Publication - Advice and guidance

Protecting children and young people: Child Protection Committee and Chief Officer responsibilities

Published: 11 Feb 2019
Children and Families Directorate
Part of:
Children and families, Law and order

Guidance outlining Child Protection Committee and Chief Officer responsibilities for protecting children and young people.

Protecting children and young people: Child Protection Committee and Chief Officer responsibilities
Section 2 - Role of Chief Officers

Section 2 - Role of Chief Officers

2.1 Working within the accountability structures of their respective organisations, Chief Officers in each local authority area must work collectively to identify and commission inter-agency activity for the protection of children and young people. Chief Officers are ultimately responsible and accountable for improving the experience of and outcomes for children who may need protection. The local CPC is the inter-agency mechanism to take forward this work, whether the CPC is comprised of the Chief Officers themselves or whether it is a group clearly mandated by Chief Officers to do so. Chief Officers are individually and collectively responsible and accountable for effectiveness of the Child Protection Committee (CPC). It is recognised that a number of areas have developed arrangements that cross local authority boundaries, either in the geographical coverage of the CPC itself or working in a consortium with neighbouring CPCs. It is for Chief Officers collectively to determine the most appropriate arrangements for their area(s).

2.2 The Chief Executive of the local authority - or, where it is agreed that a Child Protection Committee should cover more than one local authority area, the largest local authority in population terms - will ensure that a Chief Officers Group is initially established in such a way as to exercise fully the roles and responsibilities set out within this document. Arrangements for convening and chairing the Chief Officers Group will be agreed by that group. This may be set up as a bespoke forum on child protection or be integrated into other structures already in place where Chief Officers convene. However, the protection of children and young people must feature as a primary focus.

In terms of the full remit of the Chief Officers Group (COG), it is essential that due consideration is given to the issues that have an impact on wider public protection arrangements and development. Therefore, Chief Officers should consider the merits of widening the remit of the COG to include 'public protection'. This could, therefore, include consideration of the cross-cutting themes regarding adult protection, domestic abuse and high-risk offenders.

2.3 This group will meet to agree the annual report of their CPC and the Improvement / Business Plan for the next year. In addition, it will come together with sufficient frequency to effectively discharge its accountability and responsibilities in relation to the protection of children and young people. There will also be a formal process to evaluate progress against agreed objectives through the course of the year and to ensure increased integration into other planning structures, in particular integrated children's services planning. Objectives and areas for improvement may arise from either the Annual Report and Improvement / Business Plan or from the outcomes of recent inspections which have identified areas requiring improvement.

2.4 Chief Officers, working together, have the following roles and responsibilities:

  • individually and collectively, demonstrating leadership and accountability for child protection work and its effectiveness on behalf of their agencies / bodies - including the effectiveness of the CPC itself
  • agreeing the CPC Annual Report and Improvement / Business Plan, including operational priorities for protecting children, and ensure the allocation of resources to the CPC
  • considering performance reports that include qualitative and quantitative data on the effectiveness of services in improving the experiences of, and outcomes for, children in need of protection
  • ensuring that the CPC links to other planning fora under their control (see section 2.5 below), in particular the structures for integrated children's services planning
  • agreeing the constitution for the CPC, including the delegating of roles and responsibilities, to take forward multi-agency issues in respect of child protection on their behalf and invest it with the authority to do so
  • agreeing the agencies, bodies or organisations to be represented at their CPC
  • considering the development of a communications strategy in order to raise awareness of both the role of the CPC and the COG locally
  • appointing, or agreeing the appointment of, the chair of the CPC and in doing so ensuring that the chair has the time, resources and dedicated professional and administrative support to properly fulfil the role
  • appointing representatives from their own agencies / bodies to the CPC with the appropriate authority and responsibility to best take forward the functions required
  • inviting nominations from other agencies, bodies or organisations to be represented on the CPC
  • agreeing reporting mechanisms with elected members and board members that cover the work of their CPC and the implications for their local authority area. This will include at least annual reporting

2.5 Alignment with integrated children's services processes and wider planning structures is essential. Initially, it is expected that separate CPC reports and improvement plans will be prepared to demonstrate implementation of this guidance and the contribution of CPCs to the protection of children and young people. Since services to protect children are a fundamental component of the wide range of services provided by local authorities and their partners, we would expect to see plans relating to child protection embedded in Integrated Children's Services Plans (ICSPs). From 2018, the CPC annual report and Improvement / Business Plan will form a section of the ICSP or be cross referenced within it.


2.6 Section 3 outlines the key functions that the CPC will fulfil. In order to fulfil these functions, agencies will be required to commit resources. Chief Officers have a collective responsibility to ensure that their CPC has the resources, including staff time and finance, to fulfil the agreed annual Improvement / Business Plan and related objectives. Resources will be agreed by the Chief Officers Group and reviewed as part of the annual report.

