National guidance for child protection in Scotland 2014

This guidance has been superseded by the 2021 version .

Collective Responsibilities for Child Protection

129. All agencies, professional and public bodies and services that deliver adult and/or child services and work with children and their families 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. They are expected to identify and consider the child's needs, share information and concerns with other agencies and work collaboratively with other services (as well as the child and their family) to improve outcomes for the child.

130. Accordingly, greater emphasis needs to be placed on the role of agencies and professional bodies that work with the public. An awareness and appreciation of what others do is essential for effective collaboration between organisations, professional bodies and the public. This chapter outlines the main collective responsibilities for child protection, including local communities and the general public as well as Child Protection Committees, the key strategic fora for local inter-agency child protection partnerships.

131. Strong leadership and a competent and confident workforce play a critical role in child protection. Two key issues here are the importance of leadership in local child protection, particularly with regard to the way in which services are steered by senior managers, and to the professional development of those working in child protection. The individual roles and responsibilities of statutory organisations, professional bodies and the independent and third sector in child protection are considered in the next chapter [17] .

Local communities and the general public

132. Notifications of concern concerning a child at risk of significant harm will often come from family members, friends or neighbours, nursery or indvidual childminders Sometimes children make reports directly. Agencies working with families and children are in an ideal position to inform and educate the general public about how they are working to protect children, and about the contribution that the wider community can make. Local authorities and other relevant agencies, including third sector services, should disseminate information to the general public that promotes a sense of shared responsibility and provides clear information on how to communicate concerns.Where appropriate, they should also give information about the outcome of a notification of concern. Practitioners must make it clear to members of the public that they have an obligation to pass on information about child abuse and neglect to the statutory agencies and that confidentiality cannot be guaranteed where the child is thought to have experienced, or be likely to be at risk of, significant harm. Services should be clear from the outset about their responsibilities for sharing information and to provide information on the role and responsibilities of the Named Person.

133. Local services, under the co-ordination of their Child Protection Committees, should develop strategies for engaging with the public on child protection issues. Crucial to the success of these strategies is the provision for some form of communication with individual members of the public once child protection concerns have been passed on. Members of the public need to understand how the information they provide is being used, both in order to manage their expectations and to secure their continuing vigilance with regard to child protection. In the context of a child protection investigation this may not always be possible, but services should strive to provide direct follow-up feedback in a timely manner to members of the public who pass on child protection concerns and this should be reflected in local protocols.

Chief Officers' Groups

134. Local Police Commanders and Chief Executives of Health Boards and Local Authorities (a group hereafter referred to as Chief Officers) 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 maximising the involvement of those agencies not under their direct control, including the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and the third sector. Chief Officers across Scotland are individually and collectively responsible for the leadership, direction and scrutiny of their respective child protection services and their Child Protection Committees. Chief Officers are responsible for overseeing the commissioning of all child protection services and are accountable for this work and its effectiveness. They are individually responsible for promoting child protection across all areas of their individual services and agencies, thus ensuring a corporate approach. This responsibility applies equally to the public, private and third sectors.

135. Across Scotland, local arrangements are now well established to meet local geographic and demographic demands and service user needs. Chief Officers are responsible for determining the most appropriate child protection arrangements for their respective area(s). Chief Officers' Groups have strategic responsibility for their Child Protection Committees. Chief Officers' Groups must be properly constituted so as to discharge their individual and collective strategic responsibilities. Chief Officers must ensure and recognise that members of Child Protection Committees have the necessary child protection skills and knowledge to enable them to fulfil their individual and collective responsibilities. Child Protection Committees are best placed to provide Chief Officers with the best possible professional advice on child protection matters.

136. Chief Officers should agree and disseminate a clear vision, shared values and aims that promote the protection of all children and young people. That vision should clearly highlight the desired outcomes for child protection and be linked to the key processes required to achieve those outcomes. It should be disseminated amongst staff and the general public. Chief Officers should demonstrate effective collaborative working to discharge their child protection responsibilities and consistently promote effective joint working within and across services.

137. Chief Officers will determine their own local membership and business arrangements. They will ensure that they are transparent and accountable to elected members and Scottish Ministers. Their partnership working will focus on providing better outcomes for vulnerable children and families. They will set up arrangements for gathering and presenting performance management and monitoring information that is relevant to achieving these outcomes in their areas and taking appropriate action in response to unsatisfactory performance. They will ensure that there is an interface with adult protection, offender management/Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements ( MAPPA), Alcohol and Drug Partnerships and other planning fora. For further information, see the chapter on Wider planning links.

