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Legislation and practice in child protection are underpinned by principles derived from Articles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Defining Child Abuse
Who is a Child?
Section 93(2) (a) and (b) of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 define a child in relation to the powers and duties of the local authority. Within this area, child protection procedures apply to children and young people who have not yet reached their 16th birthday and to young people with special needs which might place them at increased risk up to the age of 18 years.
What is Child Abuse?
The general definition of child abuse adopted in Scottish Government Guidance* states that children may be in need of protection where their basic needs are not being met in a manner which is appropriate to their individual needs and stage of development and the child is, or will be, at risk through avoidable acts of commission or omission on the part of those holding parental responsibilities, sibling(s) or other relative(s), or carer(s).
Categories of Abuse
The circumstances of any one child or young person will not always fit neatly within set categories. Nonetheless the categories form the basis of child protection registration and are reflected in inter-agency guidance in relation to child protection. The categories are as follows:
- Physical Injury
- Actual or attempted physical injury to a child, including the administration of toxic substances, where there is knowledge, or reasonable suspicion, that the injury was inflicted or knowingly not prevented.
- Sexual Abuse
- Any child below the age of 16 may be deemed to have been sexually abused when any person(s), by design or neglect, exploits the child, directly or indirectly, in any activity intended to lead to the sexual arousal or other forms of gratification of that person or any other person(s), including organised networks. This definition holds whether or not there has been genital contact and whether or not the child is said to have initiated or consented to the behaviour.
- Non-organic failure to thrive
- Children who significantly fail to reach normal growth and developmental milestones (ie physical growth, weight, motor, social and intellectual development) where physical and genetic reasons for the failure have been medically eliminated and a diagnosis of non-organic failure to thrive has been established.
- Emotional Abuse
- Failure to provide for the child’s basic emotional needs such as to have a severe effect on the behaviour and development of the child.
- Physical Neglect
- This occurs when a child’s essential needs are not met and this is likely to cause impairment to physical health and development. Such needs include food, clothing, cleanliness, shelter and warmth. A lack of appropriate care, including access to health care, may result in persistent or severe exposure, through negligence, to circumstances which endanger the child.
How services work together to protect children
The essence of effective child protection is reliable communication at all levels. Effective communication involves the sharing of confidential information and particular care is needed to achieve an appropriate balance between ensuring that information is shared appropriately and the right of the child and his/her family to confidentiality being respected. A child’s wish for information not to be shared might not be in keeping with safeguarding his/her welfare. If a child reports that he or she has been abused then the adult to whom he or she makes the allegation must pass it on to the authorities: a promise should not be given to keep the information secret. The child should, however, be reassured that the information will not be shared indiscriminately and will be passed on only in an effort to help the child.
There are ethical and statutory codes associated with confidentiality of patient information. The General Medical Council has issued guidance dealing with disclosure of health information which imposes a duty on health professionals to provide relevant information to appropriate third parties if the health professionals believe that a child has been sexually or physically abused.
Duty to Investigate
The local authority has a duty to investigate the circumstances of any child who may be in need of compulsory measures of supervision and to give the Reporter to the Children’s Panel such information about the child if the inquiries indicate that compulsory measures of supervision may be necessary. The conditions which indicate that compulsory measures of supervision may be necessary are set out in Section 52 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995.
Responding to Child Protection Referrals
Child care legislation, which has as its main consideration the protection and welfare of children, places upon local authority Social Work Services statutory duties in relation to the protection of children. This primary responsibility of the Social Work Services does not diminish the role of other agencies or the need for inter-agency co-operation in the planning and provision of services for a child or family.
Joint Working Between Police and Social Work
Clackmannanshire Council and Police Scotland are committed to working together to:
- ensure that investigations are child centred
- ensure that the child should not be subject to unnecessary multiple interviews or medical examinations
- improve the quality of evidence to facilitate decision making
- provide a more co-ordinated investigation and subsequent support
In order to achieve this Police Scotland have established the Family Unit and there are social workers with appropriate training who jointly with the police carry out investigations under the direction of the Procurator Fiscal into allegations of serious criminal conduct and who provide post-investigative work.
The Social Work Emergency Duty Team which covers Clackmannanshire, Falkirk and Stirling provides child protection services in the evenings and at weekends.
The Child Protection Register
The purpose of the Child Protection Register is to provide a record of the most vulnerable children in the area for whom there is an ongoing need for protection by means of an inter-agency child protection plan. The Child Protection Register serves as a checkpoint for social workers, locally and nationally, and other relevant professionals who suspect that a child may be in need of protection.
The placing of a child’s name on the Child Protection Register ensures that those and only those who need to know are in possession of details of those children to whom they need to pay particular attention.
The Area Child Protection Committee
The major functions of the Clackmannanshire Area Child Protection Committee are:
- to ensure that local inter-agency guidelines on procedures to be followed in individual cases are produced, maintained and regularly reviewed and that the procedures, including referral procedures, are known about by those who may need to know
- to promote good inter-disciplinary practice in preventing and dealing with the immediate causes and effects of abuse
- to assess significant issues of collaborative working which arise from the handling of cases and from reports on inquiries
- to review arrangements for providing expert advice and inter-agency liaison
- to monitor and review information about the operation of the Child Protection Register
- to identify inter-agency training needs and take a leading role in developing and promoting inter-disciplinary training programmes
- to publish an annual report
The Central Scotland Child Protection Consortium
The Child Protection Committees of Clackmannanshire, Falkirk and Stirling have established a Consortium which provides a forum for consideration of broader, strategic issues in relation to child protection including procedures and inter-agency training, and allows the sharing of knowledge, experience and expert advice.
Scottish Government guidance
Joint Services newsletters
- Child Protection Newsletter Issue 4, Autumn 2012
- Child Protection Newsletter Issue 3, Summer 2012
- Child Protection Newsletter Issue 2, Spring 2012
- Child Protection Newsletter Issue 1, Winter 2011
Related Publications & Documents
- Child Protection Case Conference - information leaflets
- Child Protection Committee Annual Report
- Clackmannanshire Child Protection Committee Newsletters
- Forth Valley Inter Agency Child Protection Guidance: Child Protection Case Conferences
- Forth Valley Protocol on Human Trafficking (including children and adults)
- Inter-agency Child Protection Training Brochure
- Substance Misuse information booklets for workers
- Working Together for Child Protection - information leaflet