National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2021 - updated 2023

This guidance describes the responsibilities and expectations for all involved in protecting children and will support the care and protection of children.

This document is part of a collection

Part 2A: Roles and responsibilities for child protection

This section outlines collective and single-agency responsibilities. It highlights key roles and wider planning links, and concludes with considerations for all services and practitioners.

Collective responsibilities

  • Leadership in child protection
  • Self-evaluation and inspection
  • Learning and development
  • Support for practitioners

Single-agency responsibilities

  • Education, early learning and childcare
  • Police
  • Health
  • Social work
  • Third Sector
  • Children’s hearings
  • Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Services
  • Carers
  • Housing Community safety, prisons, fire and rescue
  • Faith organisations Defence community
  • Culture and leisure, sports associations

Wider planning links

  • Public protection
  • Community Justice Partnerships
  • Violence Against Women Partnerships
  • Alcohol and Drug Partnerships
  • All services and practitioners

Collective Responsibilities for Child Protection

2.1 All agencies have a responsibility to recognise and actively consider potential risks to a child, irrespective of whether the child is the main focus of their involvement. There must be consideration of the needs, rights and mutual significance of siblings in any process that has a focus on a single child. (

2.2 Effective partnerships between organisations, professional bodies and the public are more likely if key roles and responsibilities are well defined and understood.

2.3 This section therefore outlines collective responsibilities for child protection. This encompasses Chief Officers, Child Protection Committees, local communities and the general public.

2.4 Effectiveness and continual improvement within child protection services relies upon:

  • collaborative leadership from chief officers and senior managers
  • planned workforce development
  • communication, information and partnership with communities
  • communication and commitment to partnership with families

2.5 Concerns about a child at risk of significant harm may come from family, friends, neighbours, carers or any other source in the community. Children may disclose abuse directly or express anxieties about their treatment indirectly.

2.6 Agencies working with children and families must provide clear and relevant information about how they work together with families and the community to promote the wellbeing and safety of children. This includes information about the ways in which early help can be provided to avoid escalating need and risk, and about relevant protective processes when this becomes appropriate.

2.7 Relevant information includes advice about:

  • what to do if a member of the public has concerns about a child
  • sharing of information between core agencies, as defined in Part 3 of this Guidance, if there is concern about risk of harm to a child (as necessary, in a manner that is proportionate, relevant, accurate, timely and secure)
  • next steps and follow-up when concerns are reported
  • the role and responsibilities of named persons or of those professionals in universal services who hold a similar role

Leadership in child protection: Chief Officer’s Groups and Child Protection Committees

2.8 The roles, responsibilities and accountability of Chief Officers and Child Protection Committees have been reviewed and revised. They are outlined in the document entitled Protecting Children and Young People: Child Protection Committee and Chief Officer Responsibilities (Scottish Government, 2019).

Chief Officers

2.9 Police Scotland, NHS Boards and local authorities are the key agencies that have individual and collective responsibilities for child protection. They must account for this work and its effectiveness.

2.10 The Chief Constable and the Chief Executives of health boards and of local authorities are referred to as Chief Officers. They are the members of Chief Officer’s Groups, responsible for ensuring that their agency, individually and collectively, works to protect children and young people as effectively as possible.

2.11 The Chief Officers of Health and Social Care Partnerships (Integration Joint Boards) are accountable to the Chief Executives of the local authority and the health board that make up their partnership for their role in relation to child protection and other aspects of public protection. These Chief Officers must be appropriately linked to local governance arrangements for the protection of children in their area. This applies regardless of whether children’s services are in the scheme of integration.

2.12 Local Police Commanders and Chief Executives of health boards and local authorities are responsible for ensuring that their agencies, individually and collectively, work to protect children and young people as effectively as possible. They also have responsibility for integrating the contribution of those agencies not under their direct control, including the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service; and they will engage with the Third Sector and private sector as appropriate.

2.13 Chief Officers are individually and collectively responsible for the leadership, direction and scrutiny of their respective child protection services and their Child Protection Committees (CPCs).

Child Protection Committees

2.14 Child Protection Committees (CPCs) were established in each local authority in Scotland in 1991. CPCs are the key local bodies for developing, implementing and improving child protection strategy across and between agencies, bodies and the local community. Membership of CPCs should be multi-agency, as stated in Protecting Children and Young People: Child Protection Committee and Chief Officer Responsibilities (Scottish Government 2019).

2.15 A CPC is expected to perform a number of crucial functions in order to jointly identify and manage the risk to children and young people, monitor and improve performance, and promote the ethos that: “It’s everyone’s job to make sure I’m alright” (Scottish Executive 2002; Scottish Government 2017). CPCs must ensure all of these functions are carried out to a high standard and are aligned to the local GIRFEC arrangements.

Chief Social Work Officers

2.16 The Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 requires local authorities to appoint a single Chief Social Work Officer (CSWO). The CSWO will advise and assist local authorities and their partners in relation to governance and fulfilment of statutory responsibilities. This includes corporate parenting, child protection, adult protection and the management of high-risk offenders, as well as the role of social work in achievement of a wide range of national and local outcomes. The CSWO also has a contribution to make in supporting overall performance improvement and management of corporate risk (The Role of Chief Social Work Officer, 2016).

2.17 NHS Boards must have designated professional leads for child protection. This is usually a Chief/Consultant/Lead Nurse, and Consultant Paediatrician. These officers have pivotal roles to play in building strong collaborative relationships with professional leads in Health and Social Care Partnerships, and with other key stakeholders. The health board accountability framework for child protection is referenced in Protecting Children and Young People: Child Protection Committee and Chief Officer Responsibilities (2019).

Self-evaluation and inspection

2.18 Self-evaluation is central to continuous improvement. It is a continuous, dynamic process which establishes a baseline from which to plan and set priorities for improvement. Used effectively, continuous self-evaluation helps to monitor progress and impact. Self-evaluation is therefore integral to the work of the child protection committee and children’s planning processes. It should not just be an episode in preparation for inspection.

2.19 The Care Inspectorate has published a Quality Framework for children and young people in need of care and protection.

2.20 This supports both self-evaluation and inspection, through identification and analysis of:

  • strengths to be maintained and areas for improvement in systems and practice
  • positive impact on and gaps within service provision for children, young people and their families

2.21 Child Protection Committees should use the quality framework to evaluate the efficacy and impact of child protection practice in their area. Through its programme of joint inspection of services for children in need of protection, the Care Inspectorate identifies key local and national messages to promote good practice and learning.


2.22 Scottish Ministers have requested the Care Inspectorate to lead a programme of joint inspections that focus on the care and protection of children and young people, and on their experience of services. These inspections are undertaken in collaboration with Education Scotland, Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS), and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS).

2.23 A self-evaluation and inspection framework informs inspection reports. These consider a continuum of services, which include prevention, support, protection and care.

2.24 Commissioner for Children and Young People in Scotland ( The general function of this office is to promote and safeguard the rights of children and young people. This includes promoting awareness and understanding of the rights of children and young people; and review of the law, policy and practice relating to the rights of children. Scotland is incorporating the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in Scots law. The Commissioner’s office has a key role in promoting the effective protection of the full range of children’s rights within protective processes.

2.25 The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman ( The SPSO’s statutory functions include providing a final stage for complaints about most devolved public services in Scotland, including (from April 2021) the role of the Independent National Whistleblowing Officer (INWO) for the NHS in Scotland. In order to promote improvement, the SPSO provides resources on approach to complaints. This includes encouragement of resolution-focussed and restorative approaches when there has been conflict. The SPSO also publishes the outcomes of individual cases, some of which involve failure to listen to and take the views of children into account; and failure to gather all relevant evidence and provide a clear rationale for key child protection decisions.

Regulatory bodies

2.26 There are number of regulatory bodies in Scotland that are relevant to child protection:

Learning and development

2.27 Single- and multi-agency agency training should be available to promote the knowledge, skills and values needed to support effective inter-disciplinary work. Child Protection Committees will ensure mechanisms are in place for the delivery and evaluation of local training. They will publish, implement, review and evaluate an inter-agency child protection training strategy.

2.28 Recognising that there are different levels of awareness and specificity in training needs within the workforce, the Scottish Government first published a National Framework for Child Protection Learning and Development in 2012. The Framework is being updated and the new version will be published in 2023.

2.29 Individual agencies are responsible for ensuring that their staff are competent and confident in carrying out their responsibilities for safeguarding and promoting children’s wellbeing.

2.30 Child Protection Committees should have an overview of the training needs of all practitioners involved in child protection activity. This includes practitioners with a particular responsibility for protecting children, such as lead professionals, named persons or other designated health and education practitioners, police, social workers and other practitioners undertaking child protection investigations or working with complex cases. Others who work directly with children, young people and parents/carers and who may be asked to contribute to assessments, will need a fuller understanding of how to work together to identify and assess concerns, and how to plan, undertake and review interventions. Practitioners who have regular contact with children as part of their role, (such as housing officers and school bus drivers), may recognise signs of abuse or neglect and should understand how they may share such concerns appropriately.

2.31 Training and development for managers is also essential, at both operational and strategic levels. As well as “foundation level” training, this may include training on joint planning and investigations, chairing multi-disciplinary meetings, supervision and support of practitioners, and decision-making. Specific training will be necessary for those managers supporting inter-agency referral discussions (IRD).

2.32 Training may be delivered in collaboration across local areas, especially where local policing divisions or health boards span more than one local authority area. The content of training must reflect core components, values and principles of the GIRFEC approach (Scottish Government 2019). They should contribute to planned and co‑ordinated transitions between services, including geographical transitions within and across local authority and board areas; and transitions to adult life and services.

2.33 Training should be relevant to different groups from statutory, Third and other sectors, including volunteers. Training must be regularly reviewed and updated to reflect research, learning from Learning Reviews (previously Significant Case Reviews), and practice experience.