138. It is essential that Chief Officers make clear what management performance information they need to assure themselves that their areas are continually improving and to address any weaknesses revealed in inspection, audit or significant case review reports. They should be assured that the information is being collected in a robust and regular manner, analysed and presented appropriately, and that key issues arising are addressed promptly. Services should work together to develop robust arrangements for gathering and managing performance information so that Chief Officers and Child Protection Committees can assure themselves that the needs of children at risk are being met and that services are improving outcomes for vulnerable children in both the short and longer term. This will strengthen joint working between Chief Officers and senior managers, improving services and ensuring that Child Protection Committees have the resources they need to work effectively and support improvements.

Support for staff

  • Child protection can be a complex and demanding area for staff and volunteers at all levels and requires sound professional judgements to be made. All of those involved should have access to advice and support from, for example, peers, managers or designated practitioners. Opportunities to reflect on individual and collaborative practice are particularly valuable.
  • Practitioners from all agencies involved in child protection require high quality, consistent and accessible support and supervision. Each agency should have formal procedures in place that promote good standards of practice and support individual staff members and effective prioritisation of workloads. Senior managers should ensure that supervision procedures are implemented and that staff feel supported.
  • Supervision should ensure that practitioners - whether paid or volunteers - fully understand their roles, responsibilities and the scope of their professional discretion and authority. It should also help to identify the training and development needs of practitioners, ensuring that they have the skills to provide an effective service.
  • Supervisors should be available to practitioners as an important source of advice and expertise, and may be required to endorse judgements at certain key points in time. Supervisors should also record key decisions within the child's case records.

Child Protection Committees

139. Child Protection Committees were first established in each local authority area in Scotland in 1991. Since then, they have been subject to many reforms and reviews, in particular in 2005 when they were strengthened as part of the then Scottish Executive's Child Protection Reform Programme. [18] The national guidance for Child Protection Committees was published in 2005 and has been embedded in this revised guidance with some amendments.

140. Child Protection Committees are locally-based, inter-agency strategic partnerships responsible for the design, development, publication, distribution, dissemination, implementation and evaluation of child protection policy and practice across the public, private and wider third sectors in their locality and in partnership across Scotland. Their role, through their respective local structures and memberships, is to provide individual and collective leadership and direction for the management of child protection services across Scotland. They work in partnership with their respective Chief Officers' Groups and the Scottish Government to take forward child protection policy and practice across Scotland.

141. This guidance is, therefore, deliberately specific in its content to reflect the continuing significant importance of Child Protection Committees. It emphasises the need for a clear, co-ordinated and unambiguous approach to child protection across Scotland within the wider GIRFEC framework.

142. Chief Officers must ensure that their Child Protection Committees are properly constituted and resourced that arrangements are clearly focused and relevant to all members of the committee itself, as well as any sub-committees and partner agencies, and the wider public at large. Child Protection Committees must work within the wider planning framework so that their work is fully integrated with other planning fora and is as effective as possible.

143. Chief Officers are responsible for ensuring that resources include dedicated finance to support the collective work and/or specific core functions and/or activities of their Child Protection Committees. Chief Officers will ensure that their Child Protection Committees have dedicated professional and administrative support staff. Chief Officers and Child Protection Committees should consider joint funding and effective approaches to sharing resources for appropriate areas of activity.

144. Each Child Protection Committee should appoint a lead officer to co-ordinate its activities, including the work of any sub-committees. Each Child Protection Committee should have in place the necessary resources to deliver inter-agency child protection training, such as a dedicated child protection training officer.

145. Membership of the Child Protection Committee will be representative and inclusive and all members must fully understand their role, remit and purpose. Chief Officers' Groups will appoint or agree the appointment of the chair of their Child Protection Committee, including their contractual arrangements and/or terms of reference, role and remit. Chief Officers may appoint a chair from a single representative service or agency, or appoint an independent chair. This remains at local discretion. Chief Officers will also appoint, or agree the appointment of, a vice chair and the rest of the committee members.

146. Chief Officers will ensure that the chair and vice chair fully understand their specific role, responsibilities and remit, and that they have an in-depth knowledge of child protection. Chief Officers will agree their working arrangements, terms of office and reporting and accountability arrangements.

