experience of children and families is integrated directly in some and indirectly in all. The practice insights provide practitioners with additional detail and links to research, and are intended to:

  • illustrate and explain key practice considerations
  • offer a resource, in the form of windows on positive practice
  • prompt reflection, by providing perspectives from specific services
  • signpost selected sources that support practice development

This includes a practice insight on 'Inter-agency Referral Discussion (IRD) and progression to Joint Investigative Interview (JII)', which emphasises the direct correlation between a child's participation in a JII and the core principles of UNCRC, notably the child's right to express their views as formulated in Article 12. The practice insight outlines indicators of positive practice for IRDs and each stage of the JII process.

There are a further two practice insights on child participation and engagement: 'Child participation: sharing a child's protection plan with a child' which is about making a child protection plan meaningful to a child; and 'Participation and engagement' which shares the views of children and adults with lived experience of child protection processes in relation to decision-making and planning, and keeping children safe.

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

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

b) If No or To Some Extent, please suggest how this section could be improved

Summary of key themes from analysis report: A new section provides advice about child protection assessment practice. Many respondents welcomed the guidance on assessment, finding it comprehensive, clear and easy to understand. Some respondents commented that there could be greater clarity on incorporating the UNCRC into assessment in practice. It was also suggested that there should be reference to models of assessment practice other than those presented, to avoid those included in the guidance being seen as the preferred model.

The inclusion throughout the guidance of information on trauma-informed approaches was welcomed. However, it was noted that the trauma references could be more specific to assessment and could be strengthened.

Scottish Government response: References to UNCRC have been threaded throughout the Guidance. Following the consultation, we have repositioned or augmented phrasing to further strengthen the focus on rights.

In Part 2B we make it clear that the specific models of assessment practice are examples, and that there are a range of approaches. The Guidance does not advocate the use of any specific approach. However, it does state that "Effective engagement to reduce risk is more likely within approaches which stress respectful and rights-based communication with children and families, build upon strengths that have been evidenced, address need and risk, and work with the interaction of relationships and factors in the child's world."

Reference to trauma-informed approach are included throughout the core guidance and in some of the practice insights, including links to literature and resources should practitioners want to find out more.

Q6: Description of child protection processes and procedure – This National Guidance covers the consideration, assessment, planning and actions that are required, when there are concerns that a child may be at risk of harm. It also provides direction where child protection procedures are initiated. This is when Police, Social Work or Health determine that a child may have been abused or may be at risk of significant harm and an Inter-agency Referral Discussion (IRD) will take place.

a) Are the processes and procedures that lead to and follow IRD clearly described within the Guidance?

b) Please provide additional comments.

Summary of key themes from analysis report: There was a concern that the IRD and Joint Investigative Interviewing processes set out are prescriptive and that this could present challenges for some local areas. A connected suggestion was that the potential for local variations should be acknowledged through the inclusion of a statement that Child Protection Committees, and their constituent members, will be accountable for the adoption (or not) of the processes.

The importance of relationships between practitioners and families, along with person-centred risk management that keeps children safe and promotes their wellbeing, was highlighted; it was suggested that this could be more clearly acknowledged within the Guidance. It was also suggested that there could be greater emphasis on a strengths-based approach, as the biggest influence on the protection of children.

Scottish Government response: The aim is that every child in Scotland should receive a consistent experience while allowing a degree of local variability in how those standards are implemented. The National Child Protection Leadership Group has agreed that there should be a clear articulation between local and national guidance with local areas able to describe the reasons for divergent arrangements or practice.

The Guidance emphasises a child-centred approach throughout, and the importance of relationships between practitioners, families and children. Included in the introduction are expectations from children and parents who may be involved in child protection processes. In addition to a strong focus throughout on the rights of children, the Guidance also emphasises the rights and responsibilities of parents.

It locates child protection within the continuum of Getting it right for every child. In doing so, it recognises that the level of risk a child is exposed to can shift, often rapidly, as circumstances change or information emerges. The GIRFEC approach promotes and supports planning for services to be provided in the way which best safeguards, supports and promotes the wellbeing of children, and ensures that any action to meet needs is taken at the earliest appropriate time to prevent acute needs arising.

