National guidance for child protection in Scotland 2014

This guidance has been superseded by the 2021 version .

Wider Planning Links

251. As child protection and social work services inspection reports have underlined in recent years, planning by all relevant services is critical to ensuring the best possible outcomes for children, especially the most vulnerable. Planning is essential for the needs of individual children, but it is equally important for child protection more generally and for all services that can affect the wellbeing of children, including those targeted at adults. Child protection planning should fit with the wider planning processes in a local area, showing how child protection is integral to wider economic and social objectives as expressed through community and integrated children 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.

Planning context

252. Child protection planning is embedded in the statutory duties of local authorities for planning service provision for children. There is a legal requirement under the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (section 19) for local authorities to prepare plans for children's services in their areas. The Act also requires local authorities to consult a range of partners and recognises the importance of the participation of children, young people and their families. The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 also imposes duties on planning about wellbeing. Integrated children's services plans should be overarching documents that describe local objectives and strategies, across agency boundaries, for improving services and outcomes for children and young people. They should include planned action to take forward improvements in services to protect children and meet their needs. They should be seen as the children and young people's component of the Community Plan and Single Outcome Agreement. Within this, Child Protection Committees need to produce an annual report and outline the activities of agencies working together to protect children.

253. Through children's services planning, child protection planning links in with wider planning processes at both national and local level. These are discussed in turn below.

National links

254. Local services plans should reflect the 15 national outcomes set out in the Concordat between the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities ( COSLA) through the Single Outcome Agreement. The national outcomes most relevant to the planning context for children and young people are:

  • National outcome 4: Our young people are successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and effective citizens;
  • National outcome 5: Our children have the best start in life and are ready to succeed; and
  • National outcome 8: We have improved the life chances of children, young people and families at risk.

255. However, there are other cross-cutting national outcomes that will also affect children's wellbeing:

  • National outcome 6: We live longer, healthier lives;
  • National outcome 7: We have tackled the significant inequalities in Scottish society;
  • National outcome 9: We live our lives free from crime, disorder and danger; and
  • National outcome 11: We have strong, resilient communities where people take responsibility for their own actions and how they affect others.

256. As part of the overarching GIRFEC approach, there is a range of policy frameworks in place to deliver these outcomes. These should be reflected in services planning and include:

  • Curriculum for Excellence, which sets the goal of enabling each child or young person to be a successful learner, a confident individual, a responsible citizen and an effective contributor; and
  • Equally Well, which sets out a series of recommendations for tackling health inequalities in Scotland
  • Early Years Framework, which sets out how the Scottish Government wants to see things happening for children in their early years in Scotland; and
  • Early Years Collaborative, which brings together partners from a number of different agencies

257. Moreover, services to protect children should take account of national policies to promote the wellbeing of all children including those most at risk, such as children affected by problematic parental alcohol and/or drug use, children affected by domestic abuse, disabled children and children at risk of being trafficked.

Local Links

258. Child protection work should be placed in the wider context of policies designed to improve the wellbeing and safety of children in general. The connection between the child protection agenda and wider structural issues in an area needs to be understood. Although specific service developments correctly sit within service planning processes, the child protection agenda ought to be reflected in wider social and economic strategies so that all the factors that contribute to poor outcomes for children can be addressed.

259. Local areas must ensure clear accountability between the strategic planning arrangements for children's services planning and the Chief Officers' Group and the Child Protection Committee. There should be clear links between lead officers for child protection planning, lead officers for children's services and Community Planning Partnerships.

260. Links need to be made across service areas as well, particularly between child protection and adult and public protection. These should identify common themes and determine joint and separate actions that need to be taken. The process can be illustrated as follows:

public protection diagram

261. This diagram reflects the various partnerships that come under the auspices of public protection. However, it is recognised that these partnerships are inter-related with a cross-cutting agenda.

Public protection

262. The aim of public protection is to reduce the harm to children and adults at risk. Public protection requires agencies to work together at both a strategic and operational level to raise awareness and understanding, and co-ordinate an effective response that provides at-risk individuals with the support needed to reduce the risk in their lives. In some areas this work is overseen by a dedicated public protection forum, while in others individual fora are responsible for their particular area of activity. Whatever the local arrangements, steps need to be taken locally to ensure that areas of overlap and commonality are identified to ensure a consistent approach to planning and service delivery.

263. Public protection is the prevention of harm to vulnerable groups and involves working with both victims and perpetrators. With perpetrators, the aim should 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.

264. As the work is typically done on an inter-agency basis, it is important that each agency is clear about its own role and responsibility and understands the role of the other agencies involved. Agencies must also agree the outcomes they are working towards. Achieving a balance between the wellbeing and safety of the child, which should be paramount, and the needs of the adult will require effective management.