2.34 A Scottish Knowledge and Skills Framework for Psychological Trauma and accompanying Trauma Training Plan, commissioned by Scottish Government and developed by NHS Education for Scotland is now accessible to the broader workforce, with a range of accompanying training resources. This is particularly relevant to child protection work and will help workers to understand the impact of trauma on children’s lives. It will also support in successfully delivering quality, evidence-based trauma-informed and trauma-responsive services to people affected by adverse experience. The Trauma Training Plan will also help managers and supervisors to identify and explore practitioners’ strengths, and address any gaps in their knowledge and skills.

2.35 A contextual understanding of child protection can be encouraged by clear leadership, training and supervision. Although every situation is unique, there may also be similar factors and experiences – such as poverty, exclusion, isolation, gender-based violence and racial discrimination – which could interact and accelerate the chemistry of some risks and harms.

Support for practitioners: supervision

2.36 Support and supervision for practitioners involved in child protection work, regardless of professional role, is critical to ensure:

  • support for those who are directly involved in child protection work, which may be distressing
  • critical reflection and two-way accountability, which enables a focus on outcomes
  • the development of good practice for individual practitioners, and improvement in the quality of the service provided by the agency

2.37 Support and supervision can be both distinctly separate and joined-up activities, depending on the situation. For some professionals, such as social workers, supervision is a formal professional requirement whereas for others, including education practitioners, it is not. Regardless of the requirement for supervision, the purpose of support and supervision in ensuring accountability for practice is relevant for anyone in a professional role with specific responsibilities for child protection. Support can also help to review the understanding of a child’s situation in the light of new information, shifting circumstances or challenges to the current assessment. The Promise underlines the centrality of supervision for the workforce, including carers.

2.38 Support and supervision should be relevant to a practitioner’s professional role and scope of practice, their responsibilities, and the intensity of their involvement in child protection. Single agencies have robust standards and procedures underpinning support and/or supervision. Established standards and models of practice provide key points of reference. Midwifery applies a restorative model of supervision. Other examples include:

2.39 Specific supervision for practitioners may be required in relation to the knowledge and skills required in the conduct of, for example, inter-agency referral discussions or Joint Investigative Interviews (JII), or in the development of specific assessment, therapeutic or management skills.

2.40 Support and supervision should provide a safe and confidential environment for discussion and reflection on the knowledge and skills informing the task, the teamwork required, and the impact of the work and engagement of each practitioner with their role.

2.41 Support and supervision should include conversations about how to continually seek the child’s view, and how to ensure that, having listened to these views, practitioners keep doing what is working, or do something different where it isn’t.

2.42 Support and supervision for practitioners may be provided within a group or team environment or in an individual setting. Some areas value inter-agency support and review in complex protection work. Informal peer supervision and support can complement formal support structures.

2.43 Whatever the model, practitioners need support to develop knowledge and skills to think analytically, critically and reflectively. They also need to be able to inform their judgement through inter-agency collaboration, and through sufficient knowledge of current research and evidence.

2.44 Support should help to ensure that:

  • practice is consistent with legal requirements, organisational policies and procedures
  • practice is underpinned by the values and core principles of GIRFEC
  • practitioners understand their roles and responsibilities, and the boundaries of their authority
  • practice is evidence-informed
  • practitioners develop skills in critical reflection about their own assumptions and values
  • the training and development needs of practitioners and supervisors are identified
  • there is structured discussion of child protection concerns, assessment and action
  • information sharing and recording is reviewed
  • there is reflection on the skills required for practitioners to engage effectively with children and their families
  • there is reasoned consideration of counter views, options and probable outcomes
  • there is reflection on teamwork and individual work impact

2.45 The following section outlines the roles and responsibilities of public services and other community services.

Single-Agency Responsibilities for Child Protection

2.46 All services and professional bodies should have clear policies in place for identifying, sharing and acting upon concerns about risk of harm to a child or children.

2.47 Each practitioner remains accountable for their own practice and must adhere to their own professional guidelines, standards and codes of professional conduct. Practitioners at all levels in all services, including Third Sector and private sector services, should have information, advice and training to make them aware of potential risks to children; and to support their knowledge and confidence about steps they might take to keep children safe.

Local authority education services

2.48 All staff working in education establishments, including early learning and childcare (ELC) settings, have a key role in the support and protection of children and young people. Day-to-day professional experience of, and relationship with children is a fundamental protective factor. All staff must be aware of, and must follow, child protection procedures.

2.49 Every school and ELC service should have a child protection co‑ordinator taking lead responsibility for child protection in the school, in liaison with the head of establishment, to whom he/she will report. The child protection lead should also engage with appropriate training and development in order to be able to respond effectively to child protection concerns, to support staff and to share learning. Education Scotland has a strategic Safeguarding Lead.

2.50 The Health & Wellbeing Across Learning: Responsibilities of All Experiences and Outcomes within Curriculum for Excellence, alongside the GIRFEC wellbeing indicators, summarises how practitioners, pupils, parents and communities must work together in protecting and promoting children’s rights, wellbeing and safety. This includes helping children develop in their ability to keep themselves and others safe; and helping them learn how to get help and support if they need it.

2.51 Some protective work is preventative and developmental. For example, ‘Personal and Social Education’ aims to provide children with the knowledge, skills and values associated with healthy choices and relationships, and preparation for adult life.

2.52 When concerns about risk of harm arise, education services are well placed to notice and respond to:

  • additional needs or factors that may impact on a child’s ability to voice concern
  • physical and emotional changes in a child that could indicate abuse or neglect
  • family, school, cultural and community context of concerns about a child or children
  • escalating support needs of a child and their family
  • risks and stresses for some children in transitional stages as they move into a new school or on to adult life and services

2.53 Children often see education staff as a trusted source of help and support in confidence. However, when there are concerns about harm to a child emerging from their presentation, or from what they have said or done, then the nominated child protection officer will be consulted without delay. All steps and actions will be recorded.

2.54 While all staff in ELC services and schools have responsibilities in relation to child protection, the named person within the GIRFEC approach has a focal role in the recognition of concerns and the co‑ordination of help and response from the service, as appropriate. Education services will share information and contribute to investigation and assessment, according to inter-agency child protection protocols, and as far as may be proportionate, relevant and lawful. A child may be referred to the Principal Reporter if there is cause to believe they may be in need of a Compulsory Supervision Order.

2.55 Education services are an essential part of inter-agency planning and support with children and their parents, whether this is within child protection processes or as part of the co‑ordinated planning within a GIRFEC approach. Community learning and development and youth work may provide significant support in planning around each child’s needs.

2.56 Where a child goes missing from education, services within local authorities will conduct investigations in line with their local policy as outlined in Part 4 of this Guidance.

2.57 Local authority education services have responsibilities towards children being home educated. Home educators and local authorities are encouraged to work together to develop trust, mutual respect and a positive relationship in the best educational interests of the child. The welfare and protection of all children, both those who attend school and those who are educated by other means, is paramount. Home education guidance for parents and local authorities is under review by Scottish Government, and the current guidance should be used until refreshed guidance is published.

2.58 Specific forms of concern require appropriate levels of awareness, knowledge and skills within an establishment. These include recognition of neglect, mental health problems, parental alcohol and drug use, under-age sexual activity, child sexual abuse and exploitation, honour-based abuse, forced marriage, female genital mutilation and bullying. Education establishments and early learning and childcare settings have a responsibility, in co‑operation with Child Protection Committees, to ensure that there are appropriate and regularly reviewed procedures and guidance in place.

Early learning and childcare

2.59 Early learning and childcare (ELC) is a service consisting of education and care for children who are under school age. All three- and four-year-olds, and certain two-year-olds, are entitled to funded ELC. Local authorities also have discretionary powers to provide ELC in addition to the funded early learning and childcare entitlement to children deemed to be ‘in need’. ELC is delivered by local authority, private and Third Sector providers, including self-employed childminders. As with any service that works directly with children and their families, ELC providers are well placed to identify concerns, offer support, and participate in plans to reduce risk as appropriate. They are also expected to have effective child protection procedures in place to ensure staff have a clear understanding of their responsibilities, and to respond appropriately.

Grant Aided Special Schools (GASS)

2.60 GASS offer specialist support services for children and young people with complex additional support needs. They are all registered charities, charge fees for their services and receive direct funding from Scottish Government. Staff working in these schools share the same responsibilities in protecting children as all staff working in local authority education services.

Independent schools

2.61 As for all staff in local authority establishments, all staff in independent and grant aided schools have a responsibility to ensure that the children in their care are not harmed. This applies to teachers and all other practitioners. The proprietors of independent schools have a responsibility to ensure that the school they are responsible for does not become objectionable on any of the grounds listed in section 99(1A) of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980. This includes ensuring that the welfare of learners is safeguarded and promoted at the school. The proprietors of independent schools have a role in overseeing their school’s child protection and safeguarding arrangements. To assist proprietors the following guidance has been provided:

2.62 The Public Services Reform (General Teaching Council for Scotland) Order 2011 and the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007 strengthened the provisions which ensure that teachers in independent schools (as well as other persons in child care positions) meet the necessary standards to enable them to work with children. As of 1 June 2021 all teachers in independent schools must be GTCS-registered prior to taking up employment in accordance with the Registration of Independent Schools (Prescribed Person) (Scotland) Regulations 2017 (as amended). Additionally, The Registration of Independent Schools (Scotland) Regulations 2006 (as amended), require that each independent school has at least one appropriately trained Child Protection Co-Ordinator (a person employed to co-ordinate and oversee matters related to child protection) and at least one appropriately trained Deputy Child Protection Co-ordinator (able to assist and deputise for the Child Protection Co-ordinator). The Regulations also require that all persons employed by or in the school, annually, complete appropriate child protection training.