We have incorporated suggestions from the Children and Young People's Commissioner to further strengthen the focus on rights, relationships, collaboration and support for families, building on strengths. An additional graphic has been added to Part 1 which draws on the work of the Children and Families Collective Leadership Group, The Promise, and is bounded by core considerations of UNCRC. It pulls together theme of GIRFEC, UNCRC, The Promise and family support that exists throughout the Guidance.

There is a section in Part 2B which provides examples of strength-based approaches which could be used in collaborative assessment and planning.

Q7: Integration of health guidance – We have integrated previously separate guidance for health practitioners into the revised guidance and more clearly defined the key role of health in protecting children at risk of harm from abuse or neglect.

Do you have any comments on specific aspects for health practitioners?

Summary of key themes from analysis report: The integration of health guidance into the revised child protection guidance was generally welcomed, including because the approach acknowledges the key role of health professionals, widens the audience for the guidance and supports multi-agency working. The recognition of health professionals as full partners in the IRD process was also welcomed. However, some respondents questioned whether incorporating the health guidance into the wider child protection guidance may make it harder for health professionals to access the information they require, and which is most relevant to them.

Scottish Government response:

Purpose for incorporating the health guidance

A network of health advisers have given advice with regard to the integration of the health guidance. The Guidance has been strengthened in relation to the role, function and contribution of health staff/designated services to child protection processes. This underlines the multi-agency nature of child protection across statutory and non-statutory partners with health (and education) having an equal status alongside social work and police who have statutory responsibilities in particular circumstances.

Membership of the Guidance implementation steering group will include representatives from health. Leaders, managers, and practitioners in health will need to engage with the full Guidance in order to consider how their guidance, procedures and practice will need to be adapted and changed.

The Guidance will be web-based, published on the Scottish Government website in HTML, as a PDF, and as a PageFlip document. These formats will give users an option for how they engage with the Guidance. It will be navigable, searchable, and mobile friendly. Hyperlinks will be included throughout the guidance to connect different sections, and to link to external resources.

Work is also underway to more effectively and consistently support health staff in the protection of children. This involves the development of a national education and learning strategy in partnership with NHS Education for Scotland, and the development and implementation of an NHS Scotland policy for child protection, incorporating an accountability framework for Health Boards Work which will support NHS Chief Executives in assuring themselves of the adequacy of their child and adult protection arrangements.

Q8: Neglect – The draft National Guidance defines 'neglect' as child abuse, where it:

"Consists in persistent failure to meet a child's basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child's health or development. There can also be single instances of neglectful behaviour that cause significant harm. Neglect can arise in the context of systemic stresses such as poverty and is an indicator of support needs."

a) Do you agree with this definition?

b) Please provide additional comments.

And

Q9: Neglect – Recognising that it is a complex area we also include some discussion about whether neglect should be defined as abuse where it is "a consequence of systemic stresses such as poverty."

a) Do you agree with this approach?

Summary of key themes from analysis report: A broad and overarching theme highlighted by a number of respondents was that any definition and coverage of neglect should not infer the fault of parents and/or carers. Further comments included that it is vital that an intersectional lens is applied to any definition and where systemic stressors occur, neglect should not be defined as abuse. It was also noted that there are varying definitions of neglect across the guidance, but that a consistent definition/description would be preferable.

It was noted that the word 'neglect' is often referenced alongside abuse, and there was a concern that this could lead to an over identification of neglect as a conscious abusive activity and reduce consideration of neglect as a reflection of either emotional or practical parenting capacity, including but not exclusively related to poverty. The importance of focusing on harm, or risk of harm, experienced by the child, irrespective of the motive of the parents or carers and the associated stressors affecting the family, was also highlighted. However, it was acknowledged that the response within a child protection plan will vary depending on the contextual circumstances.

Scottish Government response: We have changed the wording to add a clear message that there is no assumed link between poverty and neglect. The importance of assessing the impact of all structural factors has been reiterated and we have incorporated text from The Promise in relation to poverty exacerbating stresses and risks on the advice of The Promise Scotland.

The definition of neglect has been made consistent throughout the Guidance.

To emphasise this and match the structure of Part 4, the title has been changed from "Specific areas of concern" to "Areas of need and specific concern."

