National guidance for child protection in Scotland 2014

This guidance has been superseded by the 2021 version .

Single Agency Responsibilities for Child Protection

173. All agencies that work with children and their families have a shared responsibility for protecting children and promoting, supporting and safeguarding their wellbeing. Each has a different contribution to make to this common task. These include: identifying wellbeing concerns; sharing relevant information; contributing to risk assessments and Child Protection Plans; and, in some instances, actively contributing to investigations and providing specialist advice or support. Local services should ensure that policies are in place clearly outlining the responsibilities of all staff in relation to child protection and that staff are sufficiently trained and resourced to carry out these responsibilities. All services and professional bodies should have clear policies in place for identifying and sharing concerns and information about a child or young person's wellbeing, as well as helping to respond to those concerns.

Shared responsibilities

All staff at all levels in all services, including third and private sector services, should:

  • have information, advice and training to make them aware of risks to children, what additional factors make children vulnerable, and an understanding of their particular responsibilities in keeping children safe including children with disability;
  • have ready access to appropriate, relevant and up-to-date guidance that tells them what action to take if they are concerned about a child's safety or wellbeing;
  • understand what, how and when to record and share information to keep children safe, and be able to do so;
  • know what action to take if families with children whose names are on the Child Protection Register, or about whom there are significant concerns, fail to attend services or agreed appointments;
  • be given information, advice and training to help them understand key child protection processes and the roles and responsibilities of staff in their own and other services who may play a significant role in protecting children;
  • have appropriate supervision and support, and opportunities for reflective practice from managers when they are concerned about a child or when they are involved in child protection processes; and
  • understand when a child may be in need of a Compulsory Measure of Supervision and when a referral should be made to the Reporter.

174. The following chapter considers the roles and responsibilities of these agencies and individuals under two groupings: public/statutory services; and other community and related services.

Public/statutory services

Local authority social work services

Children and family services

175. 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 wellbeing needs. When the local authority receives information which suggests a child may be in need of compulsory measures of supervision, social work services will make enquiries and give the Children's Reporter any information they have about the child. The Role of the Registered Social Worker in Statutory Interventions: 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;
  • implementing the social work component of a risk management plan and taking appropriate action where there is concern that a multi-agency plan is not being actioned; and
  • making recommendations to a children's hearing or court as to whether the child should be accommodated away from home.

176. Children and family social workers also either directly provide, or facilitate access to, a wide range of services to support vulnerable children and families, increase parents' competence and confidence, improve children's day-to-day experiences and help them recover from the impact of abuse and neglect. 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'. 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.

177. 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, arranging Child Protection Case Conferences, maintaining the Child Protection Register and supervising children on behalf of the Children's Hearing.

178. Local authority social work services also have a clear responsibility to children from their own area, including when those children are placed outside the authority's geographical boundaries or with carers or in establishments managed by providers other than the local authority.

Criminal justice social work services

179. Local authorities' criminal justice social work services also have responsibilities for the supervision and management of risk relating to adults who have committed high-risk offences including those against children. Criminal justice staff may be directly involved in risk assessment, supervision and intervention with adult offenders against children. Alternatively, through the course of their involvement with other service users, concerns about a child's wellbeing may come to light - for example, in cases of domestic abuse or problematic alcohol and/or drug use.

Adult support services

180. Adult services can include a range of specialist provisions for particular groups, including the elderly, those with mental health issues, people with disabilities and adults at risk and in need of support and/or protection. Although the services will invariably be offered to the adult, all staff should be aware of the circumstances in which a child's wellbeing needs within the family should be identified and considered. Adult services, along with colleagues in children and families services, should ensure there is strong transitional planning for young people entering their services. This should form part of the single planning process for that young person.

Youth justice

181.Youth justice staff work with children and young people involved in offending behaviour. Such young people may need support in relation to past experiences of abuse, as well as help to manage their offending behaviour. Youth justice staff may be asked to contribute to risk assessments as well as to support Child's Plans including those where protection is the primary issue. Youth justice staff can also play an important role in assessing and intervening with children and young people who may present risks to others (see Appendix B).