2.63 Anyone who has a child protection concern about a child or young person should share information according to local multi-agency child protection processes. All agencies and organisations working with children and young people are expected to have child protection procedures in line with local multi-agency protocols, based upon the National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland. The Scottish Council for Independent Schools (SCIS) provides the sector with support and professional learning on child protection. SCIS works closely with the Boarding Schools Association (BSA), which upholds a Commitment to Care Charter (2017) encompassing child protection. BSA provides safeguarding training, advice and resources for more than 500 residential/boarding schools in the UK, including more than 20 in Scotland. Boarding and residential schools in Scotland (known as school care accommodation services) must also adhere to the requirements of the Care Inspectorate regarding notification of incidents.

2.64 As with all other education services above, independent schools are an essential part of inter-agency planning and support with children and their parents whether this is within child protection processes or part of the co-ordinated planning within a GIRFEC approach. Independent schools, like all other education services, may have an essential contribution to make to child protection processes, following a reported concern about abuse or neglect of a child, whether this concern has been raised by the education establishment itself or by others, and should therefore be involved in multi-agency processes wherever appropriate.

Police Service of Scotland (‘Police Scotland’)

2.65 The Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 places a statutory duty on police officers to, amongst other things, detect and prevent crime. Therefore child protection is a fundamental part of the duties of all police officers.

2.66 The local delivery of public protection arrangements remains the responsibility of local police commanders. Community policing teams contribute to prevention and personal safety programmes for children and young people. Every local policing division across Scotland has a dedicated Public Protection Unit staffed by specialist officers, with investigation teams and a Divisional Concern Hub. The Divisional Concern Hub functionality includes responsibility of triage, research, assessment and consideration, if appropriate, of information sharing of all identified concerns.

2.67 Police Scotland records information about individuals who are, or are perceived to be, experiencing some form of adversity and/or situational vulnerability which may impact on their current or future wellbeing. Police Scotland also records reports and action taken where an immediate crisis response has been required. This might include adult or child protection, domestic abuse, hate crime or youth offending. Details of victim’s rights under section 8 (and 9 when commenced) of the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014 would be noted. Information is recorded, assessed and shared, where appropriate, with relevant statutory agencies and/or Third Sector/advocacy organisations.

2.68 Introduction and development of Divisional Concern Hubs has further strengthened Police Scotland’s ability to apply clear assessment, rationale and audit information sharing pathways.

2.69 The identification of concerns at an early stage better enables Police Scotland and partners to promote, support and safeguard the wellbeing of individuals and communities, which helps keep people safe. It provides an opportunity to provide support at an earlier stage, where appropriate to do so, and to take preventative action to stop low-level concerns developing into crisis situations.

2.70 Where it is considered necessary to remove a child from harm or risk of harm, consideration may be given by the police to invoke statutory powers under the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011, such as to apply for a child protection order (CPO) or to remove a child to a place of safety.

2.71 Where the conditions for applying for a CPO are met, but it is not practicable to apply to a sheriff for such an order, a constable may remove a child to a place of safety under section 56 of the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011. Before invoking their emergency powers, officers should carefully consider the justification for their actions, and whether the provisions of the legislation are met.

2.72 It should be borne in mind that these measures are used in emergency situations and only last for 24 hours. When a child is removed to a place of safety the Constable must inform the Principal Reporter as soon as is practical thereafter. Where a child is removed to a place of safety, the local authority may seek a child protection order to ensure the on-going protection and safety of that child.

2.73 Where the police have reasonable cause to believe that a child may be in need of compulsory measures of supervision, they will pass information to the Principal Reporter whether or not there are grounds for criminal prosecution. Section 61 of the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 provides a statutory duty on a constable to provide information to the Principal Reporter, Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA), where the constable considers: a) that a child is in need of protection, guidance, treatment or control, and b) that it may be necessary for a Compulsory Supervision Order to be made in relation to the child.

2.74 The police will share proportionate information and consult as part of an inter-agency referral discussion (IRD) to determine whether the matter is a child protection concern. If so, the police will share information with other core agencies, health and social work, as part of the IRD, and will attend Child Protection Planning Meetings (CPPM) (see Part 3).

2.75 Where appropriate, the police should attend and contribute to Child Protection Planning Meetings. Police are unlikely to play an active role in the Core Group responsible for developing the “Child Protection Plan”, unless their involvement is crucial to the successful implementation of the plan.

2.76 The police are responsible for investigation and evidence gathering in criminal enquiries. This task may be carried out in conjunction with other agencies, including social work services and medical practitioners, but the police are ultimately accountable for conducting criminal enquiries. In cases of child abuse and neglect, a criminal offence may have been committed. The police have a statutory duty to investigate the circumstances. All child protection investigations should be dealt with in a child-focused manner, taking into account, as appropriate, the views of the child when decisions are made, unless this places them at further risk.

2.77 Information about suspected or actual child abuse or neglect can come to police attention from a number of sources, both internally and externally. All concerns must be dealt with comprehensively and impartially. Sources can include victims, witnesses, health services, social work or education professionals, housing providers, Third Sector organisations, anonymous reporters or police officers through routine contact with the public.

2.78 Officers should be sensitive to the impact of adults’ behaviour on any child normally resident within the household when attending incidents or conducting investigations relating to, for example domestic abuse, or problematic alcohol or drug use. Officers may attend homes where living conditions are poor. When conducting investigations, they may become aware of children who are at home when they should be at school, or they may have suspicions or concerns about a child’s circumstances or presentation.

2.79 Police officers should be mindful that there may be occasions when concerns and/or risks to children are not easily identifiable while maintaining an awareness of the communities they serve, and also of the indicators of different types of child abuse such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and child sexual or criminal exploitation (CSE/CCE). Other complex forms of abuse such as honour-based abuse, forced marriage (FM), and human trafficking (HT), are not specific to children but should be considered when attending any incident.

2.80 Police should also liaise with a number of adult services, where investigations dealing with adults may impact on children. For example, they may liaise with social services on issues such as youth justice, adult protection, children affected by parental problematic alcohol and/or drug use, anti-social behaviour, domestic abuse and offender management.

2.81 Officers should also be mindful of the need to ensure adequate care arrangements are in place when parents are detained, or cannot care for their children for other reasons.

British Transport Police (BTP)

2.82 BTP, like other statutory agencies, has a responsibility for promoting the safety, welfare and wellbeing of children, and for taking positive interventions to protect them from harm. BTP applies a child protection and safeguarding policy and associated standard operating procedure which applies in Scotland (as well as England and Wales) for all police officers, police community support officers, police staff and special constables (collectively termed ‘employees’).

Health services

2.83 NHS Boards will have designated lead roles for child protection, though titles may vary. This section describes overarching responsibilities for all health practitioners and describes some of the essential roles within a wide spectrum of services.

2.84 NHS Boards will support all health practitioners in upholding professional standards and regulations as outlined by their governing bodies. They will ensure that child protection processes and systems are embedded throughout the Board area and across acute and community services. This entails implementing a framework for governance, quality assurance and improvement of systems, and providing defined roles for clinical and strategic leadership of child protection services. The NHS public protection accountability and assurance framework is intended to guide health boards in assessing the adequacy and effectiveness of their public protection arrangements at both strategic and operational levels and to inform existing health board and shared multi-agency governance and assurance arrangements, covering all levels of staff including independent contractors.

2.85 NHS Boards will provide robust child protection services by ensuring:

  • there are clear clinical and care governance processes and systems in place. These will enable continuous improvement in practice, as well as learning from child protection reviews, including both Learning Reviews and adverse case reviews
  • their NHS Board is represented by health professionals in designated child protection roles within inter-agency referral discussions (IRD Guidance – Part 3)
  • health staff have access to child protection advice and support from designated health professionals
  • there is a contemporary learning and educational framework that supports practitioners to build confidence and competence in discharging their duty to safeguard and protect children
  • there are mechanisms in place that enable organisational assurance that all health staff are supported in accessing learning and education appropriate for their role and scope of professional practice
  • designated health staff are available to contribute where appropriate to multi-agency learning.
  • that arrangements are in place for the support of those who have suffered abuse and neglect, from the point this is known by agencies (The knowledge and skills framework (2017)).

2.86 All NHS practitioners have a role in protecting the public, and all regulated staff in NHS Boards and services have duties to protect the public. This section describes some key roles and responsibilities within a wide spectrum of NHS services. All health staff, practitioners and services should:

  • be aware of their responsibilities to identify and promptly share concerns about actual or potential risk of harm to a child from abuse or neglect, in line with national guidance and local policy
  • be aware of the early signs or indicators of neglect, and engage promptly and proportionately in co‑ordinated multi-disciplinary or agency assessments
  • work collaboratively with agencies who have statutory functions for specific aspects of child protection, namely social work services and Police Scotland
  • be alert and responsive when children are not brought to health appointments, and consider what, if any action they are required to take (as opposed to applying a ‘did not attend’ policy without question)
  • prioritise the needs of the child and ensure practice is underpinned by the principles and values of the GIRFEC National Practice Model
  • be alert to other factors which may contribute to risk of harm, and which may be a barrier to receiving preventative health care. This could include poverty, disability, culture, lack of understanding or fear of public and formal systems
  • consider the potential impact of adult alcohol and drug use, domestic abuse and mental ill health on children, regardless of care setting or service being accessed by adults
  • when engaged, work collaboratively with the lead professional (usually a social worker) who is responsible for co‑ordinating and overseeing a multi-agency child’s plan
  • consider the need for a Lead Health Professional when multiple health services are involved within a child’s plan, particularly when a child has multiple and/or complex health needs
  • seek to ensure and contribute to planned and co‑ordinated transitions between services
  • complete the appropriate level of NHS Education for Scotland Public Protection eLearning modules
  • be aware of standards, guidance and training offered by the Royal College for the relevant specialty

Chief/Consultant/Lead Nurse for child protection

2.87 The most senior nurse responsible for child protection holds a strategic role. They must support the Board in delivering high-quality, safe and effective services that promote wellbeing, early intervention and support for children and their families. The Chief/Consultant/Lead Nurse for child protection must be a registered nurse or midwife. They should have expertise and experience in child protection and professional leadership.

