Child Protection Process
It’s everyone’s job to make sure I’m aright
Most children and young people are living in safe and nurturing environments, cared for by their supportive families, carers and communities.
Children and young people are supported by universal services such as GPs, health visitors, nursery workers and teachers to help them to reach their full potential.
However, some children and families need additional support. At times, families experience challenges and difficulties and extra help is needed, sometimes for short periods and for others over a longer period.
In Scotland, support is offered to children, young people and their families or carers within the context of our national approach, Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) to ensure help is available when it is needed.
For some children and young people there can be additional risks that mean there is concerns about their safety and wellbeing. In this situation children and families will need a more intensive level of support and assistance.
Working with families, there are many professionals whose job it is to ensure that children and young people are protected, including social workers, police officers, teachers, health visitors and Children’s Reporters.
All professionals working in children's and adult services have a role and responsibility to ensure all our children and young people are safe and protected.
Communities also have a role to look out for children and young people who they may be worried about and let services such as police or social work know if they have any concerns.
It is everyone’s responsibility to make sure all our children and young people are safe and protected from harm and take action if we are worried or notice something that causes concern. We all need to be curious about the wellbeing of children and young people.
Child Protection Process
Child protection means protecting a child or young person from child abuse or neglect.
Abuse or neglect need not have taken place in order for action to be taken to protect a child or young person; action can be taken when there is a likelihood or risk of significant harm from abuse or neglect whether physical, emotional or sexual.
All forms of child abuse and neglect have an adverse impact on a child or young person’s health and wellbeing. The impact can be immediate, or it can build up over time, leaving children and young people with vulnerabilities and challenges throughout their lives.
This is why it is important to try and prevent child abuse and neglect from happening at all and, where it does occur, why it is best to identify it early and respond quickly to help the child or young person. This will minimise harm both immediately and in the longer term.
When there is a concern that a child or young person might be at risk of significant harm from abuse or neglect, a multi-agency assessment and child protection planning meeting will take place to allow information about needs, risks and protective factors to be discussed by everyone involved, including family members.
The child protection planning meeting will be informed by a multi-agency child protection assessment to assess the needs and risks in relation to the child and what support might be required to meet these needs and reduce any risks.
If it is agreed at a child protection planning meeting that a child or young person is at risk of significant harm from abuse or neglect, and the family needs support from professional services in order to reduce the risk of harm, the child or young person’s name will be placed on the child protection register and they will have a Child Protection Plan which sets out what everyone will do to help.
When a child or young person is placed on the child protection register, the individual risk/concern factors which affect them are recorded and their Child Protection Plan is developed around these.
Everyone involved in supporting the family will meet regularly to make sure that the plan is working and that risk is reducing.
This is called a core group meeting. Once the child or young person is no longer in need of a Child Protection Plan, their name is removed from the child protection register at a review child protection planning meeting.
The family will still receive support from professional services for as long as this is needed.
Use the tabs below to learn more about the Child Protection Process
1. Child protection planning meeting
Child protection planning meetings (CPPM) are formal multi-agency meetings that enable services and agencies to share information, assessments and chronologies in circumstances where there are suspicions or reports of child abuse and neglect. Parents and carers, and children and young people themselves should attend these meetings and be supported to take a full part in discussions.
The purpose of the meeting is to ensure relevant information is shared (where it is proportionate to do so), to carry out a collective assessment of risk, and to agree a plan to minimise risk of harm to the child. The CPPM must decide whether the child is at risk of significant harm and requires a co-ordinated, multi-disciplinary Child Protection Plan.
Everyone who attends a child protection planning meeting will be asked for their views and all have a responsibility to contribute to the decision as to whether or not to place the child’s name on the Child Protection Register.
There are four types of child protection planning meeting:
The initial child protection planning meeting should also consider whether the child is safe to remain at home and whether a referral to the Children’s Reporter is required.