Local Authority Education Services

182. Education practitioners, school staff and staff in other learning settings play a crucial role in the support and protection of children as well as the development of their wellbeing. The role of the Named Person in education services will be key to the identification of wellbeing concerns and the assessment and planning to improve outcomes. Teachers are likely to have the greatest level of day-to-day contact with children and so are well placed to observe physical and psychological changes in a child that could indicate abuse and to contribute to the assessment of vulnerable children. Education staff may be the first to be aware that families are experiencing difficulties in looking after their children. They should share information about any concerns with the social work service or the police at an early stage via their established reporting mechanisms and refer to the Children's Reporter if there might be a need for Compulsory Measures of Supervision. They may be asked to help with investigations into reported or suspected abuse or neglect. Children and young people often see teachers as a trusted source of help and support. Where the concerns do not constitute a child protection concern the Named Person will have a key role in developing a Child's Plan where appropriate.

183. Through Curriculum for Excellence, education practitioners have an important role in equipping all children with the knowledge, skills and understanding they need to keep themselves and others safe. This could include offering advice and guidance on issues such as drugs, alcohol, under-age sexual activity, honour-based violence, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, using e-technology and bullying.

184. Scottish schools also have a responsibility for ensuring all children are offered support, if required, to build positive relationships and enable pupils and parents to access support by spending time with teachers and school staff, and by trusting that they can have access to a member of staff when they need it [23] . They must then be able to rely on prompt and appropriate information and effective support to get the help they need, when they need it [24] .

185. Most children and young people get most of the help and support they need from their families, from teachers and health practitioners, and from their wider communities. When a child needs extra help, depending on the age of the child or young person, a health visitor or head or guidance teacher carrying out the role of Named Person will beresponsible for accessing this support. This means that the child and their family have a single point of contact who can work with them to sort out any further help, advice or support if they need it.

186. Education services work with a range of other agencies, including youth workers and Community Learning and Development. Education services can provide a range of services and support to meet the needs of a child or young person [25] and education staff can support a child in ongoing planning and support for children, including participation in Child Protection Case Conferences and core groups.

187. Where a child goes missing from education, education services within local authorities will conduct investigations in line with their local policy. This will be a collaborative approach, sharing information across services and agencies to re-establish contact with the missing child. Each local authority has a CME co-ordinator that can provide further guidance; more details of children missing from education in Scotland can be found on the dedicated website In addition, education staff have statutory responsibilities to refer a child to SCRA as well as referring to social work service or the police where it is considered a child may be in need of Compulsory Measures of Supervision.

188. Education services also have certain responsibilities towards children educated at home, which can include assessing the educational provision being made and ensuring that children have a Named Person in line with Getting it Right for Every Child [26] . 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. Whilst a child educated at home may have limited engagement with services which could otherwise help ensure their safety and wellbeing, home education is not in itself a child protection issue. Further guidance to parents and local authorities on home education has been published by the Scottish Government.

Early years services

189. As part of local authority education services, early education and child care services share the same responsibilities as their colleagues in schools for identifying and responding to concerns over a child's wellbeing. Establishments for the under-fives can offer significant support to vulnerable children and their families. They may often be the first to become aware that a family needs additional support, or to identify concerns about possible harm to a child. They may also be the first point of contact for a parent/carer who needs support. Often they will play a crucial role in providing support and effective intervention to a child and their family once concerns have been identified, as well as monitoring the child's wellbeing on an ongoing basis. Family centre staff can play a key role, supervising contact between looked after children and their parents, assessing the quality of parent/child interaction, promoting positive parenting and supporting bonding. They make an essential contribution to risk and need assessment and planning. Early years staff help all children build resilience, and where they are vulnerable, make sense of their situations and recover from trauma. Where staff in early years have a concern about a child's wellbeing they will discuss this with the child's Named Person in health, usually the health visitor.


190. The police have a general duty to protect the public and investigate on behalf of the Procurator Fiscal, where they believe that a criminal offence may have been committed. They will provide any information that will assist the Procurator Fiscal to decide whether a criminal prosecution should take place. The police will refer a child to the Children's Reporter if they believe that they may be in need of compulsory measures of supervision.