147. Chief Officers will ensure that all members of their Child Protection Committee have the relevant delegated responsibility level and capacity to make decisions on behalf of the service or agency they represent. All Child Protection Committee members will have designated deputies who will attend the regular meeting in their absence and on their behalf.

148. Chief Officers will make certain that all members of their Child Protection Committee are properly inducted, have access to child protection training (particularly inter-agency child protection training) and have protected time in which to fulfil their responsibilities before, during and after meetings. They will also ensure that the work of their Child Protection Committee is transmitted widely, so that it is understood and embedded into their respective service or agency's child protection policy and practice arrangements. Work arising from the Child Protection Committee must be properly implemented and monitored effectively so as to measure impact and outcomes.

149. Chief Officers will decide on the local reporting arrangements for their Child Protection Committee and the requirement for an annual report and/or annual plan, in addition to any other national and/or local planning and reporting requirements.

Functions of a Child Protection Committee

150. The functions of a Child Protection Committee are continuous improvement, strategic planning, public information and communication. The work of the Child Protection Committee must be reflected in local practice and meet local needs. The following describes in more detail the core business functions of Child Protection Committees and provides a working framework. They are presented here in no particular order of priority or importance. This list should not be considered all-inclusive or exhaustive.

Continuous improvement

151. Child Protection Committees have a key role to play in the continuous improvement of child protection policy and practice. A number of functions relate directly to this key role.

Policies, procedures and protocols

152. Child Protection Committees will design, develop, publish, distribute, disseminate, implement and regularly review and evaluate clear and robust inter-agency child protection policies, procedures, protocols and guidelines. This may be done in conjunction with other Child Protection Committees or as part of cross-authority consortia. Each Child Protection Committee will:

  • encourage constituent services and agencies to have in place their own up-to-date child protection policies, procedures, protocols, guidelines and other relevant materials;
  • ensure all services and agencies have robust whistle-blowing polices in place and that these are sufficiently disseminated and understood by all practitioners and managers;
  • ensure that child protection policies, procedures, protocols and guidelines are developed around existing and emerging key issues, where there is agreement that this is required, specifically in relation to diability, child trafficking, child sexual exploitation, online and mobile phone child safety, and children and young people who are missing; and
  • publish and regularly review their own inter-agency child protection guidelines, which must reflect national and local policy developments, including GIRFEC and the arrangements for the management of Child's Planning meeting.

The importance of self-evaluation in improving services to protect children

153. Self-evaluation is central to continuous improvement. It is a reflective process through which Child Protection Committees and strategic planning groups for services for children and young people get to know how well they are doing and identify the best way to improve their services. Relevant frameworks of quality indicators are designed to assist this process by:

  • encouraging reflection upon practice to identify strengths and areas for improvement;
  • recognizing work which is having a positive effect on the protection of children ;
  • identifying where quality needs to be maintained, where improvement is needed and where services should be working towards achieving excellence; and
  • allowing services to inform stakeholders about the quality of services to protect children.

154. Self-evaluation is about change and improvement, leading to well considered innovation in service delivery. It is based on professional reflection, challenge and support and involves informed decisions about what actions need to be taken. 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.

155. The quality indicators set out in [19] How well do we protect children and meet their needs? published by HMIE in 2009 are designed to cover key aspects of the work of Child Protection Committees and services involved in protecting children. is is recommended to Child Protection Committees as the toolkit to help with evaluating and improving the quality of services to protect children, young people and families. The quality indicators set out in [20] How well are we improving the lives of children, young people and families? published by the Care inspectorate in 2012 and due for revision in 2014 are designed to cover key aspects of the work of Community Planning Partnerships in the delivery of services for children, young people and families. These self-evaluation guides are based on the same framework and are designed to enable consistent evaluation of how well services are doing. This means that the evidence and outcomes from self-evaluation activity carried out in relation to one should be able to inform the other.