2.88 The Chief/Consultant/Lead Nurse should take a professional lead on all aspects of the health service contribution to safeguarding. They are responsible for ensuring that child protection procedures and workforce development policies are in place. The Chief/Consultant/Lead Nurse has a key role in the NHS Board’s clinical and care governance processes for child protection. The Chief/Consultant/Lead Nurse may represent the Board within National and local and professional fora, including Child Protection Committees.

Lead Doctor for child protection

2.89 This senior clinician is usually a paediatrician who must have child protection expertise and experience in order to:

  • advise the health board on strategic child protection matters
  • contribute to the development of child protection strategic planning arrangements, standards and guidelines with the Chief/Consultant/Lead Nurse both on an intra- and inter-agency basis
  • advise and support providers, child protection health professionals, local authority children’s services, local public protection partnerships, and local integrated Health and Social Care Partnerships
  • contribute to the work of the Child Protection Committee and subgroups
  • provide clinical leadership to medical staff, and other clinicians delivering child protection services

Child Protection Advisor (CPA)

2.90 Child Protection Advisors are registered nurses or midwives who have undertaken specialist further education in child protection.

2.91 CPAs will:

  • support the Chief/Consultant/Lead Nurse in delivering the child protection service across the Board area, both in an intra- and inter-agency basis
  • provide advice and support on child protection to all health employees, clinicians and practitioners from partner agencies
  • assist in the design, planning and implementation of child protection policies and protocols for their Board. They may also represent the Board at Child Protection Committee and relevant subgroups

2.92 In addition, they may:

  • take a lead role in the planning and delivery of child protection training to all healthcare practitioners, both single- and multi-agency
  • participate in inter-agency meetings where appropriate, for example in the development of Child Protection Plans

Paediatricians with a Special Interest in Child Protection (PwSICP)

2.93 These are paediatricians who support the clinical child protection service and the Lead Doctor for child protection. They provide:

  • operational child protection services, including management of the child protection rota. They can undertake child protection related medical examinations
  • support for peer review and advice for colleagues in the clinical assessment and care of children and young people where there are child protection concerns
  • liaison between hospital and community staff for child protection


2.94 Paediatricians have a duty to identify child abuse, neglect and risk to wellbeing. They must therefore maintain their skills in this area and make sure they are familiar with the procedures to be followed where abuse or neglect is suspected. Clinical services must ensure that all paediatricians are trained to assess children for signs of abuse and neglect and are supported to make decisions on the timing of any further assessment or forensic assessment.

2.95 Paediatricians may be asked to write a report for the court as to their findings and conclusions. Paediatricians will be involved in difficult diagnostic situations, where they must differentiate abnormalities resulting from abuse from those with a medical cause. Along with forensic medical examiners, paediatricians with further training should be involved in specialist examinations of children and young people suspected of being abused and neglected, or who have reported abuse or neglect. A medical examination should be carried out by clinicians with appropriate expertise including in the management of complex conditions or additional needs. Examinations for suspected child sexual abuse require expertise in these examinations in addition to general child protection examinations.

Child Protection Medical Examinations

2.96 Further detail may be found in Part 3 of this Guidance.

2.97 The main types of medical examination that may be undertaken within the child protection process are described in more detail in Part 3 of this Guidance. In brief they are:

a) Joint Paediatric Forensic Examination (JPFE). Examination by a paediatrician and a forensic physician. This is the usual type of examination for sexual assault and is often undertaken for physical abuse, particularly infants with injuries or older children with complex injuries.

b) Single doctor examinations with corroboration by a forensically trained nurse. These are sexual assault examinations undertaken for children and young people aged 13-16. Consideration should always be given as to whether a JPFE should occur.

c) Specialist Child Protection Paediatric/Single Doctor/Comprehensive Medical Assessment. This type of examination is often undertaken when there is concern about neglect and unmet health needs but may also be used for physical abuse and historical sexual abuse. Comprehensive medical assessment for chronic neglect can be arranged and planned within localities when all relevant information has been collated. However, there may be extreme cases of neglect that require urgent discussion with the Child Protection Paediatrician.

2.98 All medical examinations/assessments should be holistic, comprehensive assessments of the child/young person’s health and developmental needs.

Antenatal and maternity care

2.99 All healthcare staff must be alert to the support and preparation needs of parents of unborn babies and have a duty to identify potential child abuse, neglect and risk to the wellbeing of an unborn child, or another child in the same environment.


2.100 Midwives have a significant role in early identification and prevention of risk factors and in the anticipation of additional care needs that may impact the unborn child during pregnancy. These may be physical, psychological, social or cultural. Relationship-based practice is central to midwifery. The midwife’s responsibilities include advocacy, management and sharing of concerns as appropriate, in collaboration with interdisciplinary and multi-agency colleagues, in line with the NMC standards-of-proficiency-for-midwives.

2.101 The Best Start (Scottish Government 2017) recognises social determinants and health inequalities have an important influence on pregnancy and birth. This universal model of care requires a family-centred, safe and compassionate approach in which assessment of risk is specific to needs and circumstances in each situation. Women with the most complex vulnerabilities should have access to the appropriate level of midwifery care.

Health Visitor

2.102 Health visitors have a pivotal role to play in supporting the development of children and families in the first five years of a child’s life; and in early identification of support where children may have additional needs and vulnerabilities. Health visitors are registered nurses or midwives who have undertaken additional education at masters level to be eligible to register and practice as health visitors.

2.103 The Universal Health Visiting Pathway, published in October 2015, presents a core home visiting programme to be offered to all families with children under five years of age. It consists of eleven home visits, three of which include a formal review of the family and child’s health by the health visitor (13-15 months, 27-30 months, and prior to starting school). Health visitors support parents by providing information, advice, and help to access other services. Health visitors have a professional duty to raise concerns when they consider a child is at risk of, or experiencing, significant harm.

Family Nurse

2.104 The Family Nurse Partnership Programme is being delivered across 11 health board areas in Scotland. The family nurse works with young first-time mothers and their families, from pregnancy until their child is two years old. The family nurse aims to guide the mother to achieve the three programme goals, which are to improve antenatal health and birth outcomes, child health and development, and parental economic self-sufficiency. Where there is a family nurse, they may act in the named person or equivalent role.

2.105 The licensed, socio-educative programme is delivered by specially trained family nurses to enhance parenting capacity, and seeks to support parents to achieve their aspirations. In addition to the schedule of home visits, the family nurse fulfils the requirements of the Universal Health Visiting Pathway.

2.106 When the first child reaches their second birthday, both they and their mother graduate from the FNP programme, and their on-going care and named person role is transferred to the health visiting service.

School Nurse

2.107 The role of the school nurse has been redefined (Transforming nursing, midwifery and health professions roles: the school nursing role in integrated community nursing teams). School nurses are registered nurses or midwives who have undertaken additional education, in order to support school-aged children in attaining their health potential. School nurses deliver proportionate universal services to school-age children, based on their professional assessment of need. School nurses aim to work in collaboration with named persons and health and social care teams to provide early support, and prevent escalation of need. School nurses will be alert to children who may be at risk or experiencing significant harm, and must raise their concerns in line with local policy.

General Practitioners

2.108 General Practitioners (GPs) and practice staff are well placed to detect early or developing concerns about children and families. Their roles encompass prevention, recognition and early response, and out of hours GP services. GPs may be involved in provision of on-going therapeutic support to children and families who have experienced harm, often into adulthood. In addition, GPs and their teams may be working directly with adults who pose a risk to children and young people, including those experiencing problematic alcohol and drug use or living with domestic abuse, and those who have mental health difficulties.

2.109 GPs will alert a statutory agency without delay if they are concerned that a child or young person has experienced or is at risk of harm from abuse or neglect. GPs are also key in the identification and support for adults with significant risk factors, such as alcohol and drug use and mental health difficulties, which may impact on their ability to care.

Emergency health care services

2.110 Emergency health care services include out of hours primary care and GP medical services, NHS 24 and the Scottish Ambulance Service, as described separately below.

Emergency Departments

2.111 Children or young people may be taken or present themselves at accident and emergency departments. In some instances, abuse or neglect may be suspected, so in addition to care and treatment, local procedures for raising child protection concerns must be followed. Local guidance must be in place to respond to refusal of treatment, or premature removal of a child from the emergency department. If health staff suspect that a child or young person has experienced or is at risk of abuse or neglect, they must provide any immediate medical care required, gather information from the child or young person’s medical records, and contact social work standby services. They must examine the child for evidence of injuries (remembering that these may be concealed under clothing), document carefully all clinical findings including skin condition, bruising, scars, weight and height, and ensure that senior practitioners are involved in any decision-making process. They must follow local child protection procedures, including ensuring concerns are raised immediately with social work services.

GP Out of Hours Services

2.112 Children may attend a primary care or general practice unscheduled care service for medical care. In some instances, abuse or neglect may be suspected. In addition to care and treatment, local procedures for raising child protection concerns should be followed. Local guidance should be in place to support response to refusal of treatment, or premature termination of the appointment. If health staff suspect that a child or young person attending an unscheduled care service has experienced or is at risk of abuse or neglect, practitioners should provide any immediate medical care required. They should examine the child for evidence of injuries, remembering that these may be concealed under clothing, document carefully all clinical findings including skin condition, bruising, scars, weight and height, and follow local child protection procedures. They must share concerns about risk of abuse or neglect without delay with social work out of hours services. This will ensure the local child protection register is checked. If there is immediate risk of harm the police should be contacted.

Scottish Ambulance Service

2.113 The Scottish Ambulance Service covers the whole of Scotland and has a duty of care to protect the public, including the care and protection of children. Ambulance crews attend emergency and urgent calls across the whole of the country and may be the first to identify that a child is at risk or may have been harmed, at which point local policy for raising their concerns will be followed.

