Appendix B - single agency child protection responsibilities

Cupped hands protecting a child in the middle with parent or guardian on the left and right of the cupped hands.

Local authority children services

Child protection responsibilities apply to all departments and services of the Local Authority who have a legal duty, under the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in need and to enquire into the circumstances of children and young people who may require compulsory measures of supervision,

who may have been abused or neglected or be at risk of abuse or neglect, and to take all measures to protect them from further harm. This responsibility extends to all children whether they are in the community with their parents, in the care of others or being looked after by the Local Authority.

Social Work Children and Families Services have a key role in the investigation of child protection concerns and managing the child protection process.  This includes referring concerns about children to the Children’s Reporter where there is reason to believe that the child is in need of compulsory measures of supervision.  Social work practitioners should actively seek to involve parents, carers and where appropriate, the child in discussions and decisions which may affect their lives, and to consult with other professional agencies that know the family or have knowledge that would inform decision making and the child protection plan.

Education services

Staff working in education establishments including early years and childcare, child minders, private and third sector providers have a key role in the support and protection of children. They are well placed to observe physical and psychological changes in a child which may indicate abuse. Education and early years staff can have the greatest level of day-to-day contact with children, and they are able to contribute a great deal to the assessment of children in need of protection.

Every educational setting should have a designated person who undertakes the role of child protection coordinator taking lead responsibility for child protection in liaison with the head of establishment they both have responsibility for ensuring staff have access to appropriate learning and development opportunities to enable them to respond effectively to child protection concerns.

Education staff have a responsibility to cooperate, share information and assist social work, police and other relevant agencies in the child protection process. They can contribute a great deal to the assessment of vulnerable children and assist in the investigation process and longer-term support planning.

While all staff in education and early learning have responsibilities in relation to child protection, the named person within the GIRFEC approach has a key role in the recognition of concerns and coordination of their agency response to the needs of the child and their family.

The named person will contribute to the assessment of risk during the investigation at the CPPM and subsequent core groups should the child’s name be placed on the child protection register.  They will be expected to attend all meetings, providing updated reports and contribute to the risk assessment and decisions regarding child protection registration.

Where the concerns do not meet the child protection threshold, but a child needs extra help and support that cannot be provided by their family and universal services, the Named Person will be responsible for accessing support as required and will have a key role in developing a Child’s Plan.

Children Missing from Education   - The term Children missing from education (CME) refers to children who are missing an education altogether. It does not refer to children with attendance issues who fail to attend school.

Children ‘missing from education’ are children and young people:

  • of compulsory school age
  • who may or may not be on a school roll. Children who appear to be missing and are on an SLC school roll should be kept on the school roll until their new location is found and confirmed.
  • and are not being educated otherwise (at home, privately or in an alternative provision).
  • They have usually not attended school for a period of up to four weeks but substantially less for a child with welfare concerns

The most important factor for any missing child is safety. Should there be any concern that the child may be at risk, it is essential that local child protection procedures are followed. Education staff should refer to the Scottish Governments Children Missing from Education Statutory Guidance 2016 and local CME guidance.

Children educated at home   - Every child has a right to an education, and it is the duty of the parent of every school age child to provide that education, either by sending the child to school, or by other means. Home education is a key aspect of parental choice and is an equally valid choice alongside the option to send a child to school.

In all their educational responsibilities, local authorities should have regard to the views of parents and the decisions that they make in relation to their child’s education. Authorities should seek to support parents in the choices that they make by offering advice, clear and accurate information and resources where feasible.

More detail can be found in the Scottish Government Guidance.

Grant Aided/Independent Schools   -   As for all staff in education services grant aided and independent schools have the same responsibilities for child protection and wellbeing and should be fully engaged in any child protection investigation regarding children in their care.  They should have robust child protection procedures in place with an identified child protection lead officer. Where a child leaves an independent school and there is uncertainty over their onward education it is good practice for independent schools to inform the child's education local authority, so as to avoid any child being unaccounted for.