265. Co-ordinated planning and intervention needs to be supported by training and awareness-raising and ensuring that the right frameworks are in place. For example, there will need to be protocols on information-sharing and memoranda of understanding. Agencies should understand the purpose of the needs and risk assessment tools used across different areas of public protection and the extent to which they can inform the child protection agenda. It is critical that this work is overseen strategically to ensure that barriers to joint working are addressed and solutions are found.

Reviewing practices in relation to offenders who may pose a risk to the public

266. The Care Inspectorate has published guidance [32] on conducting a Serious Incident Review when an offender on statutory supervision or licence is charged with and/or recalled to custody on suspicion of an offence that has resulted in the death or serious harm of another person in circumstances likely to generate significant public concern. Responsibility for completing a serious incident review rests with local authority criminal justice social work services.

267. The Scottish Government has published guidance [33] on the review of Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements when offenders managed under these arrangements commit, or attempt to commit, further serious crimes The guidance sets out the steps for conducting a Significant Case Review to examine whether agencies effectively applied MAPPA arrangements and worked together effectively. In these circumstances the chair of the MAPPA strategic oversight group is responsible for commissioning the review.

Transition planning

268. The move from child to adult services presents significant risks. Young people at this transition stage can drop out of services altogether, losing their safety net of support. The risk is exacerbated by the fact that different agencies have different criteria for defining when someone becomes an adult, or can access particular services. The importance of ensuring appropriate planning to support these transitions is vital. Local services should consider how best to manage transition, establishing clear planning processes, taking steps to identify the needs of individual young people and looking at the interventions they might need to support and, if necessary, protect them in adulthood. Agencies should be clear about the collective responsibility to manage this transition effectively and Chief Officers should ensure this understanding is reflected in single forum objectives.There needs to be agreement with those responsible for areas such as MAPPA, adult protection, Violence Against Women and Alcohol and Drug Partnerships to ensure that mutual responsibilities are properly reflected in each agency's guidance.

269. The Named Person for the child or young person must ensure a careful and planned transfer of responsibility when another practitioner becomes the Named Person. Similarly, the transition from one Lead Professional to another will need to be planned carefully, particularly when another service becomes the lead agency.

Key considerations for strategic transition planning

  • Particular areas where Child Protection Committees and other public protection fora will need to work together include the development of policies and procedures and training plans and provision. Child Protection Committees should establish sub-group arrangements so that other relevant public protection services are properly represented in those areas where their remits overlap. There may also be opportunities for public protection fora to share learning and development in relation to quality assurance (particularly multi-agency case file audits and significant case reviews).
  • Child Protection Committees should ensure that there are appropriate operational links between adult and children's services to address protection issues. These links should ensure good communication, fostering a good understanding of risk and safety issues for all age groups. There will be overlap between child and adult protection. Assessment and planning processes may need to be aligned and some investigations or assessments may be best undertaken jointly, for example when child and adult protection issues are identified within the same family. The aim should be to maximise the safety and welfare of children and at-risk adults while minimising the impact of the investigation on those involved.


270. Multi-agency public protection arrangements ( MAPPA) are a set of arrangements established by statute Management of Offenders etc (Scotland) Act 2005. [34] They require responsible authorities and others to establish jointly arrangements for assessing and managing risks posed by high-risk offenders, and apply to registered sex offenders and restricted patients. MAPPA is not a statutory body in itself, but a mechanism through which agencies can better discharge their statutory responsibilities and protect the public in a co-ordinated manner. The responsible authorities are local authorities, Police Scotland, Scottish Prison Service and health service, but the 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 sex offenders and their levels of contact with children, both within the family and within the community in general.

271. Which agency has primary responsibility for co-ordinating the management plan will depend on the statutory basis for involvement. The level of risk is determined by the application of formal assessment tools and the resulting action plan will focus on effective risk management.

272. As part of the MAPPA process, those responsible should consider the impact on victims and adult survivors, including child and adult protection issues. The management plan should require an effective victim strategy to be in place. As practice has developed, the importance of contingency planning arrangements has been recognised.

273. Where there are child protection issues, it is critical that the Child Protection Plan and plans for managing the risk posed by the offender complement each other. Any discussion of child protection issues should be informed by information available on the offender's behaviour, mode of operation and level of risk. Consideration should also be given to the needs of others, for example immediate family members and former victims [35] .

274. In addition to local arrangements for MAPPA, eight Community Justice Authorities were established in 2006 under the Management of Offenders etc (Scotland) Act 2005. They are independent statutory bodies with planning, monitoring and reporting functions. The Act establishes a duty to co-operate between Community Justice Authorities, local authorities and Scottish Prison Service in the management of offenders. The Authorities' aim is to target services to reduce reoffending and to ensure close co-operation between community and prison services to aid the rehabilitation of offenders and provide local solutions to local issues. Community Justice Authorities work in partnership with a range of agencies including local authorities and local policing divisions within their area, NHS Boards, third sector services, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and Victim Support Scotland.