NHS 24

2.114 NHS 24 delivers a range of urgent and unscheduled care services connecting people to the care they need, and is Scotland’s National Telehealth and Telecare Service. It provides access to clinical assessment, healthcare advice and information 24 hours per day. The aim is to provide service users with a timely response in relation to any assistance or advice required to meet their health needs, including additional support that requires onward referral to alternative professional services. Most calls are received via the 111 service when GP surgeries and other services are closed.

2.115 NHS 24 plays a crucial role in the recognition and timely response to public protection concerns, which include the unborn baby, children and young people. This is to ensure relevant and proportionate information regarding protection needs is shared with appropriate professionals, including social work and/or Police Scotland.

2.116 If social work services contact emergency medical services or NHS 24 due to concerns about a child or young person’s injuries or illness, the health staff professional should:

  • arrange appropriate clinical care
  • establish whether social work and/or the police have discussed the case with the local NHS child protection service, confirming that social work are in contact with the on-call child protection paediatrician
  • establish whether a joint investigation has been undertaken or planned
  • consult previous medical records to check any previous attendance for analysis of the information to be shared
  • share any relevant information, where it is proportionate to do so, with health staff involved in the child or young person’s care

Community pharmacy services

2.117 Community pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy support staff regularly support the healthcare needs of children and parents or carers, including those in ‘at risk’ groups, such as children of parents with drug problems. As such, they have an important role to play in identifying when a child is thought to be at risk of or experiencing significant harm or abuse. Any concerns must be raised in line with local policy.

Dental care practitioners

2.118 Dental care practitioners will often come into contact with vulnerable children and are in a position to identify possible child abuse or neglect from routine examinations, or presentation of injuries or poor oral hygiene. The dental team must have knowledge and skills to identify these concerns and raise concerns in line with local policy.

Mental health services

2.119 All mental health staff in child and adolescent services and within adult services must be competent to identify concerns about children and young people. Mental health services are largely community based, with some inpatient facilities, and delivered by multi-disciplinary teams including social workers. They may become aware of children and young people who have experienced, or are at risk of, abuse and/or neglect, and should raise concerns in line with local policy. Within adult services, consideration should then be given to the impact of the mental ill health of a significant person in the child’s world. If they are concerned that a person’s mental health could put children at risk of immediate or significant harm, they must take action in line with local child protection procedures.

2.120 Mental health practitioners should take account of any wider factors that may affect the family’s ability to manage and parent effectively, including strengths within the family in relation to the child’s needs. For further information, see the section on parental mental health problems. Mental health practitioners have a potential key role in both adult and child support and protection, because they engage with vulnerable people. They play an important role in reducing any risks arising from adult mental health difficulties identified within the child’s plan.

2.121 In some cases, adults and older young people may disclose abuse experienced some time ago. Even if they are no longer in the abusive situation, a crime may still have been committed and other children may still be at risk. Advice should be sought from professional advisors within their health boards.

Addiction services

2.122 Addiction services, whether based within health or social work or delivered by a community-based joint addiction team, have an important role to play in the protection of children. Practitioners from addiction services have a critical role in the on-going assessment of adult service users who have caring responsibilities for children. Where risks are identified, practitioners must share information and participate in relevant Core Groups and planning meetings. All addiction practitioners should identify where children are living in the same household as, and/or are being cared for, by adults with alcohol and/or drug use problems. Consideration should then be given to how the problematic alcohol and/or drug use of the parent or carer impacts on the child, in conjunction with children and family services. (For further information, see Part 4 of this Guidance on Parental alcohol and substance use.)

Adult healthcare providers

2.123 All health staff providing services to adults have a duty of care to children and young people, and must work to consider and identify their needs. Providers of adult health services must be able to identify when a child is or at risk of significant harm, and must raise their concerns in line with local policy.

Other health services

2.124 All staff working in the NHS may identify child protection concerns. Child protection concerns must be raised in line with local policy. All NHS Boards have specialist staff who can advise and support staff in relation to child protection.


Local authority children and families social work

2.125 Local authorities have a duty to promote, support and safeguard the wellbeing of all children in need in their area, and, insofar as is consistent with that duty, to promote the upbringing of children by their families by providing a range and level of services appropriate to children’s welfare and wellbeing needs.

2.126 Each child has the right to protection from all forms of abuse, neglect or exploitation. In child protection processes local authorities will ensure that each child’s views are taken into account in decisions that affect their lives. The welfare of the child is the paramount consideration.

2.127 The local authority must make all necessary inquiries into the child’s circumstances if it appears that the child is in need of protection, guidance, treatment or control, and if it might be necessary for a Compulsory Supervision Order to be made in relation to the child. The local authority must give the Principal Reporter any information they have about the child.

2.128 Guidance for local authorities stipulates that, where children are in need of protection and/or in danger of serious exploitation or significant harm, a registered social worker will be accountable for carrying out enquiries and making recommendations, where necessary, as to whether or not the child or young person should be the subject of compulsory protection measures (Role of the registered social worker in statutory interventions: guidance for local authorities).

2.129 Children and family social workers also either directly provide or facilitate access to services to support vulnerable children and families. Social workers are involved in work to support parenting capacity and confidence by working in partnership with sources of support within the family, and in arranging services to help children recover from the impact of abuse and neglect. This may include consideration of Self-Directed Support.

2.130 For children in need of care and protection, social workers usually act as lead professional, co‑ordinating services and support as agreed in the Child Protection Plan.

2.131 Social workers play a key role in helping to ensure that suitable care arrangements are put in place by identifying appropriate placements, assessing and supporting kinship carers and foster carers, and supporting children within these placements.

2.132 In fulfilling the local authorities’ responsibilities to children in need of protection, social work services have a number of key roles. These include:

  • co‑ordinating multi-agency risk assessments as defined in Part 3
  • arranging Child Protection Planning Meetings
  • maintaining the child protection register
  • discharging the local authority’s duty to refer to the Principal Reporter children who may be in need of a Compulsory Supervision Order
  • supervising the child on behalf of the local authority as ‘the implementation authority’, giving effect to the decisions of children’s hearings

2.133 Social workers work with children and young people involved in offending behaviour, and play an important role in assessing and intervening with children and young people who may present risks to others. Such young people may need support in relation to experiences of neglect, trauma and abuse, as well as help to manage their offending behaviour. In those areas with specialist youth justice services, practitioners may be asked to contribute to risk assessments, as well as to support child’s plans including those where protection is the primary issue.

2.134 Local authority social work services also have a responsibility to children from their own area who are placed outside the authority’s geographical boundaries, or with kinship or foster carers or in establishments managed by providers other than the local authority.

2.135 From a safeguarding perspective, local authorities have duties to support migrant families with No Recourse to Public Funds. These families face a high risk of poverty and destitution. Guidance for local authorities on migrant rights and entitlements is available at 1.1 How to use this guidance | COSLA Strategic Migration Partnership (

Social work justice services

2.136 Local authorities’ social work justice services have a critical role in protecting children from harm, both directly and indirectly. The overarching aims are to maintain community safety through protecting the public from serious harm, to hold individuals accountable for their actions in order to reduce their risk of re-offending, and to support individuals’ efforts to desist from offending by promoting health, wellbeing and social inclusion. Social work justice services have responsibilities for the supervision and management of risk relating to adults who have committed high-risk offences, including those against children. They must be aware of risks to children in cases of domestic abuse and parental alcohol and drug use, and must respond proportionately.

2.137 Some parents live with multiple disadvantages, including homelessness, alcohol and drug use, mental ill health, poverty, and involvement with offending. The intersection of risks for some family members can have a direct impact on the children within that family (Hard Edges Scotland, 2019). It is also estimated that around 20,000-27,000 children experience the imprisonment of a parent each year in Scotland. No official data is collected on this group. This can result in them being overlooked in policy and practice (Deacon 2019).

Adult health and social care services

2.138 Adult support services include a wide range of specialist provisions for different care groups. Some of these are described below; however, the same duties and responsibilities apply to all. Adult services are now largely delivered through multi-disciplinary services, and include a variety of commissioned and non-commissioned services which are delivered in partnership with the Third Sector and independent sector. Staff in adult health and social care services must be aware of the circumstances in which an adult’s additional needs impinge on children’s needs and safety. They may play a role in a child’s plan to reduce identified risks. Adult services, along with colleagues in children and families services, should ensure that there is strong transitional planning for young people accessing their services (see section on transition planning). This should form part of the single planning process for that young person.

Learning disability services

2.139 Learning disability services are largely community-based and delivered by multi-disciplinary teams including social workers. Learning disability practitioners working with adults with learning disabilities should always be aware of how this might impact on any children in the family, and should give early consideration to the support that parents may need. Where they have any concerns that a child may be at risk of significant harm, they should liaise with colleagues in children’s services in line with local child protection procedures. Learning disability practitioners should take account of any wider factors that may affect the family’s ability to manage and parent effectively, including strengths within the family in relation to the child’s needs. Learning disability practitioners have a potential key role in both adult and child support and protection.

Third Sector

2.140 The Third Sector is made up of various types of organisation with certain characteristics in common. They are non-governmental, value-driven and typically reinvest any profits in furthering their social, environmental or cultural objectives. The term encompasses voluntary and community organisations, charities, social enterprises, co‑operatives and mutual societies, both large and small. This is distinct from the responsibility that the Third Sector has when providing services on commission for and/or in lieu of services provided by and for local authorities under their statutory obligations.

2.141 The Third Sector provides a wide spectrum of services for children and young people, including nurseries, residential care, pre-school play groups, parenting and family support, youth work and other youth services, befriending, counselling, respite care, foster care, adoption, through-care and after-care, advocacy, helplines and education. Some services are provided substantially by volunteers, particularly in relation to youth work (e.g. Scouts Scotland and Guiding Scotland) and helplines (e.g. Childline). Parents can be supported to be effective advocates for other parents.