191. Child protection is a fundamental part of the duties of all police officers. Officers may become aware of children who may be at risk in a variety of ways. Officers should be sensitive to the impact of adults' behaviour on any child normally resident within the household when attending incidents or conducting investigations, for example domestic abuse, problematic alcohol/drug use. Officers may gain access to homes where living conditions are poor. When conducting investigations, they may become aware of children who are at home where they should be at school or they may be suspicious about a child's status within the household. A child's appearance or demeanour may give rise to concern. Officers will also be mindful of the need to ensure adequate care arrangements when parents are detained or cannot care for their children for other reasons. Police officers have a statutory duty to refer all children who may be in need of Compulsory Measures of Supervision, to SCRA. Community policing teams contribute to prevention and personal safety programmes for children and young people. Where the Named Person role is already in place, concerns should be shared with them. Where the role is still to be embedded, concerns are re-routed to social work or via the Reporter to the Children's Panel.

192. In an emergency the police have the specific power under the Children's Hearings (Scotland) 2011 to ensure the immediate protection of children believed to be suffering from, or at risk of, significant harm, commonly referred to as 'Police Emergency Powers'. 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 ongoing protection and safety of that child.

Specialist public protection units

193. Every local policing division across Scotland has a dedicated Public Protection Unit staffed by specialist officers. The police are responsible for investigation and for gathering evidence in criminal investigations. 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.

194. The police hold important information about children who may be at risk of harm or significant harm, as well as about those who cause such harm. They will share this information and intelligence with other organisations when required to protect children or help other agencies carry out early intervention in response to concerns about wellbeing. Where appropriate, the police should attend and contribute to Child Protection Case Conferences. However, 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.

195. Police 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.

196. Following a risk assessment, there is a range of circumstances in which the police may consider that the need to protect children and vulnerable adults will not be met by disclosing such information to the local authority or other agencies alone. Any decision to disclose to further third parties is made carefully on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with any other relevant agencies and taking into account a wide range of factors.

Health services

197. Health practitioners who see children and families have a duty of care to consider the wellbeing of their patients, and to work with statutory agencies when there are concerns about the risk to the wellbeing of a child. They may be the first to be aware that families are experiencing difficulties in caring for their children and should always share information about suspicions of abuse or neglect with the Named Person, social work services, the police or the Children's Reporter at an early stage. They will also be asked to help with investigations into reported or suspected abuse or neglect and will be involved in joint planning. Health practitioners are an integral part of inter-agency Child Protection Plans and provide support and assistance to families. All NHS Boards should have a lead nurse for child protection/nurse consultant and designated child protection advisory staff who are experienced child protection professionals with a health background. When treating or caring for adult patients, all health practitioners must consider whether the patient poses a risk to children or young people and take action quickly if they think this risk exists. Risk factors can include having parents with mental health or substance misuse issues, living in a home where domestic abuse takes place, or living in poverty.

198. In 2013 the Scottish Government published guidance [27] to supplement, and to be read in conjunction with, this national guidance on child protection. The following non-exhaustive list of health practitioners has been extracted from this guidance. All staff working in a healthcare setting should be aware of their responsibilities in identifying and sharing concerns about a child's care or protection:


199. Midwives have a significant role in identifying risk factors to the unborn child during pregnancy, birth and the post-natal period both in hospital and the community. Midwives should be alert to risk factors for the mother and infant including, but not limited to, problematic alcohol and/or drug use, domestic abuse and mental health problems such as post-natal depression. Midwifery and public health nursing services will work collaboratively in addressing the needs of the pregnant woman, unborn child and family as appropriate. The midwife is likely to be the Named Person for a child for the 10 days following birth

Unborn babies and the role of healthcare staff

200. Healthcare staff must consider the needs of the unborn baby, including whether there could be child protection risks after birth. Health boards must have robust processes to consider the needs of vulnerable unborn babies/babies. This includes pre-birth planning with other agencies to address these needs in line with National Guidance (see also pre-birth cpcc, paragraph 392).