Violence Against Women/Domestic Abuse Partnerships

275. Following the publication of the National Strategy to Address Domestic Abuse in 2000, Domestic Abuse Multi-Agency Partnerships ( MAPs) were established in every local authority area in Scotland and have since widened their focus to take in all forms of violence against women. MAPs have a pivotal role in building capacity, supporting local understanding, training, establishing strategic priorities and generally developing effective services across Scotland. The MAP network aims to link national and local strategic frameworks and developments to ensure that the needs of women and children who experience, or are at risk of, violence and abuse are firmly embedded in local priorities and service initiatives and that positive outcomes are achieved. This has been supplemented by the National Domestic Abuse Delivery Plan for Children and Young People (2008-11 ) which is based on the GIRFEC principles and the National Strategy. In 2009, the Scottish Government published Safer Lives, Changed Lives, which set out a shared approach to tackling violence against women in Scotland. A strategy to tackle violence against women for Scotland is currently being produced and will be published in June 2014.

276. MAP structures and membership vary across local authority areas but key members are: the Child Protection Committee; Community Safety; Community Health and Alcohol and Drugs Partnerships; relevant local authority departments; health services; the police; the Procurator Fiscal; the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration; victim information and advice services; Rape Crisis; Women's Aid; and other third sector organisations [36] .

Adult support and protection

277. Adult and child protection interact in numerous ways. Co-ordination and collaboration between both sets of services is crucial at both individual case and wider service level. Whatever structures are established for the governance and strategic leadership of child and adult protection services, arrangements for linking child and adult protection services must be in place at Chief Officer/Executive Group level (local and/or regional) and Child Protection Committee level. These should be able to address common agendas, resolve potential conflicts and create synergies. As a minimum, these arrangements need to be explicitly documented and endorsed through formal governance processes, with mechanisms and timescales for review of the arrangements established, publicised and widely understood within the workforce.

278. Consideration should, in particular, be given to the roles of chairs, child protection lead officers and adult protection co-ordinators, and to how best these roles can be linked. As a minimum, linking mechanisms should provide:

  • opportunities for joint meeting between chairs and lead officers/co-ordinators;
  • opportunities for joint training for committees and relevant staff;
  • arrangements for agenda planning and minutes sharing that will facilitate joint consideration of cross-cutting issues; and
  • arrangements to identify and address any specific challenges or conflicts.

279. Some young people may behave in ways that are abusive to adults at risk. While they may come to the notice of youth justice teams, it is also important that any assessment includes consideration of whether they themselves are in need of care and protection. 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. Local arrangements should ensure that appropriate assessments and plans are put in place in such situations.

280. 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. Child and Adult Protection Committees should jointly develop robust procedures to ensure ongoing support for any child about whom there are child protection concerns at the point where they move from children's into adult services. The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 will legislate a single planning system for all children and young people up to 18 years. In this respect the statutory Child's Plan will be used to manage all intervention required. This will include determining if the young person needs community care services, is potentially an adult at risk or requires other statutory measures to be put in place. Clear local arrangements for assessment and transition starting soon after the child's 15 th birthday should be made so that plans are put in place in good time and any necessary legal steps can be pursued. These arrangements should include provision for the resolution of any disputes about the proposed plan. They should 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 to adult services or adult protection processes. It is important that the procedures 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.

281. These operational considerations clearly show that staff working in child protection services will need training to help them identify and act on adult protection issues; and vice versa. Child and Adult Protection Committees will be responsible for developing training plans to meet these needs. Consideration should also be given to how synergies can be developed between training offered in child and adult protection. There are common principles in child and adult protection which may be best understood through appropriate joint training.

Alcohol and Drug Partnerships

282. Children affected by parental problematic alcohol and/or drug use are among the most vulnerable in our society and require particular care and support. This is because problematic alcohol and/or drug use is often a hidden problem, long-term in nature and can lead to sustained problems of child neglect or abuse. Collaborative practice across child and adult services (including across wider services such as adult social care and housing) should significantly increase the ability of services to identify children at risk from problematic alcohol and/or drug-using parents and carers, and ensure that adequate and early plans are in place to support them.

283. In early 2009, the Scottish Government, in partnership with COSLA, published A New Framework for Local Partnerships on Alcohol and Drugs . That framework included plans to move local alcohol and drug strategic planning - which was identified as a priority area for improvement - into Community Planning Partnerships. As part of this change, new Alcohol and Drug Partnerships were created in October 2009 in each local authority area. The Alcohol and Drug Partnerships replaced the former Alcohol and Drug Action Teams.

