Child Protection Improvement Programme

Developing a training course on inter-agency referral discussions

April 26, 2024 by No Comments | Category Uncategorized

When it comes to keeping children safe, it is vital for professionals to work together. We recently piloted a course on Inter-agency Referral Discussions (IRD), which are meetings held when a concern about a child first arises.

This blog will give you an insight into why and how we are developing this training course and what we’re thinking for the future.

Why we did it 

When a child has been harmed or is at risk, professionals need to work together to respond to the situation. IRD meetings involve staff from police, healthcare, social work and often education, but at the moment, only police have national training on participation in IRDs. We want everyone to feel confident in what they are doing in these meetings. By bringing together staff from all the organisations involved, we hope to improve understanding of each other’s roles in the next steps for the child. By delivering the training across the country, we hope to encourage consistency in the response to concerns. The training follows key principles of our national child protection guidance – each child and their situation is unique, so their best interests are key. 

How did we get here? 

To develop this training course, we brought together a multi-agency writing group with representatives from the relevant agencies. We also asked for specialist content from experts in certain topics. This was important as it ensured the course content is relevant to everyone it needs to be. 

What does this course involve? 

The three-day in-person course is designed to give participants hands-on learning experiences. The first day and a half involve presentations describing each stage of the process, which are expanded on through discussion of anonymised case studies. The next day and a half immerse participants in scenarios mirroring real-life situations. Again, using anonymous case examples, participants discuss the best course of action for the children at risk and others involved. These case examples are carefully selected to highlight complexities and to encourage critical thinking and collaborative problem-solving among participants. 

Our team’s experience of the IRD course pilots 

The pilots were an enriching experience, providing valuable insight into how professionals use the policies and guidance we create in the Scottish Government. Engaging in debates surrounding case details was particularly enlightening, highlighting the delicate nature of child protection issues and the dynamics between the professionals involved. Witnessing professionals working together to prioritise the child’s interests and implement the processes as described in the national child protection guidance was both inspiring and informative for policy staff.  

Participants’ experience of the IRD course pilots  

We ran two pilots with 18 participants in each: six from each of police, health and social work. Throughout the course, we asked participants to fill in feedback forms about the content and format of the course. The responses were overwhelmingly positive, showing the value of the training in its current three-day, in-person format. The highlight of the course that participants reported was the opportunity to have detailed discussions with colleagues from different professions, which helped understand each other’s perspectives. Overcoming the challenge of releasing busy professionals from their day jobs for three full days of learning was no small feat. However, the feedback indicated that even experienced staff found the course very beneficial. 

 How do we plan to roll out the IRD course? 

We plan to recruit a dedicated team to deliver the course nationwide using the content that was successfully delivered during the pilots, but also including safeguarding leads from education. To begin with, it is proposed the course will run for two years, allowing most of the relevant staff in Scotland to complete the training. After this initial phase, we’ll assess the need for ongoing training and adjust as necessary.  

 Links to other child protection Learning and Development 

This is just one aspect of support to assist professionals in their child protection roles. We have commissioned Iriss to create a Child Protection Planning Meeting Resource and have worked with NHS Education for Scotland to Develop Public Protection e-Learning modules. These resources have been used by thousands of professionals to improve their understanding and practice in child protection. We have also worked with a Learning and Development consultant at the Centre of Excellence for Children’s Care and Protection (CELCIS) to publish a Learning and Development Framework and to develop a suite of training materials for child protection learning and development staff across Scotland. In addition, we recently published guidance for professionals working with children who display harmful sexual behaviour, and contributed to work led by Iriss on a resource helping professionals to understand guidance and legislation on protecting 16 and 17 year olds.  


In summary, our pilots of the IRD training course were very well-received, which gives us confidence in rolling the course out nationally. We’re committed to outlining the importance of collaboration and consistency in child protection, and to ensuring that all professionals feel equipped to handle concerns, and in doing so, create conditions to better support every child at risk.  


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