201. A Pathway of Care for Vulnerable Families (0-3) provides guidance to ensure that vulnerable children (from conception to age 3) and families in all parts of Scotland receive support that is equitable, proportionate, effective and timely.

202. This process should ensure that all vulnerable pregnant women, including those with drug-related problems, learning disabilities or mental health issues, receive appropriate ante-natal care and support to maximise both their own and their baby's health and wellbeing. Good practice indicates that regular information sharing between all agencies is vital. Healthcare staff often take a leading role in this process. If concerns continue, or are considered high, a child protection response will be expected.

203. After the birth of the baby, where possible, the obstetric and midwifery teams should consider the need for a pre-discharge discussion/meeting to ensure that the correct support services and monitoring processes are in place to protect the child following discharge. Good inter-agency liaison, as appropriate, with social care and social work services is crucial, including the importance of clear communication on key issues and roles and responsibilities of different staff. However, if child protection measures are required this will be taken forward in accordance with local child protection procedures.

Health Visitors

204. Health visitors play a pivotal role in the prevention and early identification of concerns about the wellbeing of a child, including more serious protection and care concerns. After the midwife's post-natal care ends, a Health Visitor will become a child's Named Person, normally until the child starts full-time primary education. HV provide a consistent, knowledgeable and skilled point of contact for families, assessing children's development and planning with parents and carers to ensure their needs are met. As a universal service, they are often the first to be aware that families are experiencing difficulties in looking after their children and can play a crucial role in providing support.

School Nurses

205. The school nurse has an important role in promoting the wellbeing of children and young people and can contribute to prevention and early detection of child abuse through a range of health promotion activities. These include: working with teachers on personal, social and health education; monitoring the health of the school population; liaising effectively with teachers and other practitioners; and profiling the health of the school population so that nursing services can be targeted where they are needed most. School nurses continue to monitor the development and health and wellbeing of all children and young people who have additional health plan indicators from Primary 1 onwards for as long as necessary. Where child protection concerns arise, the school nurse should always be alerted and, where appropriate, involved to ensure health needs are fully identified and met.

Family nurse

206. The Family Nurse Partnership ( FNP) programme is being delivered across many areas in Scotland. The family nurse works with first-time teenage mothers and their families from pregnancy until their child is two years old. The PHN-HV then supports the family after the child reaches two years of age. The family nurse works with parents to develop confidence in their parenting and focus on their strengths to do this.

General Practitioners

207. The role of the General Practitioner ( GP) and the practice team in child protection will be critical in detecting potential concerns, since they will often regularly engage with children and families. Their role includes prevention, early recognition and detection of concerns, assessments and ongoing care and treatment. Surgery consultations, home visits, treatment room sessions, child health clinic attendance, drop-in centre and information for staff such as PHN-HVs, midwives, school nurses, family nurse and practice nurses will all help to build up a picture of the child or young person's situation and highlight any areas of concern. NICE clinical guidelines 89 gives advice on identifying risks to the wellbeing of a children or young person.

208. Following the GMC guidance, GPs must promptly tell an appropriate agency if they are concerned that a child or young person is at risk of, or is experiencing abuse or neglect, unless it is not in the child or young person's best interest to do so. The possible consequences of not sharing relevant information will, in the overwhelming majority of cases, outweigh any harm that sharing concerns with an appropriate agency might cause. GPs can provide direct support to children, young people and their families and contribute to the Child's Plan, specifically, the child protection case conference and/or the child protection plan. GPs and practices must have protocols in place for engaging with other services where child protection concerns arise.

209. GPs are also key in the identification and support to adults with significant risk factors such as addictions and mental health difficulties which may impact on their ability to care. GPs should be familiar with national and local policy outlining key issues and recommendations for working with families where there are risks. Local guidance should be developed in line with the national change programmes and frameworks relevant to children affected by parental problematic alcohol and or drug use. Getting Our Priorities Right specifically highlights important themes for all staff working with parents affected by substance misuse. GPs must also consider risks for children and young people registered with another practice where adult patients present with potential difficulties.

