Education Secretary urges partnership to strengthen child protection.
All public service workers and the wider public have responsibilities to help keep children safe, Cabinet Secretary for Education, Angela Constance said today.
In a keynote address to an international social work conference in Edinburgh, the Cabinet Secretary also pledged to put in place a programme of action with local authorities and child protection partners by next February to strengthen their response to children facing crises.
Ms Constance said:
"For too long, our society has left the vital role of protecting children to others, particularly to social work. We need to change that. We need to make sure the responsibility for keeping our children safe is not left to one part of the children's workforce, but is the responsibility of everyone working in public services.
"Indeed, that responsibility is not just for the workforce – we need every adult to be prepared to do more for vulnerable children in their community. We must ensure that we all create and support safe environments for children to grow up in and that people step in, act, stand up and be counted whenever they see or know a child at risk."
Highlighting shortcomings identified in Jackie Brock's review of child protection last November and the recent Care Inspectorate triennial review of social care work, she added:
"There are considerable strengths and positives in Scotland's child protection system but there are substantive issues for us to address. We need to improve the processes for identifying and responding to risks and needs. We need to improve how we prioritise and act on assessed risks. There is a lack of confidence and knowledge from front line staff in responding to concerns when they arise. Finally, there are leadership issues in some localities, relating to relationships, accountability and a perceived lack of support from chief officers.
"So, we need to ask ourselves some more tough questions. What drives improvement, not just in child protection, but in all the services that support vulnerable children and young people? Are we all learning from the cases where things didn't go well and how do we get better? Are we learning enough from what others do well – hopefully this conference allows us to explore that more fully. And above all, is child protection given the priority it deserves across the public sector landscape?
"We will be reporting on what we have done in response to the Brock Report in the coming month – but I see that work only as the starting point. We need to move into a new phase. I am determined to use Jackie Brock's review and the Care Inspectorate Triennial Review to inform a programme of action, that I look to the sector to develop with us.
"I want this programme to be in place by the first anniversary of the Leadership Summit I called in February this year. At that summit, my message was clear – we cannot be complacent, we must be prepared to do more to protect our most vulnerable citizens, especially children and young people. By next February, I want everyone to be in no doubt about the changes we need to make, and well on the way to putting them in place. I intend to bring that programme before Parliament so all of Scotland's MSPs can consider what needs to happen and to commit to supporting those actions."
The Cabinet Secretary was addressing the three-day IFSW European Conference & Social Services Expo 2015, hosted by the British Association of Social Workers.