Child Protection Improvement Programme
Updating and Implementing the National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland
In this blog post, I will provide an overview of the updated National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland and the work of the National Child Protection Guidance Implementation Group.
Child protection is a complex and sensitive area that requires a comprehensive, multi-agency approach involving social work, police and health, and often education, the third sector and other agencies. The National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland (the Guidance) is a resource that describes the roles and expectations of those involved in protecting children and provides them with advice. While there are certain roles that have specific responsibilities, we all have a role to play in making sure that children and young people are safe.
Following our commitment in the 2020/21 Programme for Government, the Scottish Government and partners undertook a thorough review of the National Child Protection Guidance to ensure it was up-to-date with legislative, policy and practices changes. The revised Guidance was published in September 2021. In the supporting narrative for that publication, the Scottish Government committed to regular review of the guidance. The first of these reviews has now concluded and the updated guidance was published in August 2023.
Following publication of the National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2021, a National Child Protection Guidance Implementation Group was established for a period of two years to provide strategic oversight and offer support to local areas implementing the Guidance. The final meeting of the Implementation Group was held on 20th September 2023 and was a celebration of all that the group has achieved.
2023 updated guidance:
The National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2021 – updated 2023 replaces the 2021 guidance. As part of the update, Scottish Government officials engaged with individuals from multiple stakeholder organisations to ensure the guidance incorporated significant legislative, policy and practice changes since the 2021 version, as well as learning from implementation of the 2021 guidance. This learning was obtained from stakeholders’ feedback on aspects of the guidance that were causing challenges in local areas. Officials also included suggested improvements or additions.
The changes from the 2021 version are displayed in a table of changes at the start of the 2023 updated guidance. Significant updates and additions include: information about regulatory bodies; whistleblowing and processes when there are concerns about a person in a position of trust; amendments to processes relating to unborn babies; information on harmful online challenges and hoaxes; expanded information about the roles of independent schools; an update on the new Guardianship Scotland Service; clarification on processes when an individual becomes aware of concerns about a child; as well as many other amendments.
National Child Protection Guidance Implementation Group:
This group has supported implementation of the 2021 guidance for the last two years. They met every two months to share good practice and learning from local areas, and to raise challenges and discuss how to deal with these. The group was chaired brilliantly by Joanna MacDonald, Deputy Chief Social Work Adviser to the Scottish Government. Meetings covered a wide range of topics and were dynamic and solution-focused.
In the two years it was in place, the Implementation Group contributed to several important pieces of work: the development of a resource for children, families and young people; a self-evaluation tool for areas to consider their progress with implementation; development of a national multi-agency inter-agency referral discussion course; work on a child protection learning and development framework and resources for professionals; creation of an NHS Accountability Framework and public protection eLearning resources; promotion of child protection and development of resources for education professionals; increasing awareness and understanding of child neglect; and development of talking heads resources on child protection planning meetings, amongst many other things.
The group had its last meeting on the 20th of September, at which a recorded message from Ms Don, Minister for Children, Young People and Keeping the Promise gave her thanks for their work. Members heard summaries of all the work that has been done and celebrated the success of the group. Some of the group’s workstreams will continue into 2024 and Scottish Government officials will support this ongoing work.
Impact and Future Outlook:
Working in the Child Protection Unit within Scottish Government, I have heard of the positive impact that implementing the guidance has had. The guidance will continue to guide professionals across Scotland and inform the development of policies, procedures and training programs in local areas and organisations that will contribute to a more coordinated and effective child protection system. The emphasis on collaborative working, consistency in practice, children’s rights and engagement with children and families, aligns with the wider national agenda which is focused on improving the wellbeing of Scotland’s children.
Ongoing evaluation and feedback from practitioners and stakeholders will ensure that, through future updates, the guidance remains responsive to emerging challenges and evolving needs.
By prioritising collaboration, children’s rights and engagement with children and families, the revised guidance lays a strong foundation for a more effective and compassionate child protection system. Together, we continue to work towards a brighter future for Scotland’s children.