284. National alcohol and drugs policy (including the range of activity underway across Government to improve circumstances for children affected by parental alcohol and/or drug misuse) is largely set out in: the 2008 National Drugs Strategy, The Road to Recovery; and the 2009 National Alcohol Framework, Changing Scotland's Relationship with Alcohol. Getting our Priorities Rights was also updated and published in 2012. This Guidance provides a good practice framework for all child and adult service practitioners working with children and families affected by problem parental alcohol and/or drug use.

285. Alcohol and Drug Partnerships are ultimately responsible for providing strategic direction on alcohol and drug issues within local Community Planning Partnerships. Alcohol and Drug Partnerships should ensure that community planning takes a coherent response to problematic alcohol and/or drug use. They are also expected to be involved in producing, implementing and monitoring those local Single Outcome Agreements that include a problematic alcohol and/or drug use element.

286. The statement Supporting the Development of Scotland's Alcohol and Drug Workforce 2010 [37] is targeted at anyone who has a role in improving outcomes for individuals, families or communitites with problematic drug and alcohol use. It sets out the aims and actions required to deliver the alcohol and drug workforce and the important roles and contributions of all those involved. It outlines the responsibilities of decision makers at national and local level and sets out learning priorities for all levels of the drug and alcohol workforce.

Strategic links

287. The creation of Alcohol and Drug Partnerships presents an opportunity to further develop the relationship between the key strategic bodies responsible for co-ordinating local activity across adult and child services. This will largely be achieved through enhanced links between Alcohol and Drug Partnerships and Child Protection Committees. In particular, Alcohol and Drug Partnerships will play a vital role in making sure that local adult services understand and optimise their contribution to improving outcomes for children. It is important that any local arrangements also take account of key national guidance documents about problematic alcohol and/or drug use and child protection.

288. Chairs and lead officers of Alcohol and Drug Partnerships and Child Protection Committees and their wider membership should develop robust information-sharing arrangements. Where possible and appropriate, this should include the provision of joint training opportunities and also, jointly developed task groups for shared ventures as appropriate. Local Alcohol and Drug Partnerships should place a designated representative on their local Child Protection Committee, and vice versa, so that there is a direct link between these groups. Alcohol and Drug Partnerships and Child Protection Committees should also consider including representation from any key providers active in the local area - for example, local third sector service providers.

Operational links

289. It is essential that Alcohol and Drug Partnerships and Child Protection Committees develop local protocols for information sharing. A key aim of the local protocol will be to promote effective communication and working relationships between drug and alcohol services and children and families services and working with families affected by alcohol and/or drug use generally. The protocol should make it clear that in general, information sharing enables intervention and preventative work to protect the child. It should outline the circumstances in which information can legally be shared without consent, making reference to the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 and associated statutory guidance.

290. A process for resolving disputes where information is not shared and the use of standardised language by all services involved in making assessments should also be developed. Accountability for implementation, monitoring and progressing of the protocol should be clear. Local performance monitoring frameworks should be established, to include audit and longer term evaluation of inter-agency guidelines and outcomes for children and families at local level.

291. Early intervention, including, in particular, early screening for problematic alcohol and/or drug use and notification of concerns to services at or around birth are associated with positive longer-term outcomes for a child. Co-ordinated activity in this area should be a theme in any local protocols.

292. Local protocols should set out any local arrangements for ensuring that wider connections are developed between all relevant services involved with children potentially at risk (including those third sector providers delivering services locally). Services involved with children at risk should recognise a child's needs and make early and effective links with relevant statutory and specialist services even before the child protection stage is reached. In particular, links should be developed with those services ordinarily focused solely on improving outcomes for either adults or children.

293. Local protocols should also describe any procedures for ensuring that all services develop a good understanding of adult problematic alcohol and/or drug use as well as child protection issues. This is to make certain that relevant information is shared and understood. This will enable practitioners to ask the right questions and know when to forward information to the appropriate agency or individual. Ultimately, Alcohol and Drug Partnerships and Child Protection Committees can play a vital role in co-ordinating activity across child and adult services, developing integrated services and effective interventions where a child may be at risk.


294. The complex and varied issues that can underlie problematic alcohol and/or drug use are best understood at individual and community level. Training and development may be required to ensure that outcomes for children form an intrinsic part of the planning, commissioning and delivery of services aimed at improving outcomes for adults. All relevant individuals in both children's and adult services should be given bespoke training in dealing with children affected by parental problematic alcohol and/or drug use. The training should reflect specific local needs and be delivered on a multi-disciplinary basis so that local agencies and third sector organisations share a common understanding of local issues and can work effectively together to achieve shared goals [38] [39] .


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