2.142 The Third Sector includes charities providing a range of specialised services for children and families. These often deploy both professional staff and volunteers. The Third Sector also provides crucial recovery services, for example, in relation to experiences of abuse, addiction and mental ill health. Some provide crucial support for children and adults in the early stages of protective processes. Voluntary organisations are often in an ideal position to engage with those children and families who require support for engagement with statutory services.

2.143 The Third Sector plays an essential role in providing, flexible and collaborative support for children and families for a wide range of reasons. Many voluntary organisations will have direct or indirect engagement with children, young people and parents, even if this is not their principal activity. Providers of services to adults – for example in relation to housing and tenancy support, mental health, disability, and drug and alcohol problems – may become concerned about children or adults within a family, without necessarily having seen the children. Commissioned and non-commissioned services should have organisational policies and protocols in relation to child protection. Anyone who has cause for concern about a child or adult at risk of harm should share information according to their organisation’s local protocol. Within adult services, consideration should be given to the impact of the additional needs or potential risks relating to a significant person in the child’s world.

Young carers services

2.144 Young carers are often identified by adult support services working with an adult in the family. A young carer becomes vulnerable when their caring role risks impacting upon their emotional or physical wellbeing, and their prospects in education and life. When assessing the wellbeing of a young carer under the age of 18 under section 96(1) of The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, a person should assess their wellbeing with reference to the eight wellbeing indicators in section 96(2). Section 12 of the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 provides that young carers have a right to a young carer’s statement, prepared by a responsible authority (either a health board or local authority, depending on whether the child is pre-school or not). Where a child has a plan, it is good practice to integrate the statement within the plan.

2.145 Practitioners in other local authority services may encounter situations where a child may be at risk of harm. The local authority should ensure that practitioners are aware of child protection procedures, and are confident about how to respond to child protection concerns.

National Carer Organisations

2.146 National Carer Organisations in Scotland are diverse in structure, size and areas of work. Collectively, they form an important network, supporting and working with unpaid carers; providing them with information and advice. Through support for carers, to varying extent, they have a collaborative role in safeguarding the wellbeing of children; and of young people moving on to adult life and services.

2.147 The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator is the regulatory body for charities in Scotland and publishes guidance for trustees of charities that includes child protection and extends to safeguarding vulnerable beneficiaries, meaning children under 18 and vulnerable (protected) adults over 16 years.

2.148 Local authorities may commission Third Sector agencies to provide services on their behalf. Commissioned and non-commissioned agencies and organisations working with children and young people are expected to have safe recruitment practices, and child and adult protection procedures, in line with the national Guidance. They should provide training relevant to information sharing and potential child or vulnerable adult protection for staff, volunteers and board or committee members.

2.149 Safety is promoted by a clear reporting framework which includes learning from past mistakes, and by an open communication culture in which the views and concerns of those receiving and providing services are heard.

Children’s hearings system

2.150 The children’s hearings system is a system of statutory intervention in the life of a child and their family. The statutory intervention takes the form of an order such as Compulsory Supervision Order (CSO), and a CSO is issued by a children’s hearing or by a sheriff. The children’s hearings system deals with referrals in the same way, regardless of the ground on which the child has been referred e.g. whether they have been referred for care and protection concerns or as a result of their own behaviour, which can include offending.

2.151 Children’s reporters are employed by The Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA), the public body set up to administer the statutory functions of the Principal Reporter in the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 (‘the 2011 Act’). Any person or agency can refer a child to the Principal Reporter but local authorities and the police must refer a child when they consider that a child is in need of protection, guidance, treatment or control and that a CSO might be necessary. The Principal Reporter’s role is to decide (a) whether one of the grounds of referral in section 67 of the Act apply in relation to the child and (b) if so, whether it is necessary for a CSO to be made in respect of the child. If the Principal Reporter decides that a CSO is necessary, then they must arrange for a children’s hearing to take place in relation to that child.

2.152 On receipt of the referral, the Principal Reporter will conduct an investigation which will likely include requesting reports from professionals who may or may not already be involved with a child. Once this investigation has concluded, the Principal Reporter will consider whether there is evidence to establish one of the grounds for referral to the children’s hearing, as specified in section 67(2) of the 2011 Act. The Principal Reporter then makes a decision about whether it is necessary for a CSO to be made in respect of the child. If so, they must arrange a children’s hearing in respect of the child. Where the Principal Reporter decides that none of the grounds in section 67 apply or that it is not necessary for a CSO to be made in respect of the child, they may still refer a child to a local authority, or other bodies specified by the Scottish Ministers, with a view to advice, guidance and assistance being given to the child and their family. The Principal Reporter’s investigation can take place at the same time as any on-going criminal investigation or criminal court case, but the focus for the Principal Reporter and the children’s hearing is centred on the needs and wellbeing of the referred child or young person.

2.153 Children’s Hearings Scotland (CHS) is the public body which is responsible for recruiting, training and supporting the volunteer children’s panel members who make decisions in children’s hearings. A children’s hearing is a lay tribunal made up of a panel of three specially trained volunteers from the local community. The hearing decides on a course of action that it believes is in the child’s best interests, based on the child’s plan with input from professionals. Medical, psychological and psychiatric reports may also be requested. The hearing discusses the child’s circumstances fully with the child or young person themselves, parents, carers and other relevant representatives and professionals before reaching a decision (Children’s Hearings Practice and Procedure Manual 2019).

2.154 One of the principles behind the children’s hearings system is to apply the right intervention at the right time. Where there is no requirement for a CSO or interim CSO, children and young people can be supported in a number of ways, including early and effective intervention (EEI), restorative justice, voluntary measures or tailored programmes to tackle their behaviour.

2.155 Even where the Principal Reporter has concluded that there is sufficient evidence of a section 67 ground, there may not be a requirement for compulsory intervention, for example, because the incident is entirely out of character, or because there are no other significant concerns about the child and the parental response has been both appropriate and proportionate to the incident. In other circumstances, compulsion may not be needed because the child and family have accepted that there is a problem and are already working with agencies such as social services or restorative justice.

2.156 Children’s hearings can proceed on the basis of a shared agreement about/acceptance of the grounds for referral. If there is no shared agreement, then the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 allows an application for proof to be made to the Sheriff Court. An application to the Sheriff Court can also be made where the child (due to their age or ability), or indeed the relevant person, is considered not to have understood the grounds. It is the Reporter’s responsibility to lead the evidence in court and seek to have the grounds established. The Sheriff Court will also hear any appeals which are made against a hearing’s decision.

2.157 Hearings make significant decisions about complex matters. Vital work before the hearing is required to ensure that the hearing has the evidence and the options available to enable it to make the right decision for a child. Children and families have to be prepared, and their participation and engagement in the hearing process must be meaningfully supported. Panel members should receive reports from social workers which present a well-argued rationale for a recommended decision in a child’s best interests, as well as reasons why alternatives are not recommended.

2.158 Local authority staff and Reporters will consider how best to plan and prepare all families for optimal support, understanding and participation in the children’s hearing. To promote equality of participation, some groups and individuals will require extra consideration. A SCRA research report (Henderson et al 2018) describes the challenges and barriers to positive engagement for all families in contact with child protection and children’s hearings systems. These include isolation, language difference, poor translation, concerns about confidentiality, family reluctance to raise concerns and accept support, lack of awareness of services and how the law operates in Scotland, and fear of service intervention. Families with other protected characteristics, or who have experienced adversity, may also require careful preparation for their involvement within the children’s hearing.

2.159 Care should be taken to comply with non-disclosure measures and protocols when this special provision is considered necessary to protect the whereabouts of a child, or relevant person with whom the child is residing, due to significant concerns about their safety. Breaches of non-disclosure measures can have serious consequences for children and those who care for them. In the event of a breach of a non-disclosure condition by a partner agency, SCRA is to be informed immediately so the risks to the child(ren) or carers can be assessed and action taken to protect them, if necessary.

2.160 Section 122 of the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 provides that the chairing member of the children’s hearing must inform the child of the availability of children’s advocacy services unless he or she considers that it would not be appropriate to do so, taking into account the child’s age and maturity. This section of the 2011 Act gives children the support of an independent advocacy worker as and when they need one, in order for them to give their views clearly and definitively, and to have their voice magnified within the children’s hearing.

2.161 Section 78 of the Children (Scotland) Act 2011 sets out the persons who have a right to attend a children’s hearing. These are the child, relevant persons, representatives, Reporter, Safeguarder, member of an area support team, and a representative of a newspaper or news agency. Section 78(4) requires the chairing member to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the number of persons present at a children’s hearing at the same time is kept to a minimum. Research has consistently made clear that children want the number of people in their hearing to be limited to those who are strictly necessary. Research also indicates that having a high number of people present in a hearing can impede participation by children and relevant persons. Each hearing will be conducted to ensure that process and participation is as child-centred and effective as may be planned in the circumstances. Information shared must be up-to-date, accurate and relevant. Children and their families must be supported in understanding what information will be shared and why during children’s hearings.

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Services

2.162 The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) is Scotland’s sole prosecuting service, independent of the police and the courts. COPFS is responsible for the prosecution of crime, investigation of sudden or suspicious deaths, and investigating allegations of criminal conduct by police officers. (Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) may investigate where directed to do so by COPFS).

2.163 Procurators Fiscal are based throughout Scotland. They are legally qualified civil servants who receive reports about crimes from the police and other reporting agencies, consider whether there is sufficient evidence to justify criminal proceedings, and then decide what action, if any, to take in the public interest.

