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Publication - Consultation paper

Tackling child neglect in Scotland 3: rapid review of legislation and policy

Published: 1 May 2018

A rapid review of legislation and policy with a particular focus on child neglect in Scotland, conducted by academics at the University of Stirling.

19 page PDF

420.6 kB

19 page PDF

420.6 kB

Tackling child neglect in Scotland 3: rapid review of legislation and policy
Scottish Government legislation and policy

19 page PDF

420.6 kB

Scottish Government legislation and policy

Children’s services

4. Scottish Government continues to pursue its ambition for Scotland to be the best place to grow up in by putting children and young people at the heart of planning and services and ensuring their rights are respected across the public sector.


5. Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 embeds the rights of children and young people across the public sector in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child ( UNCRC) and embeds its commitment to early years an early intervention in legislation through:

  • ensuring that children’s rights properly influence the design and delivery of policies and services.
  • extending the powers of Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, so that this office will be able to undertake investigations in relation to individual children and young people.
  • legislating parts of Getting it Right for Every Child: all children and young people from birth to 18 years old have access to a Named Person; a single planning process to support those children who require it; place a definition of wellbeing in legislation; and place duties on public bodies to coordinate the planning, design and delivery of services for children and young people with a focus on improving wellbeing outcomes, and report collectively on how they are improving those outcomes.
  • increasing the amount and flexibility of free early learning and childcare from 475 hours a year to a minimum of 600 hours for 3 and 4 year olds, and 2 year olds who are, or have been at any time since turning 2, looked after or subject to a kinship care order.
  • better permanence planning for looked after children.

6. The Post-16 Education (Scotland) Act 2013 provides a legal basis to underpin aspects of Scottish Government’s wide-ranging reforms to improve the way the post-16 learning system supports jobs and economic growth and helps young people meet their ambitions. The Act includes measures in relation to widening access to higher education with a view to increasing the number of young people from deprived backgrounds who go on to study at degree level and supporting the delivery of Opportunities for All – the guarantee of a place in learning or training for all 16-19 year olds - by ensuring that young people who disengage from, or are at risk of disengaging from, learning or training can be provided with appropriate support.

Supporting approaches

7. Getting It Right For Every Child ( GIRFEC) ensures that anyone providing support puts the child or young person – and their family – at the centre. GIRFEC is important for everyone who works with children and young people – as well as many people who work with adults who look after children. Practitioners need to work together to support families, and where appropriate, take early action at the first signs of any difficulty – rather than only getting involved when a situation has already reached crisis point. The GIRFEC approach is about how practitioners across all services for children and adults meet the needs of children and young people, working together where necessary to ensure they reach their full potential.

8. Universal Health Visiting Pathway in Scotland (2016) presents a core home visiting programme to be offered to all families by Health Visitors as a minimum standard. Along with core home visits, Health Visitors exercising the function of a Named Person on behalf of their Health Board will be required to be available and responsive to parents to promote support and safeguard the wellbeing of children by providing information, advice, support and help to access other services. The Pathway is based on several underlying principles: promoting, supporting and safeguarding the wellbeing of children; person-centeredness; building strong relationships from pregnancy; offering support during the early weeks and planning future contacts with families; and focusing on family strengths, while assessing and respectfully responding to their needs. The programme consists of 11 home visits to all families - 8 within the first year of life and 3 Child Health Reviews between 13 months and 4-5 years.

9. Curriculum for Excellence (2012) aims to ensure that all children and young people from 3-18 in Scotland develop the attributes, knowledge and skills they will need to flourish in life, learning and work. The knowledge, skills and attributes learners will develop will allow them to demonstrate four key capacities, helping children to become: successful learners; confident individuals; responsible citizens; and effective contributors.

Supporting policy

10. Youth Justice strategy for Scotland (2015-2020) focuses on advancing the Whole System Approach, improving life chances and developing capacity and improvement. Priority themes are: advancing the whole system approach, improving life chances and developing capacity and improvement. Partnership working has been a crucial element of success in preventing offending and will remain integral to the delivery of this strategy.

11. Getting It Right For Looked After Children And Young People Strategy (2015) has been developed with input from partners across the statutory and voluntary sectors and looked after children and young people. We are grateful for their engagement and contributions.

12. Scotland’s Mental Health Strategy for Scotland (2012-15) is the successor document to Delivering for Mental Health and Towards a Mentally Flourishing Scotland. It builds on that work as well as on policy and service improvements taken forward alongside those main policy documents. Some of its key themes include working more effectively with families and carers and extending the anti-stigma agenda forward to include further work on discrimination.

13. The Pregnancy and Parenthood in Young People Strategy aims to help shift our approach of support to wider social determinants and health inequalities. The focus to date has often been on sexual health determinants and whilst this is clearly an important aspect it is not the sole risk factor that contributes to pregnancy in young people. Additionally, the new Strategy also aims to supporting young parents to help improve their health, social and economic outcomes. It is important that the Strategy does not duplicate or replicate existing strategies and frameworks, therefore the need for a policy mapping was essential as part of the development of the Strategy.

