Child Protection Improvement Programme
Child Protection Improvement Programme Update #20
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 22 September 2021. Members received updates on, and discussed a number of areas including implementation of the National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland, the Chief Officers induction resource which is being finalised, JII, Barnahus and Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children. Professor Carlene Firmin presented to the Group on contextual safeguarding and facilitated a discussion about contextual safeguarding in Scotland.
The next meeting of the National Child Protection Leadership Group will be on Wednesday 15 December 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)
Implementation of the National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland
The National Child Protection Guidance Implementation Group met for the first time on 10 September. The Group, chaired by Joanna MacDonald, Deputy Chief Social Work Adviser, discussed membership and terms of reference of the group, views received to date on how to support implementation, and the resource for children, young people and families. The Group will meet every two months with members progressing work between meetings. The next meeting is on Thursday 18 November.
National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2021 and supporting documents were published on 2 September 2021.
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 National Guidance for Undertaking Learning Reviews was published on Thursday 2nd September 2021 alongside the National Guidance for Child protection in Scotland.
The Guidance can be found here: National Guidance for Child Protection Committees Undertaking Learning Reviews Scotland 2021
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.
Harmful Sexual Behaviour
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 subgroup of the National Child Protection Leadership Group has been established to oversee delivery of the remaining proposals. The delivery group has met three times since March 2021 (next meeting 4 November 2021), with cross-sectoral representation from education, social work, health, CPCScotland, Police Scotland, COPFS, COSLA, and the third sector. Two sub-groups of the delivery group have been established to progress work in relation to (i) support for education/ professional learning and (ii) assessment and intervention. A third sub-group is considering use of the NSPCC Audit Tool.
A joint meeting of this HSB delivery group and the Gender Based Violence (GBV) in Schools working group was held in late September 2021. In response to a request from the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, this meeting aimed to identify the work that is currently underway to address the concerns about sexual harassment in schools and identify any additional actions which should be taken.
Implementing the Children’s aspects of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015
As part of the Home Office National Referral Mechanism (NRM) Transformation Programme, the Home Office launched a series of pilots to test devolving the responsibility to make National Referral Mechanism decisions for child victims of trafficking from the Home Office to local authorities for 12 months. Glasgow City Council is one of the ten Pilot Sites and the pilot has been underpinned by Scotland-specific guidance. All sites are live and the purpose of the Home Office pilot 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 can be found here: Devolving child decision making pilot programme: general guidance (accessible version) – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).
Unaccompanied Children in Scotland
As part of the New Scots Refugee Integration Delivery Project, which launched earlier this year, organisations and community groups working to support refugees in Scotland will share £2.8 million through a new grant scheme. In total, 56 projects will receive funding 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 projects being funded can be found here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/new-scots-refugee-integration-delivery-fund-guidance/pages/offer-of-grant/.
The Scottish Government is working closely with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Home Office on their draft online safety legislation to understand how it will impact on Scottish interests and better protect our children and young people. The Communications and Digital Committee are leading pre-legislation is currently undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny and the Bill is expected to be introduced in 2022.
The main purpose of the Bill is to empower Ofcom to better regulate internet services and in doing so making the internet a safer place for users, particularly children. Key proposals include duties of care on providers of internet services which allow users to upload and share user-generated content and on providers of search engines which enable users to search multiple websites and databases. Additional duties are also placed on providers in relation to content likely to be accessed by children, including a duty to undertake a children’s risk assessment. More information is available at: Draft Online Safety Bill – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).
We have committed in our Programme for Government that “all children in Scotland who have been victims or witnesses of abuse or violence, as well as children under the minimum age of criminal responsibility whose behaviour has caused significant harm, will have access to a ‘Bairns’ Hoose’ by 2025”.
The Scottish Government Bairns’ Hoose – Scottish Barnahus: vision, values and approach sets out our vision of how Barnahus model should be implemented in Scotland, the values which should underpin the model and our approach to its practical implementation.
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. An evidence summary report building on the foundations for the development of Bairns’ Hooses was published on 14th September 2021, with recommendations to help inform the development of Barnahus Standards. The Barnahus Standards Development Group will reconvene to draft standards to go out to consultation by September 2022. The final Standards will be published by the end of 2022.
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. This includes a commitment from 1 April 2021 to provide a further £2m to fund the Police Scotland and Social Work Scotland implementation Team, including the implementation manager role within COSLA, as they push ahead with the national rollout programme for the new Scottish Child Interview Model over the next three years
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 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). Dumfries and Galloway launched in May and Glasgow have completed the training and will launch in October.
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
National Care Service consultation
On 9th August, the Scottish Government launched the National Care Service consultation. The consultation is closing on 2nd November. It is seeking the public’s views ahead of the creation of a National Care Service, which will ensure everyone who needs it can expect the same standards of care, wherever they live in Scotland.
The consultation sets out some of the options for delivering social care in a way which changes the system from one that supports people to survive to one that empowers them to thrive. It recognises that this will involve significant cultural and system change that will need to be supported by new laws, and new ways of working.
