The UK’s four nations England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have their own child protection system and laws to help protect children from abuse and neglect. Each nation has a framework of legislation, guidance and practice to identify children who are at risk of harm and take action to protect those children and prevent further abuse occurring. Each UK nation is responsible for its own policies and laws around education, health and social welfare, this covers most aspects of safeguarding and child protection. Laws are passed to prevent behaviour that can harm children or require action to protect children.
Although the child protection systems are different in each nation, they are all based on similar principles. The Scottish Government is responsible for child protection in Scotland. They set out policy, legislation and statutory guidance on how the child protection system should work.
The National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2014 aims to enhance the way all professionals and organisations work collectively to give children the protection they require, quickly and successfully at the earliest possible stage. Furthermore it focuses on the shared responsibility that all agencies and services have for protecting children and safeguarding their well-being.
The National Guidance for Child Protection was first published in 2010 and established a national framework to facilitate local practices and procedures. The Scottish Government made a commitment to guarantee that it is frequently refreshed to make sure it is relevant and up to date in protecting children. Improvements in services and good practice are evident although cannot become complacent. It offers a shared vision to improve outcomes for children and young people including Scotland’s most vulnerable. It provides clear step-by-step guidelines ensuring practitioners understand their part in protecting the children and young people. It clarifies roles and responsibilities, what to do in different circumstances, guidance on confidentiality, information sharing, identifying, responding to concerns about children and clearly emphasising that the protection of children is the most important consideration.
Within each national guidance each local authority has their own guidance which should be interrupted along with their own individual agencies and services. The Forth Valley Inter Agency Child Protection Guidance 2016 is based on the National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2014 and aims to support organisations and practitioners in working together to give children the protection they need.
Clackmannanshire and Stirling Child Protection Committee is a multi-agency forum responsible for the development, co-ordination and review of child protection inter-agency policy and practice across Clackmannanshire and Stirling. The Child Protection Committee includes representatives from Stirling Council, Clackmannanshire Council, NHS Forth Valley, Police Scotland and Voluntary and Independent sectors. It is responsible for ensuring that child protection practice complies with National and Local standards. We have a legal duty as Practitioners to protect child from harm and therefore must follow the individual Child Protection guidelines set within our own establishments in accordance with the local and national standards. All staff refresh there knowledge and understanding annually at Child Protection Training. Within the training staff are reminded that child protection is everyone’s concern and highlights a child within Scots law is anyone under 16 however young people under 18 may still require protection, for example if they have additional support needs. Additional guidance for Practitioners is given to minimise the risk of allegations of abuse against themselves by reflecting on their own practice and by following their own establishment’s child protection and other safeguarding policies and guidance on safe working practices and codes of conduct.
Legislation places a variety of duties and responsibilities on services and organisations. The Children (Scotland) Act 1995 remains one of the primary pieces of legislation and provides the legislative framework for Scotland’s child protection system. Having been amended and integrated with previous Acts now includes the law relating to child protection to ensure there are proper safeguards for children and reasonable opportunities for the parents/carers of the child to challenge any action that the courts may take. The act outlines parental responsibilities, rights and duties and the influences local authorities have to support children and intervene if there are concerns about a child. The key principles underpinning the 1995 Act are:
• Each child has a right to be treated as an individual
• Each child who can form a view on matters affecting him or her has the right to express those views if he or she so wishes
• Parents should normally be responsible for the upbringing of their children and should share that responsibility
• Each child has the right to protection from all forms of abuse, neglect or exploitation
• So far as is consistent with safeguarding and promoting the child’s welfare, the public authority should promote the upbringing of children by their families
• Any intervention by a public authority in the life of a child must be properly justified and should be supported by services from all relevant agencies working in collaboration.
The Children (Scotland) Act 1995 also incorporates the three key principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scottish Law:-
• Protection from discrimination
• Ensuring that child welfare is a primary concern
• Listening to children’s views.
In relation to children’s protection matters of confidentiality, sharing of information and disclosure of sensitive information The Data Protection Act 1998 ensures all key principles are adhered to by staff ensuring the children’s wellbeing and protection is not jeopardised.
The Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007 was introduced to replace the former system of Disclosure to ensure that all those who have regular contact with vulnerable groups within the workplace do not have a history of abusive behaviour. The Act will create a fair and consistent system that is quick and easy for people to use. The scheme will stop people who are unsuitable from working with children and protected adults either paid or unpaid and detect those who become unsuitable while in the work place through its vigorous vetting and barring scheme. The Act also gives guidance to employers about their own responsibilities.
Scotland’s Children’s Hearings System was initiated by the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 and is now regulated by the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011. One of the strengths of the Children’s Hearings System is that it has been able to adapt to changing social and political climates. The fundamental principles on which it is based have been maintained but processes have been changed in light of international conventions. These include the specific rights for children contained in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the general human rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights. In an emergency the Police have the specific power under the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) 2011 Act to ensure the immediate protection of children believed to be suffering from or at risk of significant harm.
Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 is another significant piece of legislation about children’s rights supporting Children Protection guidelines. Building on the aims of the Early Years Framework, this act aims to put children and young people at the heart of planning and services to make sure their rights are respected across the public sector. Its focus was on the early years of a child’s life and towards early intervention whenever help was required by the child or family encouraging preventative measures rather than crises’ responses. Included in this Act is the statutory operation of the Named Person and Child’s Plan underpinned by the Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) approach. The GIRFEC principles which all services and multi-agencies follow is the national holistic approach to improving the wellbeing of children to ensure they develop to their full potential. By implementing common frameworks for planning assessment and action all agencies can work together to identify needs and risks addressing them appropriately. To ensure concerns are responded to early and effectively shared practice should be consistent and of high quality.
Although some legislations have more significance within Children Protection than others there are a numerous legislations which have an equally important role in how safeguarding concerns are dealt with i.e. Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012, Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968, Local Government in Scotland 2003, Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) 2004 and 2009, Human Rights Act 1998, Digital Economy Act 2017 and Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Act 2017.