Children's hearing

It is the role of the Children’s Reporter to decide if a child requires Compulsory Measures of Supervision. Anyone can refer a child to the Children’s Reporter and a referral must be made when it is considered that a child is in need of protection, guidance, treatment or control and that Compulsory Measures of Supervision might be necessary. On receipt of the referral, the Reporter will conduct an investigation, involving an assessment of the evidence supporting the ground for referral, the extent of concerns about the child’s wellbeing and behaviour and the level of cooperation with agencies, which all leads to an assessment of the need for compulsory measures of supervision.

In making this assessment, the Reporter will rely on information from agencies involved with the child and family including the Named Person, Lead Professional/social worker and other service providers. The sharing of this information should be appropriate, proportionate and timely. If the Reporter decides that there is sufficient evidence to necessitate compulsory supervision measures, he/she will arrange a Children's Hearing. The investigation can take place at the same time as a criminal investigation or criminal court case, but the focus will remain on the needs and wellbeing of the child or young person. Within the spirit of the 'minimum intervention principle' and in line with the ethos of the 'Getting it Right for Every Child' approach, where staff make a referral to the Reporter, their report should outline the action which has been taken already to prevent the necessity for compulsory measures of supervision.

The Children’s Hearing can only consider a case where the child and parents or relevant persons accept the grounds for referral stated by the Reporter. Where the grounds of referral are not accepted, or the child does not understand them the hearing may direct the Reporter to apply to the sheriff to decide whether the grounds are established. If the sheriff is satisfied that any of the grounds are established, the sheriff will remit the case to the Children’s Hearing for disposal.

During the Children’s Hearing, panel members will have discussions with the child, relevant persons and any representatives of the statutory agencies and/or service providers involved. Following discussions, the Children’s Hearing can decide to impose an Interim Compulsory Supervision Order, or a supervision order where it considers compulsory measures of supervision are in the best interests of the child.

It should be remembered that, in circumstances where there is insufficient evidence to pursue criminal proceedings, the Reporter can still take measures to protect children considered to be at risk. In relation to child protection matters, the standard of proof is the balance of probabilities.

There is no need for corroboration, and hearsay is admissible in child protection cases, unlike criminal prosecutions where corroboration is required, and hearsay is only admissible in special circumstances.

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service

Allegations of crime are normally reported to the procurator fiscal by the Police. The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) is Scotland’s sole prosecuting service. They receive reports about crimes from the police and others, and then decide what action to take in the public interest, including whether to prosecute someone. COPFS is also responsible for the investigation of sudden or suspicious deaths. Procurators fiscal are subject to the direction of, and control by, the Lord Advocate but on a day-to-day basis they maintain a high degree of independence.

Their powers and duties include deciding whether or not to prosecute any allegations of criminal behaviour made known to them. Before acting upon a report, the procurator fiscal must first be satisfied that the circumstances disclose a crime known to the law of Scotland.


They must then consider whether the evidence is sufficient, admissible and reliable. If not, further enquiries may be conducted, or no further action will be taken. In considering the public interest, procurator fiscals take a number of factors into account, including the interests of the victim, the accused and the wider community. This can involve competing interests and will vary with every case. As a result, assessment of the public interest involves careful consideration of all factors. Following careful consideration, the procurator fiscal may decide to commence proceedings, offer an alternative to prosecution or take no action.  In cases that a jury will consider, the procurator fiscal will gather and review all evidence before referring to Crown Counsel who makes the final decision on whether to prosecute.

Procurators fiscal are not involved in cases of child protection in the immediate sense; however, they can provide advice and guidance. This is particularly important when the response to, and management of, child abuse allegations in the initial stages, may directly influence decisions made about any resulting criminal investigation and may affect the outcome of a prosecution.

The Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014 outlines the legal requirements in such cases (see below).

Under this legislation, which amended some sections of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, children who are called upon as witnesses are no longer required to undergo a competence test to ascertain whether they can demonstrate an understanding of the distinction between telling the truth or not.