Child protection nurse adviser

210. In some larger Health Boards there will be a Child Protection Nurse Adviser. The Child Protection Nurse Adviser will:

  • support the Nurse Consultant/Lead Nurse in delivering the child protection service across the Board area both in an intra and interagency basis;
  • provide advice and support on child protection to all healthcare staff as well as staff from partner agencies. Be involved in the design, planning and implementation of child protection policies and protocols, which includes the work of the Child Protection Committee and relevant subgroups; and
  • take a lead role in the planning and delivery of child protection training to all healthcare staff, both single and multi-agency. Participate in inter-agency meetings where appropriate ( e.g. Child Protection Case Conferences).


211. Paediatricians working in hospitals or in the community will come into contact with child abuse in the course of their work. All paediatricians have a duty to identify child abuse, neglect and a risk to wellbeing and 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. RCPCH Child Protection Companion 2 nd Edition provides practitioners with information on all forms of abuse.

212. The lead paediatrician for child protection should be a Consultant Paediatrician with child protection expertise, competencies and training. They should advise the health board on child protection matters and contribute to the development of child protection strategic planning arrangements, standards and guidelines with the lead nurse both on an intra- and inter-agency basis. They are members of the Child Protection Committee and are involved in the work of the subgroups. The lead paediatrician should also provide clinical leadership to all medical and non-medical clinical staff, and direct professional leadership to other paediatricians delivering child protection services.

213. Consultant paediatricians, in particular, 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 will be involved in specialist examinations of children and young people suspected of being abused and neglected, or who have reported abuse or neglect. Forensic paediatricians have particular skills, including examination of children who report sexual abuse, interpretation of injuries, report writing and appearing as expert witnesses.

Emergency and urgent care medical services

214. This includes out of hours GP Medical Services, NHS 24 and Scottish Ambulance Service. During office hours it is best practice for social work services to direct a request for health or medical assessment through the local NHS child protection services in the first instance. The urgency and type of health assessment can be discussed as part of the joint assessment with appropriate healthcare staff. It should therefore be rarely that a social worker contacts emergency medical services directly. If social work staff contact an emergency medical service/ NHS 24 because of concerns about a child or young person's injuries or illness the first contact health professional should:

  • establish whether social work and police have discussed the case with the local NHS child protection service and held a joint investigation;
  • consult previous medical records (plus IT systems) to check any previous attendance;
  • consider what clinical care is appropriate at the time of presentation; and
  • consider deferring the examination until the child protection doctor is available, as it may not be appropriate to examine the child.

215. It is critical that the child protection service is involved as soon as possible for all cases of child sexual abuse, either where a specialist two-doctor joint paediatric examination must be conducted or for chronic neglect where a comprehensive medical assessment can be planned for when all relevant information has been collated.

Emergency medicine services

216. Children or young people with suspected abuse or neglect may be taken to the emergency department for immediate medical care or for an opinion about how injury may have been sustained. Local procedures for raising child protection concerns should be followed as appropriate. Local systems should be in place if the child or young person or their parent/carer leave the emergency department prematurely or refuses treatment. The Named Person should be informed and child protection procedures for "immediate concerns" should be followed.

If, after examination, healthcare staff suspect that a child or young person attending the Emergency Department has experienced, or is at risk of abuse or neglect, Emergency Department staff should:

  • provide any immediate medical care required;
  • gather information from the child or young person's medical records and the local child protection register by contacting social work standby services;
  • 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 staff are involved in any decision-making process; and
  • follow local child protection procedures, including ensuring concerns are raised immediately with social work services.

Scottish Ambulance Service

217. The Scottish Ambulance Service covers the whole of Scotland.It recognises its responsibility in the care and protection of children. Ambulance crews attend emergency and urgent calls across the whole of the country and will often be in the front line to identify children in "at risk" situations. Ambulance staff have child protection as a part of their training and ongoing education. There are defined reporting procedures in place for children identified as possibly being at risk.