2.164 In considering the public interest, Procurators Fiscal take a number of factors into account. These are set out in full within the Prosecution Code but include the interests of the victim, the accused and the wider community. This can involve competing interests and will vary with every case. In cases that will be considered by a jury, Procurators Fiscal will gather and review all evidence before Crown Counsel makes the final decision on whether to prosecute. Prosecutors will act fairly and without bias towards all victims, witnesses and accused persons, and be sensitive to individual needs, to ensure that the prosecution service delivers an equal opportunity to everyone in their access to justice.

2.165 Procurators Fiscal are subject to on-going professional development training.

Carers looking after children away from home

2.166 A carer looking after children away from home might be a foster carer (including local authority carers), a kinship carer, a residential worker within a children’s house, or a residential school practitioner. These carers can provide significant emotional and practical support to children who have experienced abuse, creating and maintaining a safe environment where the child feels valued and listened to. Carers looking after children away from home can provide pivotal support to the child via the Child Protection Plan, as well as particular insight into the child or young person’s needs through day-to-day care and interaction. All carers should apply safe caring policies and practices that minimise situations where abuse could occur. They must be advised about how to respond to any reports of abuse, and about how to work within the agreed local reporting arrangements within their area. For further information, see the section on children who are looked after away from home.

Social housing

2.167 Housing and homelessness services (local authority and registered social landlords) are important contributors to intervening early and positively in the lives of children, young people and families who need support and assistance. Staff in these services can identify and coordinate a response to vulnerable families and young people, and may prevent their circumstances from deteriorating further.

2.168 When housing or homelessness staff sign up a family to a tenancy or visit a property for any reason they may identify early indications of family support needs, or evidence that actions are needed to protect children. Poor housing, homelessness and high mobility feature in a significant number of Case Reviews. To promote early support for vulnerable families, housing staff should have a good working knowledge of local services for children and families, and a thorough knowledge of child and adult protection procedures.

2.169 Social housing landlords should have policies, procedures and training in place to ensure they meet their responsibilities in relation to child and adult protection arrangements, working with local authority and NHS partners.

2.170 Social housing landlords also have a key role in the reintegration of people from prison into the community where they live in their tenancies, and the management of risk posed by individuals to others, for example through MAPPA (Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements). There is a key role for social housing landlords to be represented at Child Protection Committees where appropriate.

Private landlords

2.171 Like social landlords, private landlords and letting agents may through their tenant engagement identify early indications of family support needs or evidence that actions are needed to protect children. It is therefore important that private landlords and letting agents have access to the right information and advice about reporting their concerns to appropriate authorities.

Community safety services

2.172 A safe community is a community where people can live without fear, risk, harm or injury. Community safety is about building resilient, participatory communities where homes, roads, public spaces and the workplace are safe, and feel safe. Community safety encompasses home safety, road safety and water safety (together known as injury prevention), as well as community justice, counter-terrorism, child sexual exploitation, criminal exploitation, online safety, and substance use.

2.173 Local partnerships have a key role in the development of preventative strategies and public communications to help families, schools and communities to be safe places, in tackling exploitation, and in promoting safety and wellbeing at individual, family and community levels.

Scottish Prison Service

2.174 The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) is an agency of the Scottish Government and was established in 1993. The purpose of the SPS is to maintain secure custody and good order within prisons, whilst caring for prisoners with humanity and delivering opportunities which give the best chance to reduce reoffending once a prisoner returns to the community. The key issues in relation to children with parent(s) in the criminal justice system is to provide support to children at every stage of the criminal justice system, ensuring that parent-child relationships are maintained even when the parent is in long-term custody or prison. Where a child is considered at risk, the response should be timely, appropriate and proportionate in line with the approach set out in GIRFEC. SPS has a child protection policy which sits within a families strategy. Every establishment has a Designated Child Protection Co‑ordinator.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS)

2.175 Alongside their central role in protecting children and families through fire prevention and response, when members of the SFRS encounter situations that cause them to have concerns about the wellbeing or safety of a child they must pass that information to the relevant services. If a child is in imminent risk, for example in the case of a threat to life or where there may have been criminality, the police should be informed without delay. Through community safety work SFRS engages with individuals and groups to address wider inequalities by helping to tackle antisocial behaviour, reduce reoffending, and by working in partnership to tackle domestic violence.

Faith organisations

2.176 Religious leaders, practitioners and volunteers within faith organisations have a unifying priority in relation to the protection of children. They may provide regulated care as well as a wide range of voluntary support services. Faith organisations including churches provide carefully planned activities for children, supporting families under stress and caring for those hurt by abuse in the past, as well as ministering to and managing those who have caused harm.

2.177 Within these varied roles, all reasonable steps must be taken to provide a safe environment that promotes and supports the wellbeing of children and young people. This includes careful selection and appointment of those who work with children. It also means ensuring practitioners and volunteers are confident about how to respond promptly, in line with agreed protocols, when concerns arise about risk of harm to a child from abuse or neglect. Child protection co‑ordinators and safeguarding advisers should be available for consultation within faith organisations. They will work with social workers and police officers as and when required. Practitioners and volunteers with church and faith organisations must report concerns about harm to a child to their line manager or safeguarding/child protection co‑ordinator. The safety of the child or adult at risk is the priority. Further considerations on faith and cultural communities may be found in Part 4 of this Guidance.

The defence community

2.178 The defence community includes serving members of the Armed Forces, cadets, reservists, veterans and their families. It also includes civilian employees, volunteers and their families. When children and families of defence personnel have need for child protection services standard processes apply, as outlined in Part 3 of this Guidance. In view of distinctive military structures and supports, there is a need for close communication and teamwork between the relevant welfare structure within the base or unit and local statutory services. Defence protocols should link to national child protection guidance. Key points of contact for defence are listed in Appendix G. Those in dedicated liaison roles within defence will be aware of the Child Protection Committee role and function, and CPCs will be in communication with liaison officers in relation to developments in training, procedure and practice. Additional notes may be found in Part 4.

Culture and leisure services

2.179 Culture and leisure services encompass a number of services specifically designed for, or including, children and young people. Services such as libraries, play schemes and play facilities, parks and gardens, sport and leisure centres, events and attractions, museums and arts centres all have a responsibility to ensure the safety of children and young people. Such services may be directly provided, purchased or grant-aided by local authorities from voluntary and other organisations and, as such, represent an opportunity to promote, support and safeguard children’s wellbeing across sectors.

Sport organisations and clubs

2.180 Sports organisations work with a diverse range of children and young people in their communities. Some children and young people may attend a holiday sport activity, others may regularly attend and participate at a local sports club, while a small number are involved in elite sports. All of these activities are run by committed, paid and unpaid coaches, officials, volunteers and workers who have various degrees of contact with children and young people. Members of this workforce will often become significant role models and trusted people in a child’s life. 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.

2.181 The Child Wellbeing and Protection in Sport service (CWPS) service is a partnership between Children 1st and sportscotland. It supports sports organisations and individuals across Scotland (including sports governing bodies, sports clubs, Leisure Trusts, local authorities and parents and carers) in keeping children safe in and through sport by providing advice, consultancy, training and support. Organisations and community groups involved in sport activities should familiarise themselves with the Standards for Child Wellbeing and Protection in Sport and have policies and procedures to safeguard children in sport. They should adopt a rights-based, child centred culture and encourage children, parents and carers to raise any concerns and to ask questions about safeguarding procedures.

Wider Planning Links

2.182 Child protection planning must fit within the wider planning processes in a local area, showing how child protection is integral to wider economic and social objectives. This must be evident through community and integrated children’s services planning, the national outcomes shared by national and local government, and the key national policy frameworks. The aim of community planning is to make sure people and communities are engaged in the decisions made about public services which affect them.

2.183 Scottish Government’s overarching objectives are set out in a National Performance Framework. Most of these objectives have direct and immediate relevance to the safety, security and life chances of children in Scotland. Public Health Priorities for Scotland (Scottish Government/COSLA, 2018) provides the focus for national improvements in healthy life expectancy, reduction of inequalities, and support for sustainable economic growth over the next ten years.

2.184 The specifics of local child protection planning and the responsibilities of Chief Officers and Child Protection Committees have been outlined above. Delivery of child protection is part of a continuum of inter-agency services for children and families informed by the GIRFEC policy and practice model.

2.185 Services protecting children and supporting their families are defined and influenced by a range of inter-related strategic plans. The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 set out reforms to the way services for children and young people are designed, delivered and reviewed. As part of the Act, the Scottish Government provides statutory guidance (in Part 3) on Children’s Services Planning. The duties placed on local authorities and health boards under this part of the Act included provision of a Children’s Services Plan for which they have joint responsibility. For the purpose of Children’s Services Plans, a ‘child’ is a person under 18 years old or a care leaver aged 18-25 years old eligible to receive ‘children’s services’.

2.186 There are overlaps between the requirement to plan for children’s services and other related services, including duties included in Part 1 (Children’s Rights), Part 6 (Early Learning and Childcare) and Part 9 (Corporate Parenting) of the 2014 Act, as well as the Public Bodies (Joint Working) (Scotland Act) 2014, the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 (including young carers), and the Requirements for Community Learning and Development (Scotland) Regulations 2013. There are duties to report under the Education (Scotland) Act 2016, which establishes a statutory National Improvement Framework. Local authorities and health boards must also jointly publish annual reports on what they have done and will do in order to reduce child poverty in the local area.

2.187 Each integration authority is also required to prepare an annual performance report on how the arrangements in the strategic plan are contributing to achieving the National Health and Wellbeing Outcomes. These reports are required to cover all services provided in the exercise of functions delegated to the integration authority, including, where applicable, children’s services. From the perspective of children’s services planning, the adult health and social care context is important because most children live in families with adults, and because the complex question of supporting good transitions to adult life and services needs shared perspective, resourcing, management and reporting.

2.188 While community justice services are mainly focused on adults, there is an impact on children too, particularly where the recipient of a community justice service is a parent or sibling. The Community Justice (Scotland) Act 2016, implemented from 1 April 2017, established a new local partnership model for required community justice planning and delivery of services.