Two practice insights on neglect have been developed: 'Identifying and addressing neglect: applying the Graded Care Profile' and 'Addressing Neglect and Enhancing Wellbeing (ANEW).'

Q10: Pre-birth assessment and support – Part 4 of the National Guidance sets out the context in which action is required to keep an unborn baby safe. Part 3 sets out the processes for this.

a) Do these parts of the guidance clearly and fully set out the context and processes?

b) If answering To Some Extent or No, please detail why.

Summary of key themes from analysis report: The inclusion of a section on pre-birth assessment and support was generally welcomed, although it was also suggested that there needs to be a clear focus on pre-birth support throughout the Guidance. There was particular support for the focus on earlier intervention, including that a pre-birth meeting should be held as soon as possible. However, there was also a call for some flexibility to enable well-established, and positively inspected, local practices to continue.

A number of respondents addressed the timing and timescales of different aspects of practice, including in relation to IRDs. A general observation was that the timescales set out within this section require further consultation and clarification. Other comments included that the role of the father could be strengthened.

Scottish Government response: The aim is that every child in Scotland should receive a consistent experience while allowing a degree of local variability in how those standards are implemented. The National Child Protection Leadership Group has agreed that there should be a clear articulation between local and national guidance with local areas able to describe the reasons for divergent arrangements or practice.

The Guidance includes reference to pre-birth assessment and support in Part 4, but also throughout. It states that IRDs must be convened as soon as reasonably practicable, and that they should be carried out on unborn babies that may be exposed to current or future risk. Following further consultation, it was agreed that 28 working days between an IRD and a Child Protection Planning Meeting is too long. The Guidance has been updated to state that it should be 28 calendar days

A practice insight, 'Pre-birth assessment, early support and planning', has been developed. It draws on learning from evaluation of an inter-agency approach to pre-birth support, and on the experience of a multi-disciplinary early years assessment team. While such teams may not be consistently available, the principles of early, proportionate and collaborative inter-agency support are broadly relevant. The practice note should be read with reference to the section on pre-birth assessment and support in the Guidance.

Q11: Specific areas of concern (Part 4)

a) Do all sections of Part 4 of the National Guidance address the specific areas of concern appropriately?

b) Please let us know any sections you do not think address the specific area of concern appropriately and suggest how these could be improved.

Summary of key themes from analysis report: Part 4 of the Guidance covers specific concerns, circumstances, forms of abuse and neglect, and signposts further resources. Part 4 was described as useful, helpful or accessible, and the comprehensive set of issues covered was welcomed. However, there was also a concern that there could be a risk that practitioners focus on the information in Part 4 and inadvertently overlook valuable information in earlier sections.

Further comments included that the section on protecting children with disabilities should be set more clearly within a children's rights framework, and that the section on domestic abuse should set out the principles of Safe and Together. This latter point echoed other comments that the coverage of domestic abuse is insufficient across the guidance. There was a particular concern that the principle of partnering with the non-abusive parent has not been embedded.

There were also suggestions for other specific concerns that should be included within Part 4 (or possibly elsewhere across the guidance). Transitions was a frequently raised issue, and it was suggested that Part 4 may be a suitable place to include a section with a specific focus on this issue. Groups that respondents suggested should be covered included young carers and children (in families) with no recourse to public funds.

Scottish Government response: Parts 1, 2A, 2B and 3 are clearly titled and hyperlinked so that those using the document know what each Part includes and can navigate to them. The introduction to Part 4 includes a brief recap of what practitioners can find in Parts 2B and 3. There are hyperlinks throughout the document which link to different sections. Due to the length of the Guidance, it is not possible to reiterate information from previous parts in Part 4.

During the implementation stage, local areas will be considering how to adapt and change local guidance, procedures and practice to align with the revised National Guidance. In doing so, they may choose to structure their local guidance in a way that will suit their needs.

We have incorporated suggestions from the Children and Young People's Commissioner to further strengthen the focus on rights, relationships, collaboration and support for families, building on strengths.

The rights of disabled children are emphasised in the section on Protection of disabled children in Part 4. In addition, two practice insights have been developed by practitioners: 'Disabled children and child protection investigative interviews' and 'Child protection in transitions to adult life and services for disabled children.'