At a minimum the new National Care Service will cover adult social care services. However, the consultation document also recognises that if we want to build a comprehensive community health and social care system, we should consider extending its scope to other groups such as children and young people, community justice, alcohol and drug services, and social work.
Children’s Hearings System:
Opportunity to participate in Children’s Hearings
The Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 (Rules of Procedure in Children’s Hearings) Amendment Rules 2021 (legislation.gov.uk) have been amended and came into force from 26 July 2021 – these regulation in the main have now provided rights to brothers and sisters and those with a sibling like relationship to have a voice in decision making in relation to contact. Participation rights include:
• the right to be notified of the hearing,
• the right to provide a report or other document to the hearing,
• the right to be provided with documents specified in the rules,
• authorisation to attend the hearing,
• the right to be represented at the hearing, and
• the right to seek a review of a compulsory supervision order
The new regulations also set out new provisions on
Electronic signatures – electronic signatures does represent a time and cost saving with no discernible adverse impacts for children, families or system participants.
Exclusions – The Scottish Government considered it necessary to broaden this power to include situations where there is a similar impact on other relevant persons. This broader power is to apply to the exclusion of relevant persons, their representatives, and journalists.
Virtual attendance – created a more open and flexible approach by allowing the child, relevant persons, and other attendees to request to attend by other methods.
Sharing of reports – ensuring all practitioners in a hearing provided with all of the relevant reports.
Hearing Review Working Group
A partnership – chaired by former Judge David Mackie -between Children’s Hearings Scotland (CHS), the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) and The Promise Scotland – announced on 15 August – will facilitate a redesign of the Children’s Hearings System with the needs of children and families with lived experience at its heart. Scottish Government will have an observatory role. The Promise announcement at https://thepromise.scot/news/2021/08/15/redesign-will-put-the-needs-of-children-and-families-at-heart-of-the-children%E2%80%99s-hearings-system/
Review of Children’s Hearings System
Scottish Government made a Programme for Government Commitment that we will undertake a comprehensive review of the Children’s Hearings System, to rethink the structures, processes and legislation that underpin it, and ensuring courts can facilitate child-friendly justice that upholds children’s rights.
The Promise announced on 15 August that former Sheriff David Mackie has been appointed as the independent chair of The Hearings System Working Group. This Group will facilitate a redesign of Children’s Hearings System with representatives from The Promise, Children’s Hearings Scotland, Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration and young people with recent experience of Children’s Hearings and care services. Scottish Government are members of the group. The Promise asks for a rethink of the structure, processes and legislation in relation to the children’s hearings system, ensuring that children and families continue to be at the heart of decision making. A review will ensure that Children’s Hearings fully align with incorporation of the United National Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Children (Scotland) Act 2020
The Children (Scotland) Act 2020 (the 2020 Act) gained Royal Assent on 1 October 2020.
The 2020 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 2020 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 2020 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.
The 2020 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 came into force on 26 July 2021:
section 13 (promotion of contact between looked after children and siblings),
section 14 (duty to consider contact when making etc. compulsory supervision order),
section 25 (opportunity to participate in hearing),
section 26 (appeal against relevant person decision).
Further commencement regulations were laid on 27 September 2021: The Children (Scotland) Act 2020 (Commencement No. 2) Regulations 2021 (legislation.gov.uk). These are technical and help pave the way for forthcoming substantive regulations.
We ran two consultations between March and July 2021, one on the registers of child welfare reporters, curators ad litem and solicitors appointed where a person has been prohibited from personally conducting a case themselves and the other on the regulation of child contact centres. The analysis report is due to be published in early 2022.
We published Staying Together and Connected: Getting it right for sisters and brothers National Practice Guidance on 26 July 2021. This publication involved key stakeholders in its development and an Implementation Group, chaired by the Scottish Government and attended by key stakeholders, will take forward this work.
The Looked After Children (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2021 amend the 2009 Regulations relating to two matters. The need for local authorities to have regard to the welfare of each child in relation to sibling placements and an exemption to the foster placement limit for emergency placements in exceptional circumstances for a specific child. The Looked After Children (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2021 (legislation.gov.uk). Guidance on placement limits, forming Part 3 of Staying Together and Connected will be published in September 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.
· Scottish Government are launching a consultation on refreshed GIRFEC materials on 1 November. The overall GIRFEC approach is unchanged. The values and principles that underpin GIRFEC have been updated in the refreshed draft materials. The materials have also been updated to reflect developments in relevant policies and practice.
· There are two parts to the consultation:
· Statutory guidance for Assessment of Wellbeing will be subject to a public consultation, ending on 4 February 2022, which can be accessed here.
· Other GIRFEC materials (GIRFEC Policy Statement, Practice Guidance on the role of the named person, the role of the lead professional, using the National Practice Model and Information Sharing, and an Information Sharing Charter) will be subject to a stakeholder focussed consultation, ending on 10 December 2021. Invitations to comment on these materials are being sent to a range of stakeholders.
· Engagement with children and young people is taking place through a number of third sector organisations and local authorities. Engagement will include children and young people from a wide range of geographical areas, with varied sets of needs and interests. Scottish Government is providing funding to support activities with participants that are enjoyable and rewarding.