Equally important is that under section 6 (which inserts section 288E to the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995), an accused cannot conduct their own defence where the child concerned is under 16 and the offence involves sexual assault or violence.

One of the most important aspects of this legislation is the introduction of a range of special measures which may be put in place to support the vulnerable child when giving evidence or being cross-examined.

The Act covers criminal cases, civil cases and children’s hearings. Standard special measures available to child witnesses under the age of 16 are a live TV link, screens in the courtroom and the presence of a supporter in conjunction with either of these measures.

Further special measures may include, evidence being taken in advance in the form of a prior statement (criminal cases only) or the taking of evidence by a commissioner. The Procurator Fiscal must an application to the court for the use of special measures. Courts are not obliged to grant requests.

It is important to note that a person under the age of 16, known as a 'child witness' is, per se, a 'vulnerable witness'. The 2004 Act underpins the acceptance that oral evidence is no longer the only means by which testimony can be given by children. The provision of standard special measures will always be considered for them.

Guidance is available in the following document: Special measures for vulnerable adults and child witnesses; a guidance pack (2005) (Scottish Executive, 2005).

The procurator fiscal (or precognition officer acting on their behalf), is likely to talk to a child in advance of any prosecution in order to ascertain what evidence they may be able to give, and to explain the court processes.

In cases of particular delicacy or where there is doubt about the sufficiency of evidence, procurator fiscals are available for discussion with any other professionals. The office of the procurator fiscal can be contacted during working hours, or at any time through the police. Procurator fiscal offices are organised into regions for administrative purposes.  Within each region there are designated members of staff who have received specialist training in the investigation and prosecution of cases involving children.  In particularly difficult or sensitive cases, all or part of an investigation may be conducted by a member of the regional resource team.  In appropriate cases members of the regional resource team will liaise with the officers from child protection agencies and are available to provide advice on precognition and court processes.


Local Authority Services

All local authority staff have responsibilities to respond to the needs of children who may be vulnerable and/or at risk of harm or abuse, this includes staff from

  • Criminal Justice
  • mental health workers
  • adult services
  • learning disability
  • substance misuse
  • hospital social work services
  • child and adolescent mental health services
  • housing services
  • culture and leisure services
  • young carers services

All staff across Social Work Services have a duty to work in collaboration with colleagues in children and families services and contribute to the assessment of risk of all children. They  must report  (without delay) any actual, suspicion or risk of abuse to the Duty Social Worker or Children and Families allocated Social Worker. All referrals received that suggest that a child may be in need of protection, will be dealt with as a matter of the highest priority on the same working day unless the appropriate Social Work manager decides otherwise.

Health Services

NHS Boards will have designated lead roles for child protection, though titles may vary. This section describes overarching responsibilities for all health practitioners and describes some of the essential roles within a wide spectrum of services.

NHS Boards will support all health practitioners in upholding professional standards and regulations as outlined by their governing bodies. They will ensure that child protection processes and systems are embedded throughout the Board area and across acute and community services. This entails implementing a framework for governance, quality assurance and improvement of systems, and providing defined roles for clinical and strategic leadership of child protection services. The NHS public protection accountability and assurance framework is intended to guide health boards in assessing the adequacy and effectiveness of their public protection arrangements at both strategic and operational levels and to inform existing health board and shared multi-agency governance and assurance arrangements, covering all levels of staff including independent contractors.

Boards will provide robust child protection services by ensuring:

  • there are clear clinical and care governance processes and systems in place. These will enable continuous improvement in practice, as well as learning from child protection reviews, including both significant and adverse case reviews
  • their NHS Board is represented by health professionals in designated child protection roles within inter-agency referral discussions (IRD Guidance – Part 3)
  • health staff have access to child protection advice and support from designated health professionals
  • there is a contemporary learning and educational framework that supports practitioners to build confidence and competence in discharging their duty to safeguard and protect children
  • there are mechanisms in place that enable organisational assurance that all health staff are supported in accessing learning and education appropriate for their role and scope of professional practice
  • designated health staff are available to contribute where appropriate to multi-agency learning.
  • that arrangements are in place for the support of those who have suffered abuse and neglect, from the point this is known by agencies (The knowledge and skills framework (2017)).