14. The Early Years Change Fund was established in 2011 as a partnership of the Scottish Government, local government and the NHS. Its task is to take forward a significant change programme to help deliver the joint commitment to prioritising the early years of children’s lives and to embed early intervention and prevention. Across the three years of the Early Years Change Fund from 2012-2015, the Scottish Government has committed £44 million; the NHS has committed £117 million and local government £105 million. The Scottish Government also contributed £8.5 million in 2015-16 to support the final transition year of funding. Delivery of this fund is through the Early Years Framework, which sets out 10 overlapping elements that need to come together to deliver the vision for the early years and improve outcomes.

15. National Practice Guidance on Early Learning and Childcare (2014) sets the context for high quality Early Learning and Childcare as set out in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014. The guidance seeks to support practitioners in all settings and areas of Scotland who are delivering early learning and childcare.

16. The Early Years Collaborative is a coalition of Community Planning Partners - including social services, health, education, police and third sector professionals – is committed to ensuring that every baby, child, mother, father and family in Scotland has access to the best supports available. The Early Years Collaborative ( EYC) was launched in October 2012, it involves all 32 Community Planning Partnerships and a wide range of National Partners. Its focus is on strengthening and building on services using improvement methodology. This method enables local practitioners to test, measure, implement and scale up new ways of working to improve outcomes for children and families.

17. The Play Strategy for Scotland: Our Vision (2013) sets out a vision for Scotland’s children for all individuals, parents or carers, members of communities or professionals to ensure that all children and young people can access play opportunities in a range of different settings which offer variety, adventure and challenge. They must be able to play freely and safely while learning to manage risks and make choices about where, how and when they play according to their age, ability and preference.

18. The Early Years Framework (2009) is an approach which recognises the right of all young children to high quality relationships, environments and services which offer a holistic approach to meeting their needs. Such needs should be interpreted broadly and encompass play, learning, social relationships and emotional and physical wellbeing. This approach is important for all children but is of particular benefit in offering effective support to those children and families requiring higher levels of support.

Children’s lives


19. Public Bodies (Joint Working) (Scotland) Act 2014 provides the legislative framework for the integration of health and social care services in Scotland. It requires the local integration of adult health and social care services, with statutory partners (Health Boards and Local Authorities) deciding locally whether to include children’s health and social care services, criminal justice social work and housing support services in their integrated arrangements. Key features of the Act include national outcomes for health and wellbeing will apply equally to Health Boards, Local Authorities and Integration Authorities; requirement for Health Boards and Local Authorities to establish integrated partnership arrangements; and establish an integrated budget to support delivery of integrated functions, which will cover at least adult social care, adult community health care, and aspects of adult hospital care that are most amenable to service redesign in support of prevention and better outcomes.

Supporting approaches

20. Fairer Scotland was built on the public debates about independence in 2013 and 2014. The Fairer Scotland conversation was launched to build on this. It started with a simple question: what matters to you about fairness and social justice in Scotland? In March 2016, the ideas from the conversations were summarised in an interim report outlining five high-level aims for Scottish society to be achieved by 2030. The Fairer Scotland Action Plan (Scottish Government 2016) set out 50 actions for this parliamentary term to move towards achieving these ambitions. Detailed below are those with significance for families experiencing neglect:

  • Poverty and low income
    • Action 1 In 2017, introduce a new socio-economic duty on public bodies to help make sure that the sector takes full account of poverty and disadvantage when key decisions are being made.
    • Action 2 £100,000 new funding so that people with experience of living in poverty can speak out, tackle stigma and push for change to public services.
    • Action 3 Establish a national Poverty and Inequality Commission in 2017/18.
    • Action 4 Launch a £329 million programme to tackle poverty in Scotland.
    • Action 5 Tackle the poverty premium as lower income households often have to pay higher prices for basic necessities like gas, electricity and banking than better-off families.
  • Participation, dignity and respect
    • Action 7 Set a target for Councils to have at least 1% of their budget subject to participatory budgeting supported by the £2 million Community Choices Fund. The fund will give communities the chance to vote on how public money is spent in their area. Help communities to start talking to public bodies about local issues and local services through the new process set out in the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015. Finally, communities can tackle poverty and inequality on their own terms through the Empowering Communities Fund.
  • Housing
    • Action 14 Deliver more warm and affordable homes in this Parliament and pledge to invest over £3 billion in the next five years for at least 50,000 affordable homes, of which 35,000 will be for social rent.
    • Action 16 Improve the provision of temporary accommodation including for young people and work with local government to develop a new approach in the face of UK welfare reforms.
    • Action 17 Make social security fairer where it can and commit to abolishing the bedroom tax. The Government will introduce longer-term disability awards where people have a long-term condition and make Universal Credit ( UC) fairer by ensuring that all eligible claimants can have the rent element of their UC paid direct to their landlord if they wish.
    • Action 19 Work with a range of partners to help people claim the benefits they are entitled to.
    • Action 20 Enable people to have access to affordable, healthy and nutritious food.
  • Health
    • Action 21 250 Community Links Workers to work with GPs to connect people with local services and support.
    • Action 22 In the next two years, extend home visiting services for families with young children.
  • Justice
    • Action 24 Better use of community-based interventions to reduce re-offending.
    • Action 19 Introduce a Bill to establish domestic abuse as a specific offence.
  • Child poverty
    • Action 26 In early 2017, introduce a new Child Poverty bill.
    • Action 27 Introduce a Scottish Baby Box in 2017 to help reduce costs in the early days of life.
    • Action 28 Create a new Best Start Grant to bring together Healthy Start vouchers and Sure Start Maternity Grant (when powers transfer)
    • Action 29 By 2020, entitlement to free early learning and childcare will almost double for all 3 and 4 year olds, as well as those 2 year olds that stand to benefit most.
  • Education
    • Action 26 Progress in closing the attainment gap.