NHS 24

218. NHS 24 is Scotland's National Telehealth and Telecare Service. NHS 24 provides access to clinical assessment, healthcare advice and information. It aims to give service users assistance and advice to meet their health needs, including onward referral as appropriate. Most calls to NHS 24 are made out of hours, when GP surgeries are closed, but the service is available 24 hours a day. When NHS 24 staff identify a child protection issue they will share this information with partners from other agencies to ensure that services are alert to the protection needs of the unborn baby, child or young person. NHS 24 must ensure that all relevant clinical information is copied to other clinical staff involved in the care of the child or young person ( e.g. the Named Person, Lead Professional or primary care team). This is particularly relevant for child protection where parents or carers may seek health advice and treatment from many different health providers to avoid detection of neglect or abuse.

Community pharmacy services

219. Community pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy support staff regularly deal with children and parents/carers including those in 'at risk' groups such as children of parents with drug problems in the course of their day-to-day practice. As such, they have an important role to play in identifying whether a child is at risk of abuse. This could include identification of child protection concerns and referring to appropriate agencies or responding to a social work request for information about a child or their family as part of an investigation or a child protection plan.

Mental health services

220. Child and adolescent services have an active role to play in identifying concerns about children and young people. Child and adolescent mental health services ( CAMHS) may become aware of children and young people who have experienced, or are at risk of, abuse and/or neglect, and are well placed to carry out assessments and provide support. 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 and contact should be made with social work or police. CAMHS staff can help implement Child Plans where protection is the primary issue, providing therapeutic support to help children recover from the impact of abuse or neglect, build resilience and develop helpful strategies for the future.

221. Health practitioners working with adults with mental health problems should always be aware of how those problems might impact on any children in the family. Where they have concerns - for example regarding domestic abuse, drug and /or alcohol misuse - they should liaise with colleagues in children's services. If they are concerned that a patient's mental state could put children at risk of immediate or significant harm, they should take action in line with local child protection procedures. Getting our Priorities Right [28] notes that all services have a part to play in helping identify children who may be at risk from their parent's problem alcohol and/or drug use and at an early stage. Services need to respond in a co-ordinated way with other services to any emerging problems. This information should also take account of any wider factors that may affect the family's ability to manage and parent effectively. It should also take account of any strengths within the family that could be drawn on.

Adult healthcare providers

222. All health staff - including those 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 are responsible for identifying concerns about a child or young person's wellbeing and putting procedures in place for reporting and responding to those concerns.

Dental care practitioners

223. Dental care practitioners will often come into contact with vulnerable children and are in a position to identify possible child abuse or neglect from examinations of injuries or oral hygiene. The dental team should have the knowledge and skills to identify concerns about a child's wellbeing and should know how, and with whom, to share that information.

Other health services

224. Other staff are well placed to identify child protection concerns, for example, medical and nursing staff in hospital specialisms such as paediatric surgery, orthopaedics, gynaecology and sexual health services. Staff assessing and treating children and young people may identify unusual patterns of injuries which are not consistent with explanations offered, or notice delays in seeking healthcare. All staff can observe behaviour that may be harmful to a child or young person, for example, at visiting times. Medical advice can be sought from the lead designated consultant paediatrician for child protection or from the designated nurse for child protection, nurse consultant or child protection team/service, as per local arrangements.

Addiction services

225. Addiction services, whether based within health or social work services or delivered by a community-based joint addiction team, have an important role to play in the protection of children. Staff from addiction services can play a critical role in the ongoing assessment and monitoring of risk by monitoring adults' behaviour, sharing information and participating in core groups and other planning meetings. All addiction staff 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 the section on Parental alcohol and drug misuse.

Other Local Authority Services

226. Staff in other local authority services may encounter situations where a child may be at risk of harm. The local authority should ensure that staff across all services know who to contact if they have concerns about a child.


227. While housing department staff will not be directly involved in the investigation of suspected or reported abuse, they will be well placed to identify and support a child who may be experiencing risks to their wellbeing, including abuse and neglect. They may also have important information to contribute to a child protection investigation or assessment. They should be prepared to share this information, attend conferences as required and cooperate with the Named Person. Housing departments may be involved in providing accommodation or advice in situations where, for example, a woman and her child or children become homeless due to domestic abuse or where overcrowding, poor conditions or social isolation contribute to the risk of abuse. Housing services will also often play a key role in the management of risk posed by dangerous offenders. Where the local authority does not provide the housing service, independent housing organisations and associations can and should still play an active role in supporting and identifying vulnerable children.