2.7 Resources will include:

  • provision of sufficient dedicated time for CPC members to fulfil their roles and responsibilities
  • provision of finance to support the activities of the CPC, including inter-agency training
  • professional, operational and administrative support to the CPC itself
  • commitment of time from staff not directly involved in the work of the CPC to contribute to specific projects, for example redrafting procedures or delivering multi-agency training
  • provision of sufficient staff time in their agencies for child protection work and for activities, such as staff development, that are necessary to ensure competent and confident staff and continuous improvement

2.8 Resource Challenges

Chief Officers should also consider at regular intervals any adverse circumstances, associated impact and risk in relation to essential functioning of child protection arrangements for each of the key agencies involved,
such as:

  • levels of vacancies and absence
  • savings and efficiency initiatives

Consideration of Initial Case Reviews and Significant Case Reviews

2.9 The Chief Officers Group should be advised by the chair of the CPC of any cases that should be considered in respect of meeting the criteria for warranting either an Initial Case Review (ICR) or Significant Case Review (SCR). Once agreed that there is a need to undertake either an ICR or SCR, the CPC should consider and agree the method of review to be undertaken and who should lead the review and ensure that appropriate communication of the case has taken place in respect of contact with the Care Inspectorate, which has the lead role nationally for overseeing all ICRs and SCRs (See National Guidance for Child Protection Committees for Conducting a Significant Case Review (2015)

Once reviews are concluded, all findings and recommendations should be considered by the Chief Officers Group with a focus of attention on:

  • key themes within the findings and how to share these findings with staff, agencies and bodies involved to support and embed learning and improvement locally
  • the possibility of any systemic failure within or between key agencies or bodies involved in child protection
  • any remedial or urgent action that is required
  • the proposed action plan to address the findings and how improvement priorities will be implemented, monitored and reviewed
  • how any learning and development will be taken forward and embedded in practice
  • any resource issues that are relevant for either the management of the case itself or production and progress of the action plan
  • publishing the report (with appropriate safeguards) in order to promote and support national learning and improvement activity in the protection of children as a matter of course, unless Chief Officers can demonstrate there are exceptional circumstances that justify not publishing
  • whether it is appropriate to develop a press statement

Resolution of Differences or Disputes

2.10 CPCs will reflect the commitment of key agencies/bodies, working together, to improve the protection of children and young people and will be dependent largely on developing consensus. In the event of the work of the CPC being significantly impaired by failure to reach an agreement, it is the responsibility of the Chair to notify the Chief Officers Group as a matter of urgency, who will then arbitrate on the matter.

In the event of the Chief Officers Group failing to reach an agreement, it is responsible for bringing the issue to the attention of the Scottish Government to agree a course of action to resolve any dispute.

Agencies and Bodies must Demonstrate Leadership and Accountability for Child Protection and the Effectiveness of their Work

2.11 Each agency and body has individual responsibilities to protect children as well as collective responsibility exercised through Chief Officer Groups and Child Protection Committees.

1. The needs and risks for the child and any other relevant children including siblings come first in all professional decision-making. Agencies and bodies must have in place:

  • policies
  • procedures
  • systems
  • structures
  • resources and personnel to support this

2. Agencies and bodies must rigorously monitor and review their work in protecting children and implement steps that lead to continuous improvement.

3. Agencies and bodies should be able to demonstrate that they understand the needs of the communities they serve and direct sufficient resources to services for the care and protection of children.

4. Agencies and bodies must have systems and policies in place to share information within and across agencies, professional bodies and other organisations.

5. Agencies and bodies actively promote joint working through joint planning, training and monitoring arrangements. Agencies and bodies are responsible for ensuring that their staff work with other professionals to achieve better experiences of, and outcomes for, each child.

6. Agencies and bodies must ensure that that they have sufficient staff who are effectively and relevantly trained, and that they are:

  • supported
  • supervised
  • accountable for child protection work

7. Agencies and bodies ensure they have access to a sufficient range of expertise and services to meet the care and protection needs of children.

8. Agencies and bodies ensure that staff are adequately protected from violence and aggression and that in undertaking their duties the risks to both the professional(s) and children are minimised.

9. Agencies and bodies have robust information systems that effectively account for the work of their staff and have systems to support the monitoring and review experiences of, and outcomes for the child.

10. Agencies and bodies have quality assurance mechanisms to ensure that these standards are met and that this can be demonstrated.

The Role of the Chief Social Work Officer

2.12 The Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 requires local authorities to appoint a single Chief Social Work Officer (CSWO). Statutory guidance (revised 2016) is issued to local authorities by Scottish Ministers under section 5 of the 1968 Act[1].

This guidance is for local authorities but is also for bodies and partnerships to which local authorities have delegated social work functions e.g. Integration Joint Boards / Health and Social Care Partnerships. It provides an overview of the Chief Social Work Officer's role, outlining the responsibility for values and standards, decision making and leadership. The guidance also covers accountability and reporting arrangements.