156. Robust and systematic performance management and quality assurance arrangements across all relevant services are essential in order to provide Child Protection Committees with the information they need. This helps partners to monitor how well the range of services are doing and to identify those areas where resources are inefficient or where improvement is required. These arrangements include:

  • systematic approaches to self-evaluation and quality assurance which focus on the experiences and outcomes for children and families;
  • establishing effective systems to monitor the quality of key child protection processes, such as core groups, risk assessment and Child's Plans (which incorporate Child Protection Plans);
  • involving all key stakeholders, including children and families, in self-evaluation and review;
  • monitoring and implementing improvement plans effectively to ensure they lead to positive changes;
  • communicating learning effectively to staff, including learning from self-evaluation;
  • building capacity among the workforce by supporting the development of practitioner fora and other methods of sharing good practice;
  • providing an overview of management information and statistics relating to children and young people on the local Child Protection Register, which includes analysis of trends to inform a strategic assessment of service need;
  • ensuring that management information and statistics reports inform the development of inter-agency child protection policy and practice; an
  • measuring the extent to which self-evaluation, and changes made as a result of self-evaluation, contribute to actual improvements in services and outcomes for children

Promoting good practice

157. Child Protection Committees have a responsibility to identify and promote good, evidence-based policy and practice developments, address issues of poor policy and practice, and encourage learning from effective policy and practice developments. Each Child Protection Committee will:

  • have robust mechanisms in place for the identification, consideration and undertaking of significant case reviews on behalf of the Chief Officers. These should include a vigorous evaluation process for actions resulting from the review, [21]
  • have in place mechanisms to identify and disseminate lessons from past and current practice, including learning from significant case reviews, inspection reports and other inquiry reports;
  • ensure that these lessons directly inform inter-agency child protection planning, training and staff development; and
  • identify networks, mechanisms and opportunities to share these lessons more widely across services and agencies and between Child Protection Committees across Scotland.

Learning and development

158. The importance of professional judgement in dealing with the risk and uncertainty of child protection situations means that training must be a core consideration. Multi-agency training is an essential component in building common understanding and fostering good working relationships, which are vital to effective child protection. Child Protection Committees are well placed to help develop and deliver such training. Training on a single and an inter-agency basis can help develop the core skills needed to support effective inter-disciplinary working both on actual cases of abuse and on prevention and post-abuse programmes. Child Protection Committees should make sure mechanisms are in place for the delivery and evaluation of local training initiatives.

159. In 2012, the Scottish Government published a national framework for child protection learning and development [22] . The purpose of the framework is to set out a common set of skills and standards for workers to ensure the delivery of a consistently high standard of support to children and young people across the country. The main aim is to strengthen the skills and training of professionals and improve the advice and tools available to them in assessing, managing and minimising risks faced by some of our most vulnerable children and young people.

160. 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. Child Protection Committee's should develop training programmes that complement and build on the work already done by individual agencies and which embrace multi-agency training needs among the staff of the agencies concerned. Different staff groups will have different skill sets, knowledge and responsibilities and staff from all agencies should be confident about their own roles and how these fit into the wider picture. Child Protection Committees need to identify collective training needs on an ongoing basis, responding quickly to any gaps highlighted by inspection reports, significant case reviews or other sources, working in collaboration with single agencies which may have their own training responsibilities.

161. Child Protection Committees should have an overview of the training needs of all staff involved in child protection activity, including:

  • Staff 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. They will need a thorough understanding of working together to promote, support and safeguard the wellbeing of all children and young people.
  • Other staff who work directly with children, young people and parents/carers and who may be asked to contribute to assessments, for example children's group workers. This group will need a fuller understanding of how to work together to identify and assess concerns, and how to plan, undertake and review interventions.
  • Other staff who have regular contact with children as part of their job, for example school bus drivers. These staff are well placed to recognise signs of abuse and raise concerns about a child's wellbeing and should understand their responsibility to share such concerns appropriately.
  • Those in regular contact with parents/ carers, who are well placed to identify where a parent's or carer's behaviour may impact on a child. This group must be aware of their responsibility to consider such issues and know what they should do if they are concerned about a child's wellbeing.

162. 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 staff, and decision-making. Some managers will also need training on the conduct of significant case reviews.

163. Training may be delivered more effectively if there is collaboration across local areas, especially where local policing divisions or health service boundaries span more than one local authority area. The content of training should reflect the principles, values and processes set out in national guidance on work with children and families as well as local protocols. It should be relevant to different groups from the statutory, third and other sectors, including volunteers, and be regularly reviewed and updated in the light of research and practice experience. A number of resources are available to assist staff development and training and some of these can be found in Appendix B.

164. Child Protection Committees are responsible for publishing, implementing and reviewing an inter-agency child protection training strategy. They should also quality assure and evaluate the impact of that training.

