Photograph of children hiding under an umbrella
Resource Type Policy & Legislation

Child Protection

Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC)

Designed to be threaded through all existing policy, practice, strategy and legislation affecting children, young people and their families, GIRFEC is founded on ten core components which can be applied in any setting and in any circumstance:

  • A focus on improving outcomes for children, young people and their families based on a shared understanding of wellbeing
  • A common approach to gaining consent and to sharing information where appropriate
  • An integral role for children, young people and families in assessment, planning and intervention
  • A co-ordinated and unified approach to identifying concerns, assessing needs, and agreeing actions and outcomes, based on the wellbeing indicators
  • Streamlined planning, assessment and decision-making processes that lead to the right help at the right time
  • Consistent high standards of co-operation, joint working and communication where more than one agency needs to be involved, locally and across Scotland
  • A Named Person for every child and young person, and a Lead Professional (where necessary) to co-ordinate and monitor multi-agency activity
  • Maximising the skilled workforce within universal services to address needs and risks as early as possible
  • A confident and competent workforce across all services for children, young people and their families
  • The capacity to share demographic, assessment, and planning information - including electronically - within and across agency boundaries

The wellbeing of children and young people is at the heart of GIRFEC. The approach uses eight areas of wellbeing, SHANARRI indicators, which represent the basic requirements for all children and young people to grow and develop and reach their full potential:

  • Safe
  • Healthy
  • Achieving
  • Nurtured
  • Active
  • Respected
  • Responsible
  • Included

The indicators are used to record observations, events and concerns and as an aid in putting together a child’s plan.

Other GIRFEC provisions

The Scottish Government has published statutory guidance on Part 3 (Children's Services Planning) of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, which provides local authorities and health boards, working in partnership with other public bodies, with information and advice about how they should exercise the functions conferred by the Act. The guidance notes that compliance with the duties will be monitored in part through joint inspections of children’s services. Included in the appendices is information on the joint inspection process and the Care Inspectorate’s 10 Steps to Successful Children’s Services Planning.

Child Protection Improvement Programme

The Scottish Government set up the Child Protection Improvement Programme in response to issues identified in the Brock report and the Care Inspectorate's 2011-2014 triennial review. Following year-long activity, two reports were published in Spring 2017: the Child Protection Improvement Programme and Protecting Scotland’s Children and Young People: It is Still Everyone’s Job. 

Protecting Scotland's Children National Policy and Child Abuse Prevention Activity followed in March 2018, setting out the Scottish Government's vision for the protection of Scotland's children and young people.

A National Child Protection Leadership Group, chaired by the Minister for Children and Early Years, was established to support, strengthen and improve activity on child protection. The group oversees implementation of the recommendations of the Child Protection Improvement Programme Report and reviews arrangements for child protection across current planning and service delivery processes. The group reports to and is accountable to Scottish Ministers.

National Action Plan on Child Sexual Exploitation

The National Action Plan to Prevent and Tackle Child Sexual Exploitation was initially published in 2014 and updated in March 2016. The Action Plan was co-produced by the Scottish Government and a national Ministerial Working Group (MWG) on CSE made up of a range of experts, including Police Scotland, Children in Scotland, the Care Inspectorate, Aberlour, Barnardo's and the Crown Office.

The publication followed an inquiry into child sexual exploitation by the Scottish Parliament's Public Petitions Committee, which was launched after Barnardo’s Scotland raised a petition on the issue in 2011. 

The Action Plan was developed with specific areas of focus for tackling CSE: prevention of abuse (with specific measures for dealing with particularly vulnerable children); disruption and prosecution of offenders through legislation; and supporting children and young people affected by CSE.

Several updates progress against actions identified in the plan have been published by the Scottish Government. A final delivery report was released in 2020.

National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland

National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland is the Scottish Government's national framework for agencies and practitioners at local level to understand and agree processes for working together to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. It sets out expectations for strategic planning of services to protect children and young people and highlights key responsibilities for services and organisations, both individual and shared. It also includes guidance for practitioners on specific areas of practice and key issues in child protection.

The current version of the National Guidance for Child Protection was published in 2014. A consultation on the guidance closed in January 2021.

Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Act

The Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill was introduced on 6 September 2018 and the Scottish Parliament passed the legislation in September 2019. 

The Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Act 2019 removed the “reasonable chastisement” defence from 7 November 2020. This means that all forms of physical punishment of children are against the law in Scotland, and children now have the same legal protection from assault as adults.

The Scottish Government published Children (Equal Protection from Assault (Scotland) Bill: framework for statutory bodies which explains the effect of the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Act 2019 and establishes a framework for implementation of the Act for statutory bodies in Scotland.


Significant Case Reviews

A significant case review (SCR) is a multi-agency process for establishing the facts of, and learning lessons from, a situation where a child has died or been significantly harmed.  Significant case reviews should focus on learning and reflect on day-to-day practices and the systems within which those practices operate. 

The overarching objectives of significant reviews are outlined in National Guidance for Child Protection Committees Conducting a Significant Case Review, published by the Scottish Government in 2015.  They are fundamentally to establish whether there are lessons to be learned about how better to protect children and young people and ensure they get the help they need when they need it in the future.

In September 2020, the Scottish Government announced plans to consult on and publish revised National Guidance for Child Protection and develop a new approach to reviewing significant protection cases by April 2021. 

Listed below are SCRs carried out in Scotland which have been published in the last 18 months:

Perth and Kinross 

West Lothian 

South Lanarkshire 

Glasgow city

East and Midlothian 


North Ayrshire 


If you have any questions about the SCRs, please contact the relevant local authority area following the links above. 

Listed below are national reports and research findings

Learning From Significant Case Reviews in Scotland: A retrospective review of relevant reports completed in the period between 1 April 2012 and 31 March 2015

Learning from Significant Case Reviews in Scotland 2019 

Child safeguarding practice review panel: practice guidance Apr 2019 

Pathways to harm, pathways to protection: a triennial analysis of serious case reviews 2011 to 2014, Final report, May 2016 

Relevant Links

UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill

The UNCRC (Incorporation) Bill, introduced on 2 September, to further embed the rights of children and young people as enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Bill will incorporate the UNCRC into domestic law so that children and their representatives can vindicate their rights set out in international law in domestic courts. It will aim to ensure there is a “proactive culture of everyday accountability” for children’s rights across public services in Scotland. The Bill will aim to ensure that public authorities take proactive steps to ensure compliance with children’s rights in their decision making and service delivery.

Useful Links

Further reading

National strategies and frameworks

A library of publications by the Scottish Government and other national bodies setting out relevant policy developments or direction

Government Legislation

Legislation which may be relevant to you and your service

Health and Social Care Standards

The Health and Social Care Standards set out what we should expect when using health, social care or social work services in Scotland

Latest Children and Young People Bulletin

A weekly bulletin produced by our policy team providing an update on the key developments concerning children and young people

Children and Young People Bulletin: 16 - 22 October 2021

Children and Young People Bulletin: 16 - 22 October 2021

Children and Young People Bulletin: 16 - 22 October 2021