3.1 Our Vision
Our vision is that the Child Protection Improvement Programme will deliver a Child Protection System that keeps children safer from abuse and neglect by placing their wellbeing at the heart of everything it does.
It will be a system that:
- is embedded within Getting it right for every child ( GIRFEC) and underpinned by prevention, early intervention and partnership working, recognising that child wellbeing and protection is a collective responsibility
- engages with families early and listens to children, young people and families in order to provide the right support at the right time
- enables practitioners to make the right decisions at the right time to protect children where support is not working
- is transparent and learning, using evidence to effect practice improvements
- values and supports its workforce.
3.2 Why a Child Protection Improvement Programme?
The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning announced this Child Protection Improvement Programme in February 2016. The Programme was developed with the input of key stakeholders in the child protection sector. The Cabinet Secretary emphasised the many positives in our child protection system, as highlighted by the Care Inspectorate's Triennial Review in 2015 and a review undertaken by Jackie Brock, Chief Executive of Children in Scotland, in 2014. These strengths are the stability and consistency of the national approach; the introduction of GIRFEC and the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014; the Joint Inspections Regime; and the commitment and dedication of social work professionals.
Notwithstanding these undoubted strengths, the reviews also highlighted persistent and common concerns: weak leadership and accountability, inconsistency in practice at local level and a lack of sharing of and learning from best practice. They also worryingly recorded real and systemic weaknesses in the fundamentals of child protection practice, which are resulting in unacceptable variability in outcomes for children. They noted that a key basic weakness across our system exists in competence and confidence in assessing and responding to risks. The Cabinet Secretary was clear that action was needed immediately to address these concerns.
The context child protection services work in has already changed in recent years. Greater emphasis is now placed by Government on creating a culture across public services where everyone recognises their responsibility to provide wide-ranging protection for children. This reflects what already happens in supportive communities who recognise it takes a community to raise, and protect, a child.
Increased emphasis is also being placed on early intervention with families, acting to prevent the later need for formal care interventions and to prevent these escalating.
Despite these efforts, data suggest that need is growing and we are identifying more children who need protection and families who need support. We therefore continue to need formal child protection systems which can provide specific and targeted support and effective services and processes for the most vulnerable children in our society. Equally, we must ensure that this system is capable of responding effectively to emerging risks and needs, including the impact of increased and sustained poverty in children's lives, stemming from the UK Government's austerity and welfare reform measures; as well as the emerging risks brought about by advancing technology.
Formal child protection systems in Scotland have remained fundamentally unchanged since they were introduced: for example the basic format of Child Protection Committees has not changed since they were established in 1991; and the format of Significant Case Reviews has not changed since the first interim guidance was published in 2007. The evidence suggests that publishing guidance is not sufficient to achieve necessary culture and practice change. This led the Cabinet Secretary to seek the necessary assurance that we have a robust and effective system of child protection, based on a comprehensive review of policy, practice, services and structures.
3.3 Summary of Actions taken forward as part of the Programme
We set up a Systems Review Group and appointed Catherine Dyer to independently chair that group. The group reviewed policy, practice, services and structures in our current child protection system to identify strengths, achievements and priorities for change. The group reviewed the following elements to ensure that they work together to create a holistic, coherent and responsive child protection system that optimises outcomes for children:
- Child Protection Committees
- Initial Case Reviews
- Significant Case Reviews
- The Child Protection Register
The Children's Hearings Improvement Partnership scrutinised the impact of recent legislative and practice changes to the Children's Hearings System. They identified action to strengthen consistency and effectiveness, with a particular interest in the impact of increased legal representation at hearings and how the system works for our oldest children. The CHIP will go on to consider whether the process for considering our youngest children's interests is the right one.
We have asked the Care Inspectorate to Chair a Short Life Working Group to look at the shape of future inspections for children.
Recognising the extent and impact of neglect on our children and young people, we have:
- Commissioned a Neglect Improvement Programme to work in 3 local areas, putting evidence into practice and learning from that with a view to expanding this nationally, enabling practitioners to identify and respond to neglect in a way that makes an impact.
- Commissioned an update to the 2012 ' Review of Child Neglect in Scotland'  as well as a rapid review of legislation and policy, and extant academic literature, to provide us with a holistic picture of neglect across the country.
- Reviewed section 12 of the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937 (the child cruelty provision) and will have a public consultation in 2017 to explore a change to the offence.
Policy work was already in hand to cover the specific areas of internet safety, child sexual exploitation and child trafficking. Recognising that none of these areas of child protection stand alone, we have included this work within CPIP and have been able to take advantage of the wider programme in making progress. There is further detail on each of these areas within the report.
We have considered the best way to embed leadership at all levels throughout the child protection system and are ready to take forward actions around leadership and workforce development.
Ensuring the point of view of children and young people is integral to CPIP is a challenge that we have started to address for the whole programme, and will develop further.
Likewise, Data and Evidence relates to all of the work that we do. We need good datasets and evidence to make sure our actions are evidence-based and also to measure if changes we make result in improvement. We have considered what data and evidence is currently available and have suggested ways this could be improved to better inform the national and the local picture.
3.4 How to use this report
This report contains a chapter on each of the areas of work within the Programme. Each chapter provides basic key messages and a summary of actions. We have also provided a more detailed section "Further Details" for each of these chapters.
Email: Judith Ainsley