Child Protection Improvement Programme
Child Protection Improvement Programme Update #19
Outlined below is a summary of Scottish Government policy developments and relevant information regarding child protection. It covers developments that have taken place since the last update.
The National Child Protection Leadership Group
The National Child Protection Leadership Group last met on 23 April 2021. The meeting focussed on the revision of the National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland. The Group received an overview of the consultation analysis process and the consultation results from Craigforth, the social research company that completed the analysis. Members discussed the key themes and areas which arose in the consultation, and provided approval of proposed approaches. Leadership Group members also provided approval for the publication of the Learning Review Guidance.
The National Child Protection Leadership Group convened on Tuesday 15 June 2021.
Information about the role and remit of the Group, membership, and minutes of previous meetings can be found here: National Child Protection Leadership Group – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)
Revision of the National Child Protection Guidance
Independent analysis of the Scottish Government consultation on the draft National Child Protection Guidance has been completed. 159 responses were received from a wide range of organisations and individuals. All responses have been carefully considered by the project team in conjunction with the analysis report. Where required, further revision has been made to the guidance in collaboration with some of the respondents, Scottish Government policy leads and partners. The National Guidance Steering Group, and the National Child Protection Leadership Group have discussed and agreed the proposed approach and recommended revisions.
The revised National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland is now being prepared for publication in summer 2021. Published alongside the guidance will be a number of practice insights which will provide an additional, supporting resource connected to the core guidance; the consultation report which will include the analysis report and the Scottish Government response; and a range of impact assessments. Conversations regarding planning for adaptation and implementation of the guidance are underway and will be informed by the consultation responses.
Covid-19 Supplementary National Child Protection Guidance was developed for Chief Officers, Chief Social Work Officers and Child Protection Committees. This was first published on 31 March 2020 and was last updated on 22 December 2020. The supplementary guidance will be updated further as necessary.
Improving Learning from reviews of Child Protection Cases
The consultation for the National Guidance for Undertaking Learning Reviews has now been completed, and the draft guidance has been subsequently updated.
Learning from cases where children have died or been significantly harmed is a vital part of an effective and improving child protection system. Reflecting on learning provides the opportunity to identify good practice in protecting children and make any necessary practice changes are made, not only in the area where the harm occurred, but throughout the country to better protect children in the future.
The new systems will replace Significant Case Reviews (SCRs) and Initial Case Reviews (ICRs) with a single Learning Review, supporting a more proportionate and timely approach to case reviews which fosters a learning culture and the implementation of findings for improvement.
The guidance is now in the final stages of preparation, in advance of sign off by the Care Review Oversight Group and publication.
Expert Group on Preventing Sexual Offending involving children and young people
The Scottish Government continues to progress action to address the proposals made by the Expert Group on Preventing Sexual Offending involving Children and Young People, and develop policy on harmful sexual behaviour (HSB) more generally.
A sub-group of the National Child Protection Leadership Group has been established to oversee delivery of the remaining proposals. The group, which met for the first time on 30 March, has cross-sectoral representation from education, social work, health, CPCScotland, Police Scotland, COPFS, and the third sector.
Research by the Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice (CYCJ) to explore potential links between childhood experiences and harmful sexual behaviour, will be published late May.
As part of Young Scot’s DigiKnow campaign, a survey, co-designed with young people, to seek the views of young people on online harmful sexual behaviour was launched on 26 January. The final report is due to be published in the summer.
Implementing the Children’s aspects of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015
The latest quarterly Child Trafficking Strategy Group meeting was held on Thursday 24 June.
As part of the Home Office National Referral Mechanism (NRM) Transformation Programme, the Home Office have launched a pilot programme to devolve child decision-making within the National Referral Mechanism to a selection of local authorities. The purpose of the pilot programme is to test whether determining if a child is a victim of trafficking within existing child protection structures is a more appropriate model for making trafficking decisions for children. More information about the pilots can be found here: Devolving child decision making pilot programme: general guidance (accessible version) – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).
Unaccompanied Children in Scotland
The New Scots Refugee Integration Delivery Project launched in March 2021 and is a new programme supported by the European Union Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF). As part of this programme, up to £2.8 million will fund new projects to spread documented good practices and to support innovation in Scotland under the outcomes, objectives and beneficiaries of the New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy. More information about the project can be found here: New Scots Refugee Integration Delivery Project: guidance – gov.scot (www.gov.scot).
A campaign has been launched to help children and young people recognise the signs of online harms including child sexual abuse and exploitation (CSE). The CSEtheSigns initiative aims to raise awareness among those aged 11 to 17 and their parents and carers of what constitutes CSE, and where they can go for advice and support if they have concerns. It is part of a coordinated response from the Scottish Government, Police Scotland and Child Protection Committees Scotland, who will each run campaigns during March to help keep young people safe online. More information can be found here.