The CSWO should assist local authorities and their partners in understanding the complexities and cross-cutting nature of social work service delivery - including in relation to particular issues such as corporate parenting, child protection, adult protection and the management of high-risk offenders - and also the key role that social work plays in contributing to the achievement of a wide range of national and local outcomes. The CSWO also has a contribution to make in supporting overall performance improvement and management of corporate risk (Section 10 of Statutory Guidance).

Health Boards must have named professional leads for child protection. This is usually a Chief/Consultant Nurse and Consultant Paediatrician. The CSWO has a pivotal role to play in building strong collaborative relationships with these and other professional leads in Health and Social Care Partnerships.

The CSWO must be empowered and enabled to provide professional advice and contribute to decision-making in the local authority and health and social care partnership arrangements, raising issues of concern with the local authority Elected Members or Chief Executive, or the Chief Officer of the Integration Joint Board as appropriate (or the Chief Executive of a Health Board if appropriate in the context of a lead agency model), in regard to:

  • effective governance arrangements for the management of the complex balance of need, risk and civil liberties, in accordance with professional standards
  • appropriate systems required to (1) promote continuous improvement and (2) identify and address weak and poor practice
  • the development and monitoring of implementation of appropriate care governance arrangements
  • approaches in place for learning from critical incidents, which could include through facilitation of local authority involvement in the work of Child Protection Committees, Adult Support and Protection Committees and Offender Management Committees where that will result in the necessary learning within local authorities taking place
  • requirements that only registered social workers undertake those functions reserved in legislation or are accountable for those functions described in guidance
  • workforce planning and quality assurance, including safe recruitment practice, probation/mentoring arrangements, managing poor performance and promoting continuous learning and development for staff
  • continuous improvement, raising standards and evidence-informed good practice, including the development of person-centred services that are focused on the needs of people who use services and support
  • the provision and quality of practice learning experiences for social work students and effective workplace assessment arrangements, in accordance with the SSSC Code of Practice for Employers of Social Service Workers. (Section 16 of Statutory Guidance)

Additionally, Undertaking the Role of Chief Social Work Officer: Sharing Knowledge from Practice (Care Inspectorate & Social Work Scotland, 2016) provides helpful advice on discharging the responsibilities of CSWO. Detailed below are some helpful extracts:

'…As the professional leader for social care and social work services in each area, the Chief Social Work Officer is responsible for ensuring services are delivered in a way which takes account of a human rights approach, and one in which the principles of social justice are applied through tackling inequality and disadvantage, working collaboratively and in partnership with colleagues across sectors and involving communities and individuals who receive services, and those who care for them….

'…Where necessary, Chief Social Work Officers will require to challenge professional practice and managerial decision making, making appropriate use of their authority to do so. Where this occurs, they will encourage learning and development through reflective discussions and constructive debate about high risk and other professionally challenging issues…'.

For some, the Chief Social Work Officer role also takes them into an area of work for which they may not be directly responsible in a managerial or delivery sense.

For instance, if a Chief Social Work Officer is a Head of Service in Children's Services in a local authority area in which children's services are not part of integrated arrangements with Health, the Chief Social Work Officer, although attending the Integration Joint Board as a non-voting member, has no operational responsibilities for services represented but must still represent social work services as a whole, through quality assurance, professional leadership and the duties inherent in the Chief Social Work Officer function.

This requires a Chief Social Work Officer to develop and maintain excellent relationships with social care and social work peers to ensure he/she can effectively raise appropriate issues for consideration, and assure the Integration Joint Board members of the effectiveness of social care and social work delivery, based on the principles of effective risk management and social work values.

Health Board Accountability Framework

2.13 As an employer, Health Boards are required to support their staff to uphold professional standards and regulations outlined by their governing bodies. Health staff have a duty of care that places the interests of patients and service users first, delivering safe and effective service and promoting trust through professionalism.

NHS employees provide universal health services for the people of Scotland and have a unique and pivotal role in protecting children, including during the antenatal period. Health staff are often the first to recognise children and their families are experiencing difficulties, these contacts provide opportunities for early and effective interventions and avoiding escalating need.

The Chief Executives of Health Boards are accountable to the Scottish Government and are required to ensure that robust governance and accountability reporting frameworks are in place to ensure all health staff are competent and able to discharge their child protection responsibilities. The NHS Board must meet its corporate responsibilities which includes ensuring health staff have access to expert professional leadership and advice from Board designated Health Professional child protection leads.

Professional health leads for child protection will represent their Board at local, regional and national strategic and expert groups. In addition, they will advise the Health Board executive staff on child protection matters, contribute to the development of strategic planning arrangements, standards and guidelines.

The Public Bodies (Joint Working) (Scotland) Act 2014 contains a number of integration principles however, it did not change the regulatory framework within which health and social care professionals practice or the established professional accountabilities that are currently in place within the NHS and local authorities.


Email: Child Protection Unit