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.


Learning Reviews

Learning from cases where children have died, been significantly harmed or put at risk of significant harm is a vital part of an effective and improving child protection system. National guidance for child protection committees undertaking learning reviews was published in September 2021. This replaces the National Guidance for Child Protection Committees – Conducting a Significant Case Review (2015).

Learning reviews are an opportunity for in-depth analysis and critical reflection. They help to gain a better understanding of complex situations and to develop strategies to support practice and improve systems.

The primary role for the Care Inspectorate is to support continuous improvement in the quality of services for children and young people by acting as a central collation point for all learning review notifications provided by child protection committees. This helps to improve our understanding of the rationale for proceeding, or not, to a learning review and identifying themes, aspects of good practice and learning opportunities. 

To contribute to continuous improvement of child protection practice at a local level, the Care Inspectorate reviews each learning review and provide written feedback to Chief Officer Groups and Child Protection Committees (CPCs) on the quality of the report, referring to National guidance for child protection committees undertaking learning reviews and key quality markers.

 The Care Inspectorate examines the rigour of the analysis process, findings, and key learning points produced as a result of the review and how these inform actions to improve the welfare and protection of children. 

 It is not the role of the Care Inspectorate to further review the circumstances relating to individual children and young people. This is the remit of the lead and review team undertaking the learning review. Any specific learning points for future improvement will be identified and addressed in the feedback provided. 

Learning Review Knowledge Hub

This community of practice is for members and associate members of Child Protection Committees Scotland. It aims to provide a place for members to connect with each other, to exchange knowledge and share best practice around case review processes, research, policy and learning. Members of the learning review knowledge hub can access all recently published SCRs carried out in Scotland. No learning reviews have been published in Scotland as yet.

Listed below are national reports and research findings

Triennial review of initial case reviews and significant case reviews (2018-2021): Impact on practice

Learning from Significant Case Reviews in Scotland (2015-2018) 

2019 Triennial Analysis of Serious Case Reviews: Local safeguarding partnerships

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 & Young People Bulletin: 17 - 23 May 2024

Children & Young People Bulletin: 17 - 23 May 2024

Children & Young People Bulletin: 17 - 23 May 2024