There is reference to transitions throughout the Guidance, recognising that periods of transition can result in heightened risk. The Guidance advocates for the need to ensure sufficient planning, continuity and consistency of support. In addition to the practice insight on transitions, a section is included in Part 4 of the Guidance on Protection in transitional phases.

The section on domestic abuse in Part 4 contains the principles of Safe and Together, including that of partnering with the non-abusive parent. Additional information and resources are available in the practice insight, 'Domestic abuse informed practice in child protection.' It is focussed on the Safe and Together Model and the Caledonian System, highlighting aspects of domestic abuse informed practice in protection of children.

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.

a) Do you agree or disagree?

b) Please explain your answer.

Summary of key themes from analysis report: Many respondents 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. It was noted that a multi-agency approach will be pivotal to the successful implementation of the guidance. However, there was a concern that the guidance does not provide a clear outline or intention of the role of Scottish Government in respect of child protection. There was also a concern that the non-statutory status of the guidance could lead to variation in how agencies engage with it.

Scottish Government response: The National Guidance underpins local multi-agency child protection procedures, guidance and training which will need to be updated as result of the revision. Planning for adaptation and implementation is being informed by the public consultation and engagement events with Child Protection Committees and practitioners; a Child Protection Committees Scotland scoping exercise and initial discussions with statutory partners, the National Guidance Steering Group and the National Child Protection Leadership Group.

Following publication of the guidance, local areas will begin the work of considering how to adapt and change local guidance, procedures and practice to align with the revised National Guidance and then subsequently implement those adaptations and changes. Child Protection Committees, supported by Child Protection Committees Scotland, the Scottish Government and a range of other partners will lead this work on implementation and adaptation.

We have established a small implementation steering group to undertake detailed implementation planning as local areas engage with the guidance and a fuller picture of support needs for practitioners, managers and leaders emerges. This group will consider the appropriate balance between national supports where common needs are identified and developments that are taken forward at local or regional level through adaptation or augmentation of existing structures or programmes. Consideration of local resourcing requirements will be an early focus for this group.

There is variation across the country in the scale of change required – for some there will be only small scale adaptations to existing practice and for others more significant change over a longer period.

The aim is that every child in Scotland should receive a consistent experience while allowing a degree of local variability in how those standards are implemented. The National Child Protection Leadership Group has agreed that there should be a clear articulation between local and national guidance with local areas able to describe the reasons for divergent arrangements or practice.

Q13: COVID-19 – During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been necessary to adapt practice to ensure continuity of child protection processes. Learning from the pandemic and examples of best practice will be incorporated into the National Guidance.

a) Are there adapted processes that you would like to see continued?

b) Please provide further information

Summary of key themes from analysis report: There were frequent reports that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to new ways of working and has accelerated changes to ways of meeting and communicating in particular. It will be important to consider which of those changes have been positive and led to more flexible and potentially efficient working. The consensus was that at least some of the practice changes – especially in relation to remote meetings – should continue post-pandemic.

Remote IRDs were generally reported to have been particularly successful, with increased attendance rates from across a range of key agencies. Children, young people, and families have often found online engagement to be less stressful and a preferred way of taking part. However, it is not right for everyone, and the needs of individuals will always need to be considered. Blended approaches are likely to be needed going forward.

Scottish Government response: A range of innovative practice emerged across local areas during the pandemic, as the Guidance was being revised. The Guidance includes a section in Part 3 on Learning from adapted practice during the COVID-19 pandemic. It highlights the necessity during the pandemic to consider the decision to place a child on the child protection register through multi-agency consensus rather than through a face to face meeting, perhaps at IRD, and how that practice may be sustained post-pandemic.

The Guidance links to the COVID-19 Supplementary National Child Protection Guidance which was first published on 31 March 2020 and has subsequently been updated to reflect changes to guidance, practice and legislation during the pandemic. The supplementary guidance outlines relevant expectations and adaptations, and is still in place to support leaders, managers, and practitioners. It remains under review and will be updated as necessary.

Included in Part 4 of the National Guidance is a section on Child protection in the context of disasters and public emergencies, of which the COVID-19 pandemic is an example. The Guidance emphasises importance of good professional judgement, based on assessment and evidence, informed by the perspectives of the team around the child, including the child and family.