The Scottish Government is exploring the application of the Barnahus concept for immediate trauma informed support for child victims of serious and traumatic crimes within the context of Scotland’s healthcare, child protection and criminal justice systems and to explore how Barnahus could work. Barnahus provides Scotland with an opportunity to design a genuinely child-centred approach to delivering justice, care and recovery for children who have experienced trauma, including, but not only, child sexual abuse.
Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) and the Care Inspectorate (CI) were commissioned by the Scottish Government to develop Scotland-specific standards for Barnahus based on the European PROMISE Quality Standards which are based on best practice from the Nordic countries. This work has now resumed following a pause due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
We recognise the importance of remaining focussed at this stage on reaching a common child-centred vision for Barnahus across justice, child protection and health. It is crucial that the standards are in line with existing cross cutting policy and processes in Scotland and build on current good practice and improvements, aligned with GIRFEC, Joint Investigative Interviews (JIIs) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and delivery of the Promise.
Joint Investigative Interviews
The Scottish Government continues to fund and work with justice and social work agencies to improve the quality and process for Joint Investigative Interviews (JIIs) with vulnerable child witnesses, including the updating of national guidance and improving technology and facilities.
Oversight of the delivery and continued evaluation of the national rollout is being undertaken through the COSLA/Police Scotland chaired National JII Governance Group.
April 2020 – April 2021, saw the second year of piloting activity in relation to the new model (the Scottish Child Interview Model) for joint investigative interviewing, which is both trauma informed and achieves best evidence through more robust planning and interview techniques. The first two pilot sites were launched in Lanarkshire (February 2020) and North Strathclyde (August 2020), with Dumfries and Galloway and Glasgow pilots launching in February and March of this year respectively. All four pilot sites will be live by June 2021.
From April 2021, the National JII Project began a national rollout plan, aiming to introduce the Scottish Child Interview Model for joint investigative interviewing in every area of Scotland over the next three years. The National JII Team has worked with Scottish Government to publish an Interim Evaluation Report of the pilot phase of the Model. This can be accessed here: https://bit.ly/34w4HsM
Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Act 2019
The policy intention of the Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Act 2019 (“the Act”) is to protect children from the harmful effects of early criminalisation, whilst ensuring that the child and their family receive the right support. When the Act is fully implemented, children under the age of 12 will no longer be dealt with as criminal suspects, whilst ensuring that harmful behaviour of children under 12 can continue to be investigated and that authorities respect, and respond to the needs of victims.
Implementation of the Act has been phased, with measures that would have the most significant effect on children’s lives being prioritised. Since end-November 2019, it has not been to refer a child under 12 to be referred to a children’s hearing on the ground that they have committed an offence, nor has it been possible for children under 12 to obtain new criminal convictions since that date.
Disclosure provisions in the Act were fully commenced at end-November 2020. Any conduct by a child below the age of 12 that would previously have been recorded as a conviction will no longer be recorded as such. Any non-conviction information relating to harmful behaviour that occurred when a child was under 12 cannot automatically be disclosed by the State. Whilst such information may be disclosed as “Other Relevant Information” on two specific types of disclosure, this can only take place following determination by an independent review.
Scottish Ministers are looking to fully implement the legislation in October 2021.
Work is progressing in particular with stakeholders in relation to finalising Ministerial guidance, establishing a register of child interview rights practitioners, and developing a list of places of safety for the purposes of the Act.
Work is ongoing with Social Work Scotland, Police Scotland and COSLA to develop operational guidance for investigative interviews. Sharon Glasgow is working with local social work leads and partners to support local implementation plans.
The Scottish Government remains fully committed to deliver on its pledge to care experienced people in Scotland by accepting and responding to the care review conclusions. Keeping the Promise requires both immediate action to improve experiences and outcomes for children, young people and their families who are currently in or on the edge of care and also requires action over the longer term to improve the level of support for families from birth through to adulthood to significantly reduce the numbers of families coming into the care system. Our approach to Keeping the Promise will drive our work to recovering and renewing children’s services after Covid. The work to implement the Promise will be underpinned by the incorporation into Scots Law of the UNCRC
The 2020/21 Programme for Government illustrates our unwavering commitment to delivering The Promise.
We are committed to creating a structure that can facilitate the re‑design of whole system approaches to care and support. This begins with embedding the commitments that have already been made to care experienced people into policy and delivery, with significant and intensive work across the entirety of government policy;
An Oversight Board was established in January 2021 with Fiona Duncan as Chair and half of members with care experience. The Board will be a key component in the work of change and will ‘hold Scotland to account’ nationally and locally, ensuring that there are governance relationships across the care system so that the work to Keep the Promise has a sufficiently expansive perspective. The Board has met three times as of 20 May 2021.
We have supported the establishment of an non-statutory company – The Promise Scotland Their purpose is to support and have oversight to enable the full implementation of the Care Review’s conclusions. Fiona Duncan has been appointed as ex-officio Chair of The Promise Scotland alongside her role as Chair of the Oversight board.