Supporting policy

21. Homes Fit for the 21st Century: The Scottish Government's Strategy and Action Plan for Housing in the Next Decade (2011-2020) sets out the Scottish Government's housing vision and strategy for the decade to 2020. For 2020, the vision is for a housing system, which provides an affordable home for all.

22. The National Youth Work Strategy (2014-2019) was developed jointly by the Scottish Government, Education Scotland and YouthLink Scotland. It aims to set out ambitions for improving outcomes for young people through youth work. It has been developed in the context of the Strategic Guidance for Community Learning and Development, and it aims to ensure that we harness and build on our partnerships and what we know works in delivering vibrant and effective youth work practice.

23. Child Poverty Strategy (2014-2017) continues to promote and support good mental and physical health and wellbeing among children and young people as they develop towards adulthood is vital to the development of happy, healthy and productive future generations and parents of further generations. With relation to vulnerable children and families: to ensure a particular focus on the most vulnerable children and families. These include families with disabled children, children who offend, are in homeless families, looked after or accommodated, who live in substance misusing households, are at risk in situations of domestic abuse and violence or live with parents who have mental health problems or learning disabilities. In many instances, these risk factors overlap and are strongly associated with poverty and deprivation.

24. Equally Safe: Scotland's strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls (2014) is Scotland's strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls. The overall aim of the strategy is to prevent and eradicate violence against women and girls, creating a strong and flourishing Scotland where all individuals are equally safe and respected, and where women and girls live free from such abuse - and the attitudes that help perpetuate it. Four key priorities are set out within the strategy: (1) Scottish society embraces equality and mutual respect, and rejects all forms of violence against women and girls; (2) women and girls thrive as equal citizens: socially, culturally, economically and politically; (3) interventions are early and effective, preventing violence and maximising safety and wellbeing of women and girls; and (4) men desist from all forms of violence against women and girls and perpetrators of such violence receive a robust and effective response.

25. Developing the Young Workforce - Scotland's Youth Employment Strategy (2014) was informed by the independent Commission for Developing Scotland's Young Workforce set up by Scottish Government in 2013. Its remit was to explore how Scotland might develop a modern, responsive and valued system for vocational training and emulate the labour markets of the best performing European countries. The Commission's final report was published on 3 June 2014 and set out 39 recommendations, all of which built upon the Scottish Government's Economic Strategy, the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence and the extensive reforms of Post 16 Education. This strategy and implementation plan sets out how the Scottish Government will implement the Recommendations of the Commission for Developing Scotland's Young Workforce to drive the creation of a world class vocational education system to reduce youth unemployment by 40% by 2021.

26. The National Parenting Strategy: Making a positive difference to children and young people through parenting (2012) is about valuing and supporting Scotland's parents as one of the single biggest ways of giving children the best start in life.

27. Improving Maternal and Infant Nutrition Framework (2011) is aimed at a variety of organisations with a role in improving maternal and infant nutrition. There are many partner organisations but, primarily, the NHS, local authorities, employers, the community and voluntary sector have the most opportunity to influence culture and behaviour change. The framework is aimed at policy makers within these organisations as well as frontline staff and volunteers.

28. Valuing Young People (2009) focuses on ensuring that all young people have the support they need to achieve their potential; positive opportunities for, and positive engagement with young people; and early intervention to nurture potential and offer support at an earlier stage in a young person's life.

29. Promoting Positive Outcomes: Working Together to Prevent Antisocial Behaviour in Scotland (2009) is a framework for tackling antisocial behaviour in Scotland is about promoting positive outcomes: by preventing ASB before it occurs; by encouraging agencies to work together more effectively; by involving communities more closely in developing local solutions; and by communicating positive, evidence-based messages about our people and places. Overall, it is about building on success and spreading good practice across Scotland. The Framework aims to focus more on prevention and early and effective intervention and move away from the narrow focus on enforcement; address the causes of ASB, such as drink, drugs and deprivation, and not just the symptoms, promote positive behaviour and the work of role-models and mentors, as well as punish bad behaviour in an appropriate, proportionate and timely manner and create more choices and chances for people to succeed, thereby reducing the likelihood of them being involved in ASB.