Culture and leisure services

228. 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 children and young people's safety. Such services may be directly provided or 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. Those working in sport-related services should be familiar with the National Strategy for Child Protection in Sport and relevant research [29] .

Community safety services

229. Community safety services provide a range of support for a number of socially isolated and vulnerable groups, including asylum seekers, domestic abuse victims and young people involved in anti-social behaviour. As many individuals involved in such situations have experienced abuse themselves and/or been in contact with children and young people who are particularly vulnerable, all staff should be alert to the wellbeing of children and young people and understand their responsibilities to share any concerns with the relevant services.

Scottish Children's Reporter Administration

230. It is the role of the Children's Reporter to decide if a child requires Compulsory Measures of Supervision. Anyone can refer a child to the Children's Reporter and a referral must be made when it is considered that a child is in need of protection, guidance, treatment or control and that Compulsory Measures of Supervision might be necessary. On receipt of the referral, the Reporter will conduct an investigation, involving an assessment of the evidence supporting the ground for referral, the extent of concerns about the child's wellbeing and behaviour and the level of co-operation with agencies, which all leads to an assessment of the need for compulsory measures of supervision.

231. In making this assessment, the Reporter will rely on information from other agencies, most commonly the Named Person, social work and other service providers as appropriate, proportionate and timely. If the Reporter decides that there is sufficient evidence to necessitate supervision measures, the child will be called to a Children's Hearing. The investigation can take place at the same time as a criminal investigation or criminal court case, but the focus will remain on the needs and wellbeing of the child or young person.

232. The Children's Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 allows an application for proof to be made to the Sherriff Court where 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. If the Hearing's decision is appealed, the Reporter will go to court to conduct the appeal on the Hearing's behalf.

Children's Hearings Scotland

233. 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 Chld'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 and other relevant representatives and professionals (most commonly the social worker) before reaching a decision.

234. It is important to note that only Compulsory Measures of Supervision can ensure enforcement and compliance. Without Compulsory Measures of Supervision, all supports are reliant on the voluntary cooperation of families, even for children on the Child Protection Register. Early intervention and Compulsory Measures of Supervision are not mutually exclusive. What is important is that the right intervention is provided at the right time. Where there is no requirement for Compulsory Measures of Supervision, children and young people can be dealt with in a number of ways, including: restorative justice, voluntary measures or tailored programmes to tackle their behaviour.

235. Even where the Reporter has concluded that evidence is sufficient, there may not be a requirement for compulsory intervention, for example because the incident is entirely out of character, 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 restorative justice or social services.

Procurator Fiscal Services

236. The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Services ( COPFS) is Scotland's sole prosecuting service, independent of the police and the courts. Procurators Fiscals are based throughout Scotland. They are legally qualified civil servants who receive reports about crimes from the police and others and then decide what action to take in the public interest, including whether to prosecute someone. COPFS is also responsible for the investigation into sudden or suspicious deaths and for investigating allegations of criminal conduct against police officers. In considering the public interest, Procurators Fiscal take a number of factors into account, including the interests of the victim, the accused and the wider community. This can involve competing interests and will vary with every case. As a result, assessment of the public interest involves careful consideration of all factors. Following careful consideration the Procurator Fiscal may decide to commence proceedings, offer an alternative to prosecution or take no action. In cases that a jury will consider, the Procurator Fiscal will gather and review all evidence before Crown Counsel makes the final decision on whether to prosecute.

237. If there is enough evidence, the Procurator Fiscal will then decide what action is appropriate: whether to prosecute, offer an alternative to prosecution or to take no action in the case. In cases that will be considered by a jury, the Procurator Fiscal will interview witnesses and gather and review the forensic and other evidence before Crown Counsel makes the final decision on whether to prosecute.

