Child Protection Improvement Programme
Child Protection Improvement Programme Blog #21
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 March 2022. Members discussed a variety of areas including implementation of the National Child Protection Guidance, child protection data work, JII and Bairns’ Hoose and Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children. Professors Brid Featherstone and Kate Morris presented an overview of the social model of protecting children and facilitated a discussion with members.
Implementation of the National Child Protection Guidance
The National Child Protection Guidance Implementation Group last met on Monday 24 January. The following areas were agreed as areas of focus over the next 18 months, with work being taken forward by a combination of existing groups and new implementation group sub-groups:
· Participation of children and families
· Pre-birth, perinatal and pre-5
· Preventative and proactive early family support and GIRFEC
· Training and workforce development
· Data and evaluation
· 16-17 year olds
· Extra-familial harm
· Child protection processes
Resource for children, young people and families
A subgroup has been established to lead the development of a child protection resource for children, young people and families. The subgroup are drafting initial content which will be used as a basis for engagement with children, young people and families. They have also been doing preparatory work for direct engagement on the resource, to ensure that the approach is trauma responsive, incorporates learning and best practice from others who have undertaken direct engagement with children, young people and families. Engagement will be undertaken by organisations with expertise in this area. The intention is to deliver a finished product by August 2022.
Inter-agency Referrral Discussion (IRD) subgroup established
An Inter-agency Referral Discussion (IRD) subgroup has been formed to support implementation of a more consistent IRD practice across local areas. Membership includes colleagues from statutory agencies, education and third sector partners covering the length and breadth of the country to ensure the complexities of IRD practice in urban and rural settings are addressed. The development of a National Multi-agency IRD training programme based on the Police Scotland IRD training programme is an early focus for the subgroup.
Supporting health professionals
Two specific workstreams are being progressed to support health professionals in their public protection responsibilities:
· Development of an NHS Education for Scotland public protection national e-learning education resource to support health professionals in their child and adult protection roles. This “Once for Scotland” approach is intended to help alleviate some of the current pressures on the resources of individual Health Boards and improve consistency and access to high quality educational resources across Scotland. Scoping of existing education and training materials has been undertaken and national content is being developed during March. The digital build will be undertaken in April and phase 1 content launched in April/May.
· Development of an NHS Public Protection Accountability and Assurance Framework. This framework is intended to guide Health Boards in the assessment of the adequacy and effectiveness of their public protection arrangements both at strategic and operational levels. Its development was initially considered in relation to child protection but was subsequently broadened to include adult protection and MAPPA to align with local governance and accountability arrangements. The framework is being developed in collaboration with a range of professional groups with likely finalisation and publication in May/June.
Supporting educational professionals
Education Scotland has established a National Education Safeguarding Leads network representing 32 local authorities and the independent schools sector. At the first meeting on 19 January, members discussed how they would like to use the network, and agreed that the quarterly meetings would focus on: opportunities to network and time to discuss ‘tricky issues’; sharing of good practice; updates on current issues.
Prior to meeting in January, the network had responded to a questionnaire, determining their child protection priorities. The key themes that arose were:
· Consistency in approaches to CP / safeguarding training / professional learning
· Supervision for education staff responding to CP concerns
· Legislative context of age – in particular around 16/17 year olds
· High level messages around significant case reviews
· Information sharing / links with GIRFEC
The network will link with the National Child Protection Guidance Implementation Group.
The Scottish Government Implementation Team are taking the following steps to support education professionals:
· engaging with HMI on how the inspection model should be revised to reflect the National Guidance
· working with the Registrar of Independent Schools to ensure alignment with the National Guidance as he develops additional guidance specifically for the proprietors of independent schools. The Scottish Government requested this having considered evidence submitted to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry. The guidance is expected to be published in advance of the next academic year
· engaging with Education Scotland who are working with the Registrar of Independent Schools and the Care Inspectorate to produce support for Boards of Governors’ to assist with self-evaluation and monitoring of child protection and safeguarding practices in their own schools. This follows a recommendation from the independent review into the closure of The New School Butterstone in 2018
· planning an input at the Scottish Council of Independent Schools Heads and Deputes conference in September
Expert Group on Preventing Sexual Offending involving children and young people/Harmful sexual behaviour (HSB)
The Scottish Government continues to progress action to deliver 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.
The subgroup of the National Child Protection Leadership Group established to oversee delivery of the remaining proposals last met on 24 January 2022. Three work streams of this multi-sector HSB delivery group have been set up to progress work in relation to:
· support for education, particularly professional learning needs. The first meeting of the Safeguarding in Education network took place in January 2022, with discussions led on the survey of safeguarding issues in education, including HSB, and the National Guidance for Child Protection
· assessment and intervention for children and young people at risk of HSB. Development of a GIRFEC-style guidance document to direct professionals and frontline practitioners to evidence based resources is ongoing.
· a pilot of the NSPCC HSB audit tool. Three CPCs have indicated interest and the audits are expected to start soon.
Nationality and Borders Bill
The Nationality and Borders Bill (“the Bill”) takes forward a number of elements of the New Plan for Immigration which was published in March 2021. The Public Bill Committee has been scrutinising the legislation throughout the autumn and a number of amendments were tabled in October. This included clauses 48 – 56 on age assessment by the UK Government to replace the placeholder clause 58 on age assessment included in the first iteration of the Bill. The Scottish Government was not sighted on the age assessment clauses prior to their inclusion in the legislation. Scottish Government Ministers have serious concerns about these proposals and their impact on established age-assessment policy and practice in Scotland. Under the Scottish system, age assessments are carried out by Scottish Local Authorities with reference to relevant case-law, non-statutory Scottish Government guidance, the National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2021 and the Inter-agency guidance on child trafficking. As drafted, the age assessment clauses could result in substantial changes to age assessment practises across Scotland and the Scottish Government is carefully considering the amended age-assessment clauses in the Scottish context.
Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Act 2019
The Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Act 2019 was fully commenced on 17 December 2021. This increased the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland to 12. This means the 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.
The Act is now in a 3-year review period which started on the day that the Act was fully commenced. As part of the review, operation of the Act and a future age of criminal responsibility will be considered and what is needed to support that. The implications of increasing the age further will be assessed, including identifying how to ensure that the rights of victims are upheld and community confidence is maintained.
Statutory guidance has been published in relation to the use of a place of safety, and an investigative interview is available to assist in considering the implications of the legislative change.
The Equally Safe Delivery Plan was last published in 2017, and came to an end in 2021. The Scottish Government and COSLA will publish a new short-life Equally Safe Delivery Plan in Spring 2022 that will run until Autumn 2023.
This plan will build on the many achievements of its predecessor, consolidate existing priorities and commitments, and consider what needs to be achieved for the sector to fully recover from the pandemic. This plan will continue to be anchored by Equally Safe’s four key priorities: Scottish society embraces equality and mutual respect, and rejects all forms of violence against women and girls; women and girls thrive as equal citizens socially, culturally, economically and politically; interventions are early and effective, preventing violence and maximising the safety and wellbeing of women, children and young people; and men desist from all forms of violence against women and girls and perpetrators of such violence receive a robust and effective response.
We will be working closely with the Equally Safe Joint Strategic Board’s oversight to ensure the short-life plan continues to foster and galvanise collaborative working with key partners across all sectors.
Longer-term, we will be conducting a wider refresh of Equally Safe and drafting a new Equally Safe Delivery Plan to be commenced in Autumn 2023. During the development of this work, we will consider aspects of the current Equally Safe strategy, including governance structures, and how they can be improved. This work will be conducted in partnership with COSLA, and will be informed by engagement with stakeholders, and people with lived experience.
Support to Disabled Children and Young People
The Support to Disabled Children and Young People Team currently has a particular focus on improving planning and support for young people who require additional support to make the transition from school to young adult life.
We understand that disabled children, young people and their families continue to be uniquely or disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. We continue to work across key policy areas to promote a coordinated response to the challenges facing disabled children and their families, and to build on opportunities to increase and improve support to these families.
We recognise that there are additional costs associated with raising a disabled child or young person, and that Covid-19 has disproportionately affected this group of young people and their families. In response, we committed £3,854,000 to the Family Fund Scotland grant scheme in 2020/21, which included additional funds of £880,000 to meet the increased demand for support seen by the Family Fund since the onset of the pandemic.
This year, Scottish Government has made a further commitment of nearly £3m of support to the Family Fund for 2021/22. In addition to this, Family Fund received a further £200,000 through their role as part of a coalition of national partners supporting Scottish Government’s Get Into Summer programme.
The Get Into Summer programme took a targeted approach to support children and young people who were most affected by Covid. The Programme aim was to support children and young people’s mental health, improve wellbeing, encourage play and help young people to reconnect.
As part of our commitment to improving transitions for young people, the Support to Disabled Children and Young People Team continue to work in partnership with ARC (Association for Real Change) Scotland to develop and deliver the ‘Principles into Practice’ Trial Programme in 10 Local Authority Areas. This is an improvement programme which aims help embed the seven ‘Principles of Good Transitions’ into policy, planning and practice, and to measure the difference they are making.
This trial aims to improve the lived experiences of young people (14 to 25 years) who require additional support to make the transition to young adult life.
The purpose of the trial which is now entering the second of its 2-year programme is to:
· Support the improvement of transitions support available to young people and their parents and carers in the participating trial areas.
· Test and bring the draft of Principles into Practice and associated resources to completion to support its implementation more widely across Scotland.
A universal trial is being run in 8 Local Authority areas who expressed an interest in trialling the framework independently in their local area with some guidance from ARC Scotland. These are: Aberdeen City; City of Edinburgh; Midlothian; Inverclyde; North Lanarkshire; Shetland; Perth and Kinross; and Scottish Borders.
Two Local Authorities were selected to run the enhanced trial programme; Falkirk and Dundee. The enhanced trial will take on additional tasks to enable the Principles into Practice resources to be tested, adapted if necessary, completed and shared across all Local Authorities.
Child Criminal Exploitation
Child criminal exploitation takes a variety of different forms. It can include children being forced to work in cannabis factories, being coerced into moving drugs or money across the country, forced to shoplift or pickpocket, or to threaten other young people. They can also be enticed or coerced into transporting drugs from one part of the country to another as part of a “County Line”.
The latest National Referral Mechanism statistics reported 37 children and young people as victims of exploitation in Scotland from July 2021 to September 2021.
Given the cross-cutting nature of this policy area, links are being made at a policy level by Child Protection, Youth Justice and Serious Organised Crime Unit.
The Scottish Government is committed to tackling any form of child exploitation, as set out in our National Action Plan to Prevent and Tackle Child Sexual Exploitation; our Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy; Serious Organised Crime Strategy; Youth Justice Strategy and our National Action Plan on Internet Safety for Children and Young People.
Work on criminal exploitation is currently being taken forward by the Divert Strand of the Serious Organised Crime Taskforce. In all cases where it is suspected that a child may be a victim of exploitation or trafficking, the child’s safety is paramount and child protection procedures must be activated immediately.
We recognise that data on how many children are currently affected by child criminal exploitation is required to understand the extent of the issue. We will be undertaking a procurement exercise over the coming months for a research proposal looking into this issue, commencing later in 2022.