The child protection system was able to flex in several ways to accommodate the crisis, and there was a high level of cooperation. Local areas will continue to share best practice via CPC Scotland and evaluate what adaptations have worked well and should continue. Consideration of which practice changes should continue post-pandemic may be considered in local areas as they review and adapt their local guidance as part of the implementation of the National Guidance. The Scottish Government is committed to a regular review of the Guidance to ensure that it is current with legislative, policy and practice. Best practice that becomes embedded may be included in future iterations of the Guidance.

Q14: Do you have any further comments on the National Guidance?

Summary of key themes from analysis report:

Around 105 respondents made a comment at Question 14. Many of these comments addressed issues covered elsewhere within the analysis. The analysis presented below focuses on additional issues raised.

Considering Complaints

One theme raised concerned complaints. The public body with a role in considering complaints about social work care, including matters of child protection, noted that relevant themes from their casework include:

  • Failure to listen to and take the views of children into account.
  • Failures to gather all relevant evidence and provide a clear rationale for key child protection decisions.

They welcomed the shift in tone and emphasis in the draft guidance to collaboration and transparency, the focus on children's rights and the recognition of the importance of learning. However, they also made suggestions for improvement including:

  • Recognising the importance of actively encouraging the raising of concerns and the importance of being open to and learning from them would be welcome.
  • Referring to the importance of seeking a resolution-focused and restorative approach when there has been conflict or a breakdown of relationships. This could be positively supported by reference to available resources, particularly from agencies such as Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) and the Children and Young Person's Commissioner for Scotland.
  • In the section on learning culture, reference learning from complaints when describing the range of mechanisms that should inform learning. It may also be appropriate to note that, to be completely successful in maintaining a learning culture, there is a need to provide appropriate support to staff when they are complained about.

Suggestions from other respondents included that:

  • Child Protection Committees should adopt a robust complaints system incorporating a strict system of reparation when the Child Protection Committee's and associated agencies' involvement has resulted in significant harm to the family or child.
  • The Scottish Government should consider overhauling the current complaints system operated by local authorities to make them more accountable to the public.

Information sharing

The inclusion in the guidance of references to GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA 2018) was welcomed. However, it was noted that at the end of the UK's transition period when exiting the EU, the GDPR was incorporated into UK data protection law as the 'UK GDPR' and this sits alongside the DPA 2018. This should be updated within the text of the guidance.

In their response, the public body whose role is to uphold information rights in the public interest (The Information Commissioner's Office), raised a range of specific points covering four areas in particular: the first principle of the UK GDPR (lawfulness, fairness and transparency); Privacy by Design and Default; the Data Sharing Code of Practice; and their new detailed right of access guidance. (Please note that their full response can be accessed on the Scottish Government's website).

Impact Assessments

There were a small number of comments relating to impact assessments for the Guidance. These included a query as to whether a Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment has been undertaken as part of the development of this guidance. If it has not, it was suggested that the assessment should be carried out as a matter of urgency.

It was noted that from an island authority perspective, it will be important to understand the conclusion of the Island Communities Impact Assessment. It was suggested that the strengthening of the understanding of rural practice will be crucial to ensuring the guidance has efficacy across Scotland, and not just in urban areas.

On a similar theme, it was suggested that the coverage of service delivery in rural areas could be strengthened. It was stressed that all children deserve a high standard of care and support, regardless of where they live, and there was a call for the guidance to make this clear.

Other Issues

Respondents also highlighted a range of other issues which should be covered within the guidance. These included:

  • Staff support: One of the gaps is an acknowledgment of the difficulties and stresses that working in child protection situations can place on staff - whether that is Social Work, specialist NHS staff and Police who deal with it daily or colleagues in other agencies who may only deal with it rarely. The importance of good support, opportunities for debriefs and a framework that helps staff to cope with what can be traumatic for them is very important. Support to staff who find themselves in Learning Review situations should also be acknowledged.
  • Training: A lack of reference to training in the guidance, including supervision, was said to be a concern. It is critical that training is jointly delivered between health and social care staff to build collective knowledge, working relationships and understanding among professionals of the whole facet of impacts neglect and abuse can have on children.
  • Intention: There is a need to revisit intention. It was felt that in many scenarios descriptions, such as 'sibling rivalry', are used to explain what might otherwise be termed abuse.
  • Children with learning disabilities: Connected to intention (above), it was reported that the applicability of child protection guidance is not always clear when intent cannot be established. It was reported that often children are at risk because their parents are unable to meet their highly complex care needs. This includes risks associated with lack of awareness of common dangers, self-injury or aggression to others (including siblings). As there is not intentional neglect/harm, these needs tend not to fit into child protection frameworks and there can be high levels of ongoing risk and actual harm to the child and/or other siblings that are not picked up. In addition, suspicion of abuse is often not properly investigated due to children's communication difficulties.
  • Looked-after children: There is a need for specific approaches for providing care and support to looked-after children, particularly when their situation has arisen as a result of abuse. There needs to be a clear set of guidance for mental health practitioners to support this group, including through Children's Hearings, to ensure that specialist support enables children and young people to recover as best as they can.
  • MAPPA: MAPPA is only referred to as related to children who are at risk from perpetrators of sexual violence. There is no mention of young people who may be managed as part of a MAPPA process.
  • Role of independent advocacy: The role of independent advocacy, including in supporting children and young people with formal child protection meetings, care experienced parents and care experienced individuals within child protection processes were all highlighted.
  • Independent Children's Safeguarders: Specific mention should be made of the role of Independent children's safeguarders. They are distinct from the advocacy role which is mentioned and are appointed by the Sheriff or the Children's Hearing. They have a key role in the Children's Hearing system and often raise child protection concerns which have not been highlighted by other agencies or individuals.
  • Faith organisations: The 2014 guidance made comment about faith organisations having employed professional staff to undertake child and adult protection (more commonly referred to as safeguarding work). This seems to have been lost in the update.
  • Safeguarding and sport: Organisations sitting outside of the sport's governing body network do not have access to the same level of safeguarding support and over-sight and may have less robust safeguarding governance in place.

List of consultees:

The omission of some organisations from the consultation list, notably some religious groups such as the Salvation Army and the Church of Scotland along with some of the smaller support charities, was seen as surprising.

Scottish Government response:

Considering complaints

In Part 2A, phrasing has been altered on the role of the Children and Young People's Commissioner and text has been added with regards to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman. Text has also been added in Part 2B regarding openness to learning from complaints.

Information sharing

We have added some additional information into the section on information sharing in Part 1:

  • To reflect the need to record the legal basis for information sharing
  • To reflect the justifications for sharing of special category for individuals above and below age 18
  • Additional sentence in relation to when seeking consent is not appropriate
  • Included references to ICO Guidance on the criteria for sharing special category information

Impact assessments

The following initial assessments have been undertaken and will be published alongside the Guidance:

  • Children's Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment
  • Equality Impact Assessment
  • Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment
  • Islands Communities Impact Assessment
  • Data Protection Impact Assessment
  • Fairer Scotland Duty screening

We will continue to review and update these impact assessments where required during the implementation of the guidance.

The aim is that every child in Scotland should receive a consistent experience while allowing a degree of local variability in how those standards are implemented. Consideration of resourcing will be included in planning for implementation, and work is being done across Scottish Government, with input from the Children and Families Collective Leadership Group, and the National Child Protection Leadership Group, to look at resourcing requirements with regards to the implementation of The Promise, incorporation of UNCRC, the GIRFEC refresh, strengthening of family support, and implementation of the Guidance.

Other issues

These issues were taken into consideration when engaging with stakeholders to finalise the Guidance. For example, with regards to safeguarding in sport, additional sentences have been included in the section on 'Sport organisations and clubs' in Part 2A:

"As in other activities and contexts, abuse of trust can occur in sport of all kinds and at all levels . Those responsible for the organisation of activities, regulated or otherwise, should ensure that safeguarding is integral to practice in recruitment, training and oversight of staff and volunteers; and that children know how and with whom they can voice questions and concern."

Revised National Guidance on MAPPA is due to be published in 2021. There is a section on MAPPA in Part 2A, including reference to children and young people who offend.

The Guidance references support for staff, including supervision, and training in Parts 1, 2A, 2B and 3. The development and delivery of training is a function of Child Protection Committees in their continuous improvement function. Consideration of staff support and training will be included in the planning and implementation of the Guidance.


Contact

Email: Child_Protection@gov.scot