Scottish Prison Service

238. 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 whose parent(s) is at any stage in the criminal justice system, ensure that parent-child relationships are maintained, even if the parent is in long-term custody or prison; and recognise that, where a child is considered at risk, the response should be timely, appropriate and proportionate in line with the approach set out in Getting it Right for Every Child.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service

239. It is not the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service's responsibility to investigate concerns regarding child protection, but to ensure that information is passed to the relevant services. If the child is in imminent risk i.e. a threat to life or where there may have been criminality, the Police will be informed without delay.

Other community and related services

Third sector

240. 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, environment or cultural objectives. The term encompasses voluntary and community organisations, charities, social enterprises, co-operatives and mutuals, both large and small.

241. The third sector is a significant provider 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). The third sector includes a number of large to medium-sized charities providing a wide range of specialised services. These often deploy both professional staff and volunteers.

242. The third sector plays a significant role in engaging with and improving outcomes for children and young people who are vulnerable or disadvantaged for a wide range of reasons including poverty, neglect and disability. These organisations may be commissioned to provide direct services such as family support, and residential and fostering services. Where they are in contracted/commissioned relationships with public bodies and providing a service on their behalf they will be under the duties of those bodies. In addition, voluntary organisations are often in an ideal position to engage with those children and families who are suspicious of statutory interventions.

243. 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/tenancy support, mental health, disability, drug and alcohol problems, may become concerned about children within a family, without necessarily having seen the children. Anyone who has cause for concern about a child or young person should share information according to their organisation's local protocol. All agencies and organisations working with children and young people are expected to have child protection procedures in line with the national guidance.

Sport organisations and clubs

244. Sports organisations work with a diverse range of children and young people in the community. Some young people may only attend a holiday sport activity, while others may regularly attend and participate in a sports club and a small number are involved in elite sports. All of these activities are run by committed, paid and unpaid coaches and workers who have various degrees of contact with children and young people. These workers will often become significant role models and trusted people in a child's life. The Safeguarding in Sport service is a partnership between Children 1 st and sportscotland which supports sports organisations and individuals across Scotland, including sports governing bodies, clubs, local authorities and parents and carers, to keep 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 [30] National Strategy for Child Protection in Sport and in particular the [31] 10 steps to safeguard children in sport.

Faith organisations

245. It is widely recognised that many churches and faith communities provide regulated care as well as a wide range of voluntary services for children and young people. Religious leaders, staff and volunteers have an important role in protecting children and supporting children and families.

246. Churches and faith communities provide carefully planned activities for children and young people, supporting families under stress, caring for those hurt by abuse in the past, and ministering to and managing those who have caused harm. It is because of these varied ministries that all reasonable steps are taken to provide a safe environment that promotes and supports the wellbeing of children and young people. This will include carefully selecting and appointing those who work with children and responding robustly where concerns arise.

247. All major denominations in Scotland now employ paid professional staff to advise and guide their church in child protection matters. These staff are available for consultation and will work with social workers and police officers as and when required.

Independent schools

248. As with teachers in local authority establishments, staff in independent schools have a responsibility to ensure that the children in their care are not harmed. This applies to teachers and all other staff, but has added force in schools with a boarding facility. The Children (Scotland) Act 1995 gave a statutory focus to that responsibility by placing upon the managers of independent boarding schools a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children resident in their schools. The Public Services Reform (General Teaching Council for Scotland) Order 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. Anyone who has cause for concern about a child or young person should share information according to their organisation's local protocol. All agencies and organisations working with children and young people are expected to have child protection procedures in line with the national guidance. They will also have Named Person and Child's Plan responsibilities, analogous to those of local authority education services, under the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.

Early Years providers

249. Early Years provision can be delivered by private nurseries and day care services including all-day care groups, playgroups, parent and toddler groups and under-5s groups. Many services are provided by third sector organisations but providers may also be private sector or independent groups. Early Years provision can also be delivered by self-employed childminders who must register their services with the Care Inspectorate. As with any service that works directly with children and their families, Early Years providers are often well placed to identify concerns and offer support.

Carers looking after children away from home

250. 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 local authority residential unit; or a residential school member of staff. 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 adopt practices that minimise situations where abuse could occur, know how to respond to any reports of abuse and 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.


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