The Promise Scotland published The Plan 21-24 on 31 March, the first of three, 3 year plans. Collectively these plans will lay out Scotland’s route-map to implement all of the Independent Care Review by 2030, and #KeepThePromise. The Promise Scotland engaged with over 100 key stakeholders in the development of The Plan 21-24. The response for change has been well received and stakeholders are committed to the implementation of The Promise.
The £4m Promise Partnership Fund launched on 1 February 2021. This fund is being administered by the CORRA Foundation on behalf of the Scottish Government. The Promise Scotland helped to shape the process and the Decision Makers Panel were a group with lived experience of Scotland’s care system.
The aim of the fund is to help organisations with early intervention and to deliver changes to better support children, young people and families in or on the edges of care. A further £4m is committed for 21/22 and baselined for future investment.
Children (Scotland) Act
The Children (Scotland) Act gained Royal Assent on 1 October 2020.
The Act was informed by the outcome of a consultation on the Review of Part 1 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (the 1995 Act). Part 1 of the 1995 Act covers parental responsibilities and rights and contact and residence cases relating to children when parents are no longer together.
The key policy aims of the Act are to:
· Ensure that the child’s best interests are at the centre of any contact and residence case or Children’s Hearing;
· Ensure that the views of the child are heard;
· Ensure further compliance with the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child; and
· Further protect victims of domestic abuse and their children in family court proceedings.
The Act covers a range of areas including:
· Establishing a register of Child Welfare Reporters and curators ad litem;
· Regulating child contact centres;
· Encouraging the views of younger children to be heard by decision makers;
· Protecting victims of domestic abuse by prohibiting personal contact of a case in certain circumstances and authorising special measures to be used in family court cases; and
· Promoting of contact between looked after children and siblings.
We recognise that primary legislation is only part of the action necessary to improve the operation of family justice. A Family Justice Modernisation Strategy was published on 3 September 2019. This sets out work that is ongoing by Scottish Government and others; work that can be done via secondary legislation or by improved guidance; areas covered by the Act; and areas that are for longer term work. It includes the PFG commitment to keep siblings together where it is in their best interests.
The Act will take time to implement as a number of the provisions require secondary legislation, changes to court rules or significant further consideration.
The following sections of the 2020 Act came into force on 17 Jan 2021:
section 15 (clarification of order-making power),
section 23 (funding for alternative dispute resolution),
section 24 (pilot scheme for mandatory alternative dispute resolution meetings).
The following sections of the 2020 Act will come into force on 26 July 2021:
section 13 (promotion of contact between looked after children and siblings),
(b)section 14 (duty to consider contact when making etc. compulsory supervision order),
(c)section 25 (opportunity to participate in hearing),
(d)section 26 (appeal against relevant person decision).
We launched consultations on the register of child welfare reporters, curators ad litem and solicitors appointed where a person has been prohibited from personally conducting a case themselves and the regulation of child contact centres on 22 March 2021. These consultations shut on 12 July 2021.
We are working with CELCIS to develop National Practice Guidance for Brothers and Sisters, involving key stakeholders in its development. We plan to have the first version published in July 2021.
Getting it right for every child Update
The Scottish Government is updating Policy and Practice Guidance on Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) to promote and support GIRFEC good practice. This will provide organisations and practitioners with confidence, clarity and practical support to deliver GIRFEC, underpinned by necessary, relevant and proportionate information sharing. We will also develop information and guidance for children, young people, and parents.
The GIRFEC refresh work was paused during much of 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In April 2021, a structured co-production approach to refreshing the GIRFEC practice materials commenced, with participants drawn from a wide range of health, local authority and third sector bodies as well as national organisations.
Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry
The Inquiry has also published a number of case study findings to date including on Daughters of Charity (October 2018) and Sisters of Nazareth (May 2019), Quarriers, Aberlour and Barnardos (January 2020) and Christian Brothers (February 2021)Further case study findings will be published in due course.
On 3 December 2019 Phase 4 of hearing began into the Child Migration case study and it concluded in October 2020 following a pause in hearings due to the pandemic. This phase related to investigations into the abuse of children whose departure from Scotland to countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand was part of the child migration programmes.
On 17 November 2020 the Inquiry began hearings examining the actions of Scottish Government in relation to issues arising out of non-recent abuse of children in institutional care.
A case study investigating abuse at residential boarding schools throughout Scotland was paused in late January 2021 however phase 2 of public hearings resumed on 4 May 2021. This case study will include children who were boarded out as well as children who were placed in foster care. The Inquiry is recovering evidence from all 32 Scottish local authorities and is gathering evidence from applicants whose care was arranged by any Scottish authority. The case study is expected to begin in 2021.
On 4 May the Chair announced that the leases for the current Inquiry premises in Rosebery House are due to expire later this year and whilst every effort was made to extend them, that was not possible because the landlords are planning to redevelop the site necessitating the Inquiry’s relocation.
Public hearings will require to be paused as we work on decommissioning Rosebery House and preparing our new premises. They should be able to recommence in the autumn.