2.189 Services to protect children should take account of national policies to promote the wellbeing of all children, including disabled children and those most at risk, such as children affected by problematic parental alcohol and/or drug use, children affected by domestic abuse (such as Equally Safe – see below), and children at risk of being trafficked.

2.190 Within this complex wider planning landscape, there is a need to co‑ordinate purpose, monitoring, data gathering, analysis, format and timing of reporting and review. The Child Protection National Minimum Dataset 2022 will assist in this process.

2.191 Children’s services should be ‘integrated’ not just in organisation, but also from the perspective of children, young people, parents, carers, families and communities. In general terms there is a national policy emphasis on provision of early help to prevent escalating need and risk.

Public protection

2.192 The aim of public protection is to reduce risk of harm to both children and adults.

2.193 These issues overlap. For example when a child has a Child Protection Plan, where relevant, this should clearly define how the child will be protected from the risks posed by known perpetrators, together with contingency plans as appropriate in each case.

2.194 Public protection involves collaborative inter-agency work at strategic and operational levels. In some areas this work is overseen by a dedicated public protection forum. In others, individual fora have a specific responsibility and focus.

2.195 Whatever the local arrangements, steps need to be taken locally to ensure an integrated and consistent approach to planning and service delivery. Child Protection and Adult Protection Committees (sometimes combined) have a key role in this respect.

2.196 Public protection involves a focus on work with both victims and perpetrators. With perpetrators, the aim must be to reduce future risk. At a minimum this may involve ensuring that the right monitoring arrangements are in place to track an individual’s behaviour, but it may also mean working with that individual to help them understand their behaviour and how it impacts on others.

2.197 Public protection encompasses the needs of former victims, and of immediate family members at risk of harm.

Interface between child and adult protection

2.198 Adult and child protection may overlap and interact. The Child Protection Guidance applies to children and young people up to the age of 18. There is a potential overlap of powers and duties in relation to the Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007 and a revised Code of Practice to aid implementation and provide guidance was published in July 2022.

2.199 An adult at risk is a person aged 16 or over who:

  • is unable to safeguard their own wellbeing, property, rights or other interests
  • is at risk of harm
  • and because he or she is affected by disability, mental disorder, illness or physical or mental infirmity, is more vulnerable to being harmed than adults who are not so affected

2.200 To ensure that individuals do not fall between eligibility and service criteria, co‑ordination and collaboration is necessary between child and adult services at both operational and strategic levels. Arrangements for linking up child and adult services in relation to support and protection must be agreed through Chief Officer’s Groups and Child and Adult Protection Committees as described above.

2.201 Adult services should be aware of the need to share concerns and work with the appropriate children’s services. Similarly, there may also be situations where an adult at risk of harm is assessed as being a risk to children; or where investigations about risk to children indicate the need for adult support and protection. Local arrangements should ensure that appropriate assessments and plans are put in place in such situations.

2.202 In respect of adult support and protection, the statutory framework governing adult protection establishes specific criteria for identifying an adult at risk. Young people identified as in need of protection will not automatically fit these criteria when they reach the age of 16, and services should ensure there is routine consideration of their ‘risk’ status.

2.203 Child and Adult Protection Committees should jointly develop robust procedures to ensure on-going support for any child about whom there are child protection concerns at the point where they move from children’s into adult services. The GIRFEC National Practice Model supports a single planning system for all children and young people up to 18 years. A child’s plan should state whether he or she is potentially an adult at risk of harm who will require on-going support, services or statutory measures.

2.204 In such circumstances there should be local processes in place for assessment and transition planning, starting no later than 12 months before school leaving age. These processes should include provision for the resolution of any disputes about the proposed support plan. These processes should also be separate from any arrangements for case transfer, which will be a matter for each agency’s respective protocols. Instead, they will underpin the transition from child protection registration into adult services and any adult support and protection arrangements. It is important that the transition processes are clearly communicated to staff in both children’s and adult services. Issues of consent are of particular significance here, as the young person may choose not to accept the services offered.

2.205 Staff working in children’s services will need training to help them identify and act on adult support and protection issues, and vice versa. Child and Adult Protection Committees will be responsible for developing joint training to meet these needs.

2.206 Some young people behave harmfully to others. Social workers should pursue a holistic consideration of wellbeing, needs and the context of the behaviours. Their needs for care and protection must also be assessed.


2.207 Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) are the statutory partnership working arrangements introduced in 2007 under section 10 of the Management of Offenders etc. (Scotland) Act 2005. The purpose of MAPPA is public protection and the reduction of serious harm. In Scotland, the MAPPA brings together the police, Scottish Prison Service (SPS), health and the local authorities in partnership as the Responsible Authorities, to assess and manage the risk posed for certain categories of offender. A duty to co‑operate extends to other services including the Third Sector (such as those providing housing services). Multi-agency consideration must be given to managing high-risk individuals. For those who have committed sexual offences, multi-agency consideration will include their levels of contact with children, both within the family and within the community in general. These considerations will also be taken into account, where appropriate, for individuals convicted of certain violent offences (those assessed under MAPPA as ‘Other Risk of Serious Harm’ individuals).

2.208 Children and young people who offend are considered to be children in need and are very rarely managed by MAPPA processes. There may be exceptions to this for the purposes of protecting members of the public from serious harm (whether or not physical harm). The child’s welfare must remain a primary consideration in plans and decisions. A lead professional, who must be a qualified social worker, would have a key role in ensuring co‑ordination of assessment and next steps within a developing but coherent single plan.

2.209 The Violent and Sex Offender Register (ViSOR) is the agreed system used by MAPPA. This is a UK-wide IT system which is intended to facilitate inter-agency communication and ensure that the responsible authorities contribute, share and securely store critical information about MAPPA offenders. It improves the capacity to share intelligence, and supports the immediate transfer of key information when offenders move between areas.

2.210 The Scottish Government has published guidance on the review of Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements when offenders managed under these arrangements commit, or attempt to commit, further serious crimes. Multi-agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA): national guidance sets out the steps for conducting a Significant Case Review to examine whether agencies effectively applied MAPPA arrangements and worked together effectively. Further information on MAPPA may be found at Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) in Scotland: national overview report 2021/2022 - (

Community Justice Partnerships

2.211 A new model for community justice came into effect on 1 April 2017. As part of this, a new national agency, Community Justice Scotland, was established to provide assurance to Scottish Ministers on the collective achievement of community justice outcomes across Scotland. At a local level, strategic planning and service delivery became the responsibility of local community justice partners. They are required to produce a local plan for community justice, known as a Community Justice Outcomes and Improvement Plan (CJOIP). Community justice partners, defined in the Community Justice (Scotland) Act 2016 (s13) are the Chief Constable of Police Scotland, health boards, Integration Joint Boards for Health and Social Care, local authorities, Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Scottish Ministers (e.g. Scottish Prison Service), and Skills Development Scotland. The statutory partners are required to engage and involve the Third Sector in the planning, delivery and reporting of services and improved outcomes, and to report on progress against the CJOIP annually.

Violence Against Women Partnerships

2.212 Equally Safe, the Scottish Government and COSLA’s joint strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls (VAWG), was launched in 2014, revised in 2016, with a delivery plan published in 2017. An updated interim delivery plan was published in 2022, and this, along with the overarching strategy will be refreshed over the course of 2023. Equally Safe sets out a shared understanding of the causes, risk factors and scale of the problem, and highlights that violence against women and girls is underpinned by gender inequality. Prevention necessitates tackling perpetrators and intervening early. The strategy reflects the particular experiences of children and young people who may be subject to gendered violence, and recognises children as victims of domestic abuse and coercive control, irrespective of their gender.

2.213 Violence Against Women Partnerships (VAW Partnerships) are the multi-agency mechanism delivering on the strategy at a local level. The Scottish Government and COSLA’s expectation is that every local authority should have a VAW Partnership with a strategic plan and designated co‑ordinator for collaboration between public sector and Third Sector organisations (Violence Against Women Partnership Guidance).

Alcohol and Drug Partnerships

2.214 Problematic alcohol and/or drug use is often a long-term, hidden problem, and can lead to sustained issues of child neglect or abuse. Collaborative practice across child and adult services should encompass planning with services, such as adult social care and housing. This will increase the ability of services to identify children at risk from parental alcohol and drug use, and ensure that adequate and early plans are in place to support them. In early 2009, the Scottish Government, in partnership with COSLA, published A New Framework for Local Partnerships on Alcohol and Drugs. This was updated in 2019. ‘Rights, respect and recovery’ (Scottish Government 2018) is the national strategy to improve health by preventing and reducing alcohol and drug use, harm and related deaths.

2.215 Alcohol and Drug Partnerships and Child Protection Committees should develop local protocols to support relevant, proportionate and necessary information sharing between drug and alcohol services and children and families services. Protocols should define standard terms and processes within assessment, co‑ordinated planning, and response to risk of harm to a child, including response to concerns during pregnancy. Specialist, Third Sector and adult support services must all be aware of the potential risks and needs of children affected. Accountability for implementation, monitoring and progression of partnership protocols should be clear.

2.216 Multi-agency child protection training should be a standard part of the planning, commissioning and delivery of adult drug and alcohol services.

For all services and practitioners

2.217 This section of the Guidance has described some of the structures and responsibilities within the landscape of child protection. Inevitably, services have a focus upon risk of harm. The drive to achieve consistent operating procedures may imply linear steps in child protection. However, there are usually uncertainties and options, requiring partnership, teamwork and professional judgement at every stage. A shared ethos for all practitioners will acknowledge that child protection involves listening and consideration of:

  • the child’s experience and needs, in context
  • the wellbeing of the family as a whole
  • additional risks and barriers for some individuals and groups
  • the need for co‑ordination in assessment and practical action
  • the opportunities to build on strengths in children, families and communities

2.218 The next section considers common elements in multi-agency child protection processes assessment.



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