Review into child protection procedures.
A comprehensive review of the child protection system is being commissioned by the Scottish Government.
In a statement to Parliament, Education Secretary Angela Constance said the review will strengthen the steps taken when children have experienced, or are at risk from, harm.
It will make recommendations by the end of 2016 and focus on:
• Child Protection Committees
• Initial Case Reviews
• Significant Case Reviews
• The Child Protection Register
This will be backed by increased scrutiny through a revised inspection programme, a review of Child Protection legislation, steps to promote and support leadership and action to address the impact of neglect on children.
The Education Secretary also announced funding for the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland for child protection work.
And she confirmed timescales for the new level 9 qualification for residential child care workers. This will come into effect for managers, supervisors and new starts from October 2017 and for the rest of the workforce, October 2019.
Ms Constance said:
"We have much to be proud of in the way we care for our children, but I want to make sure the systems to protect them when they are at risk are as robust as possible and able to act when harm has taken place.
"We already have child protection committees in every local authority area, we have modernised the children's hearings system and we have invested in professional development for all those working with vulnerable children and families.
"But we want to do more – that's why I am now announcing a review of the elements that make up the child protection system. We will also look at legislation covering children at risk of neglect or abuse to see if it needs strengthened and will bring in more focused inspections and robust scrutiny.
"We are taking action now to protect our most vulnerable young people. I am determined to have the strongest possible system in place to protect children effectively, efficiently and with their best interests at its heart."
Alexis Jay OBE, chair of CELCIS and lead of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham, said:
"The safety and wellbeing of our children and young people is paramount. Everyone has a responsibility to work together to keep our children safe and well. I welcome the Scottish Government's leadership in taking steps to strengthen and improve the child protection system.
"As Chair of CELCIS, we look forward to contributing to this important area of work. CELCIS expertise is in its ability to work alongside partners using the best evidence to support sustainable improvements in the children's system at strategic, operational and practice levels. Applying the CELCIS approach will rely on the vital and valuable work of the many stakeholders and professionals working with and for children and families and will help to maximise our collective impact in protecting our most vulnerable children."
Matt Forde, Head of Service for NSPCC Scotland, said:
"The reform programme offers a crucial opportunity to examine the effectiveness of our current approach to child protection in Scotland and to address the systemic barriers to embedding prevention in our public services.
"We welcome this programme as the first step on a long journey. We look forward to working with the Scottish Government to develop a policy and legislative framework that reflects basic children's rights and principles from the start. We particularly welcome the review into how we best protect neglected children and breaking that cycle to safeguard future generations.
"We look forward to these reforms and a future that builds confidence and capacity within our statutory services to ensure early identification of vulnerability and an appropriate, preventative, and most importantly, a child focused service response".
Sir Harry Burns, Professor of Global Public Health, University of Strathclyde, said:
"The Cabinet Secretary's statement today reaffirms that children's welfare and wellbeing is at the heart of the Government's ambitions and plans. I fully support the Scottish Government's emphasis on neglect and on improving the children's system to identify vulnerability, risk and harm so that we can intervene early and provide the specialist support that we know makes a difference to children's lives.
"This emphasis on prevention and early years is critical. The early years are a period of rapid development and can have a major influence on the rest of a person's life. The early years provide the first and best opportunity to set children off on the right trajectory and reduce the need for later interventions that are more costly in both financial and social terms."
Alistair Gaw, President of Social Work Scotland, said:
"Social workers across this country will tell you that tackling child neglect is fundamental to protecting children. Tackling neglect gets to the underlying issues which can increase the risk of child abuse: poverty, inequality, the impact of alcohol, drugs, mental illness, violence and domestic abuse on children's lives.
"A focus on neglect would not diminish our responsibility to promote better practice around child sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse or child sexual exploitation; nor would this focus be a panacea to tackle all types of harm to children. Neglect however should be of equal priority for the Scottish Government.
"It is right that neglect is a clear strand in the Government's plan for child protection. We are delighted that the Government has made a clear commitment to support social workers in the challenging, complex but essential work they do with families and their children to support them towards positive and nurturing relationships".
The announcement follows recommendations made in the Care Inspectorate's Triennial Review and a report by Jackie Brock from Children In Scotland: Safeguarding Scotland's vulnerable children from child abuse.