A range of new initiatives to improve the protection of Scotland's most vulnerable children have been announced.
The initiatives, announced by Children's Minister Adam Ingram at a Child Protection Conference in Edinburgh today, arise out of a comprehensive review of child protection procedures across Scotland.
Building on new national child protection guidance issued in December, they include:
- Revision of the 'pink book' - specific children protection guidance for health professionals - to bring this into line with the new national child protection guidance for Scotland
- The development of new guidance for children with disabilities, who are at a much higher risk of abuse
- Best practice and research on the link between mental illness and child protection, to help professionals better identify concerns and risk factors and offer effective, early support to children and their families
- The development of a national risk assessment toolkit for professionals working in children protection to promote common practices and consistency across agencies
- Plans to develop new inspection arrangements for child protection and children's services to sit alongside the creation of the new scrutiny body - Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland (SCSWIS), which will be operational from April.
During the next few months the Scottish Government will also be examining the training needs of child protection professionals across all services and will start to develop a national competency framework. This will set out a common set of skills and standards for these professionals to ensure the delivery of a consistently high standard of support to children across the country
Mr Ingram said:
"The new national child protection guidance will improve the way all professionals and organisations work together to give children the protection they need, quickly and effectively. However, that guidance - indeed any guidance alone - is only part of the answer to improving child protection.
"That's why we conducted a comprehensive review of the child protection system in Scotland and have today announced a range of further initiatives which we are now taking forward as a result of that work.
"This will aim to help strengthen the skills and training of professionals and improve the advice and tools available to them in assessing, managing and minimising risks faced by some of our most vulnerable children and young people.
"These improvements will be underpinned by new inspection arrangements, currently being developed for the new Social Care Social Work Inspection Service, which will take responsibility for inspecting child protection and children's services from April this year."
The initiatives announced today, have arisen out of a national review of child protection procedures in Scotland, which have already resulted in the publication of new child protection guidance for Scotland, published last month.
When publishing the guidance, the Minister also announced that the Scottish Government would be undertaking a refresh of the specific guidance for professionals working with children and families affected by parental substance misuse - Getting our Priorities Right - with the aim of publishing a draft for consultation in the summer. That work is now underway and is being taken forward by a working group involving stakeholders.
SCSWIS will be operational from April this year and will take on the existing responsibilities of the Social Work Inspection Agency (SWIA) and Scottish Commission for the Regulation of Care (Care Commission), as well as leading on the inspection of services to protect children currently undertaken by HMIE.
The final year of the second round of child protection inspection will be completed by this new body and it is anticipated that from April next year, SCSWIS will be using the new national child protection guidance as the framework and benchmark for measuring practice. We are currently considering how a robust inspection regime for child protection can be combined within a scrutiny regime for children's services more widely and will consult with stakeholders early this year to further develop proposals.