The purpose of a pre-birth child protection planning meeting is to decide whether serious professional concerns exist about the likelihood of harm through abuse or neglect of an unborn child when they are born. The participants need to prepare an inter-agency plan in advance of the child’s birth.
Review child protection planning meetings are held within six months and prebirth planning meetings maybe convened within three months once a child, young person or unborn baby has been placed on the child protection register. Participants at the review child protection planning meeting will review the progress of the Child Protection Plan, consider all new information available and decide whether the child’s name should remain on the Child Protection Register. Where a child is no longer considered to be at risk of significant harm, their name should be removed from the Child Protection Register by the review child protection planning meeting.
The child and their family/carers may still require ongoing support and this should be managed through GIRFEC support and plans.
A transfer child protection planning meeting will take place when a family moves permanently to another local authority area and the child or young person currently has a Child Protection Plan in place.
This meeting allows for full information sharing and discussion with the new group of professionals supporting the family in order that the Child Protection Plan can continue to be fully implemented to reduce risk to the child or young person.
2. Child protection assessment
When a concern about a child or young person is shared with social services or the police, a range of activity takes place in order to assess whether the child or young person may be at risk of significant harm.
Understanding the concept of risk is critical to child protection.
Services in Scotland who contribute to assessments of risk for children and young people are supported in this complex work by the GIRFEC National Practice model.
3. Child protection register
All local authorities are responsible for maintaining a central register of all children and young people – including unborn babies – who are the subject of a multi-agency Child Protection Plan. This is called the Child Protection Register.
It is a list of children and young people in a local area where professionals from the different services involved with the family have assessed that the child or young person is, or is likely to be, at risk of significant harm.
The child protection register is confidential.
Professionals use it to better support and protect children and young people they are working with.
The decision to place a child or young person’s name on the child protection register (or to remove their name from the register) can only be made at a child protection planning meeting.
4. Child protection plan
A Child Protection Plan is a written plan that sets out what everyone will do to support the family and reduce the risk to the child or young person.
It contains the anticipated outcomes for the child or young person along with the responsibilities of everyone involved, including the parent or carer.
5. Individual risk/concern factors
The individual risk/concern factors which are recorded for children and young people on the child protection register are drawn from a list set out by the National Guidance for Child Protection, parts 1 and 4. This list below is not exhaustive. For full details click here https://www.gov.scot/publications/national-guidance-child-protection-scotland-2021/:
- Physical abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Child sexual exploitation
- Child trafficking
- Female genital mutilation
- Forced marriage
- Domestic abuse
- Children and families affected by alcohol and drug use
- Impact of mental health or health problems on children
- Children and young people who have displayed harmful sexual behaviour
- Fabricated or induced illness
These risk and concern factors are used to plan how best to protect the individual child or young person and meet their needs.
The Scottish Government collects information annually about risk and concern factors in order to better understand the needs of the population. View data on children and young people looked after, on the child protection register and in secure care.
Local areas will use information about risk and concern factors to develop, plan and deliver services to children, young people and their families.
6. Core group
This is the group of people (professionals and parents/carers) directly involved in working together to reduce the risk to the child or young person. They develop the child protection plan, ensure that actions to protect are being progressed and monitor risk.
7. Review child protection planning meeting
Review child protection planning meetings are held within six months once a child or young person has been placed on the child protection register. Review planning meetings for pre-birth or newborn babies may be held within three months.
Participants at the review child protection case planning meeting will review the progress of the Child Protection Plan, consider all new information available and decide whether the child’s name should remain on the Child Protection Register.
Where a child is no longer considered to be at risk of significant harm, their name should be removed from the Child Protection Register by the review child protection case planning meeting.
The child and their family/carers may still require ongoing support and this should be managed via the GIRFEC Child’s Plan.
Child Protection Process diagram
The process of responding to child protection concerns in diagrammatic form can be represented in the following way. However, it should be noted that at any stage, the process may be stopped if it is felt emergency measures are required to protect the child or no further response under child protection is necessary. In addition, at any stage Referral to Reporter may occur.