Children in Scotland chief executive Jackie Brock writes for TFN following the publication of The Brock Report: Safeguarding Scotland’s vulnerable children from child abuse – a review of the Scottish system
How robust is Scotland’s child protection system? It’s a question that needs to be continuously reviewed, but one which has particular resonance in the current climate when child sexual exploitation is in the spotlight, with shocking details of historical abuse coming to light.
Without doubt, Scotland has made huge strides over the past decade in both ambition and actions taken to protect children, particularly those who are officially “looked after” where substantial work is already underway.
My focus, in a ten-day review of the child protection system, was on a much bigger group of children – those who are vulnerable and “on the radar” but not looked after. They form around two-thirds of the children who were victims of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, and the majority of children who die or are victims of a “significant incident”, including Declan Hainey.
These are the children who should benefit most from the integrated approach of Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC), now enshrined in legislation by the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014. This legislation provides many opportunities for strengthening the system, but there remain a number of risks that, unless addressed, mean that vulnerable children could be missed.
Implementing the new Act, we need a much more coordinated approach to supporting frontline staff, such as teachers and health visitors, who will take on the new “named person” role and have a crucial role to play in identifying, early on, those children who are at risk and in preventing and addressing issues such as child sexual exploitation.
Ensuring that adult and children’s services share information and work well together is imperative for helping to prevent children slipping through the net
We must also take a very careful look at the new Health and Social Care Partnerships, which will incorporate around a third of children’s services as well as adult services. Ensuring that adult and children’s services share information and work well together is imperative for helping to prevent children slipping through the net, and we need to confirm the arrangements these partnerships are putting in place to improve child protection.
Local Community Planning Partnerships (CPPs) and Child Protection Committees (CPCs) will have a significant role to play in providing the local leadership and direction required to push forward reform. At the moment, their effectiveness is inconsistent across Scotland.
That is why I have called for a summit of Scotland’s chief officers of the 32 CPPs, their local CPC chairs and the Health and Social Care Partnership leads to agree how child protection can be strengthened at every level, with priority given to early intervention for children who may be at risk and with particular reference to preventing and addressing child sexual exploitation. I am pleased to say that this (and all of my other recommendations) has been accepted by the Scottish Government.
The detail of exactly how this can be achieved should not, and cannot, come from a high-level, national review, but from those who know their local communities and are working on the front-line.
Jackie Brock is chief executive of Children in Scotland. Her report The Brock Report: Safeguarding Scotland’s vulnerable children from child abuse – a review of the Scottish system, was commissioned by the Scottish Government to be published alongside the National Action Plan on Child Sexual Exploitation.