Strategic planning

165. Child Protection Committees are the key local partnerships in terms of the planning of child protection policy and practice. This needs to be done in conjunction with other planning mechanisms and priorities, in particular arrangements for integrated children's services planning and community planning and other public protection fora. The contribution of Child Protection Committees to strategic planning falls into the following two broad categories:

Communication, collaboration and co-operation

166. Effective communication, collaboration and co-operation, both within and between practitioners and across all services and agencies, remain essential for the protection of children and families. Each Child Protection Committee will:

  • demonstrate effective communication and co-operation at committee and sub-committee level;
  • actively promote effective communication, collaboration and co-operation between all services and agencies;
  • identify and resolve any issues between services and agencies that hinder the protection of children and young people;
  • demonstrate effective communication with other inter-agency partnerships and bodies;
  • communicate effectively about the work of the Child Protection Committee with staff in constituent services and agencies; and
  • identify opportunities to share knowledge, skills and learning with other Child Protection Committees via national and local networks and fora across Scotland.

Making and maintaining links with other planning fora

167. Child Protection Committees need to be clear about their links with other multi-agency planning partnerships and structures. Each Child Protection Committee will:

  • clearly identify the key links that need to be made with other bodies and ensure that they are made;
  • ensure that Child Protection Committee plans and priorities are clearly linked to other national and local plans;
  • in conjunction with other bodies, identify areas where joint working would be beneficial or duplication could be avoided and ensure that action is taken to address these issues; and
  • have in place, and regularly review the effectiveness of, joint protocols around particular identified issues

168. While this list is not exhaustive, these connections will include:

  • the Chief Officers' Group;
  • all services and agencies represented on the Child Protection Committee, sub-committees and/or groups including the local authority, the NHS, police and the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration;
  • Elected Members Committees;
  • Adult Protection Committees;
  • adult services ( e.g. mental health, criminal justice or learning disability services);
  • sex offender management and MAPPA;
  • children's services planning;
  • community planning;
  • Child Protection Committees in other areas;
  • Community Safety Partnerships;
  • Alcohol and Drug Partnerships or their equivalent;
  • Violence Against Women/Domestic Abuse Partnerships;
  • community care planning structures;
  • Child Care Partnerships;
  • the third sector;
  • youth justice;
  • the Scottish Government;
  • the Scottish Ambulance Service;
  • the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service; and
  • NHS Child Protection Action Groups.

Public information and communication

Raising public awareness

169. Child Protection Committees will determine the level of public awareness, understanding and knowledge of, and confidence in, child protection systems within their area and address any issues as required within their business and/or improvement plans.

170. Child Protection Committees will produce and disseminate public information about protecting children and young people. Child Protection Committees will design, develop, publish, distribute, disseminate, implement, regularly review and evaluate a public information and communications strategy that includes the following elements:

  • raising basic awareness and understanding of child protection issues within communities, including among children and young people;
  • adapting good practice from others and exploring opportunities to fulfil these responsibilities with other Child Protection Committees;
  • promoting the ethos that "child protection is everyone's job" in keeping with the GIRFEC approach; and
  • providing information about how members of the public can report concerns about a child and what could happen.

Involving children and young people and their families

171. Child Protection Committees will ensure that the views of children, young people and their families are clearly evidenced in their work, in accordance with GIRFEC principles. It is vital that this area is not addressed in a token manner and that children's views are fed into the planning and implementation of improvements. The Children and Young People Act (Scotland) 2014 contains provisions that, when implemented, will require the CPC to consult other service providers who contribute to the preparation of the plan. Each Child Protection Committee will:

  • be able to demonstrate that its work is informed by the perspective of children and young people, including the most vulnerable and those with direct experiences of child protection services;
  • review and develop their strategies for doing so; and
  • involve children and young people in the design, development and implementation of Child Protection Committees' public information and communication strategies, to ensure that information is accessible and that children's experiences and perspectives are properly reflected

172. There are a number of ways of doing this. For the purposes of illustration these could include:

  • drawing on the experience of the third sector in eliciting the views of children and young people;
  • receiving regular reports from children's rights officers on the views of children and young people;
  • commissioning independent surveys, either individually or collectively with other Child Protection Committees, on the views of children and their families;
  • improving decision-making and recording practices to ensure that the views of children and families are better able to be gathered together and reflected;
  • promoting the establishment of community-based advocacy services for children and young people; and
  • ensuring that the views of children and young people are accounted for through the application of inter-agency quality assurance mechanisms.


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