All NHS practitioners have a role in protecting the public, and all regulated staff in NHS Boards and services have duties to protect the public. This section describes some key roles and responsibilities within a wide spectrum of NHS services. All health staff, practitioners and services should:

  • be aware of their responsibilities to identify and promptly share concerns about actual or potential risk of harm to a child from abuse or neglect, in line with national guidance and local policy
  • be aware of the early signs or indicators of neglect, and engage promptly and proportionately in co‑ordinated multi-disciplinary or agency assessments
  • work collaboratively with agencies who have statutory functions for specific aspects of child protection, namely social work services and Police Scotland
  • be alert and responsive when children are not brought to health appointments, and consider what, if any action they are required to take (as opposed to applying a 'did not attend' policy without question)
  • prioritise the needs of the child and ensure practice is underpinned by the principles and values of the GIRFECNational Practice Model
  • be alert to other factors which may contribute to risk of harm, and which may be a barrier to receiving preventative health care. This could include poverty, disability, culture, lack of understanding or fear of public and formal systems
  • consider the potential impact of adult alcohol and drug use, domestic abuse and mental ill health on children, regardless of care setting or service being accessed by adults
  • when engaged, work collaboratively with the lead professional (usually a social worker) who is responsible for co‑ordinating and overseeing a multi-agency child's plan
  • consider the need for a Lead Health Professional when multiple health services are involved within a child's plan, particularly when a child has multiple and/or complex health needs
  • seek to ensure and contribute to planned and co‑ordinated transitions between services
  • complete the appropriate level of NHS Education for Scotland Public Protection eLearning modules
  • be aware of standards, guidance and training offered by the Royal College for the relevant speciality.


Since 1 April 2021, the Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) (Scotland) Act 2021 (FMS Act) has placed a statutory duty on health boards to provide forensic medical services for victims of sexual offences (and of harmful sexual behaviour by children under the age of criminal responsibility). It also establishes a legal framework for consistent access to “self-referral”, where people aged 16 or over, who have been raped or sexually assaulted (or cases involving harmful sexual behaviour by children under the age of criminal responsibility), can access healthcare and request a forensic medical examination without first having to make a report to the police. A clinical pathway for children and young people and a self-referral national protocol provide further guidance.

Police Scotland

Police Scotland have a statutory duty to protect the public and investigate matters on behalf of the Procurator Fiscal where they believe that a criminal offence may have been committed.   This duty is always balanced with the welfare of the child being paramount. Police Scotland are also guided by their Standard Operating Procedure for Child Protection

All police officers have a responsibility for child protection. The Public Protection unit  (PPU) of Police Scotland has a key role in the investigation of crimes and incidents involving children and adults.

The investigation of all child protection referrals will as far as possible be carried out by officers of the PPU, however should an emergency occur, a uniformed officer will undertake the investigation.

Police Scotland have emergency powers under the Children’s Hearing (Scotland) Act 2011.

British Transport Police

BTP alike other statutory agencies has a responsibility for promoting the safety, wellbeing and protection of children, intervening to protect them from harm They will refer to their Child Protection and Standard Operating Procedures, and refer any concerns regarding children to local authority social services and or Police Scotland


Third sector

The third sector provides a valuable role in providing flexible and collaborative support to children and families for a wide range of reasons. This requires direct and indirect contact with children, young people and their parents. Commissioned and non-commissioned services should have robust organisational polices and protocols in relation to child protection. anyone with concerns regarding a child should share information immediately and in accordance with their organisational protocol.

Scottish Prison Service (SPS)

SPS is a an agency of the Scottish Government they have a crucial role in providing secure custody for prisoners, whilst ensuring that prisoners are cared for with dignity and respect and are offered opportunities to reduce reoffending when they return to the community.

Their role extends to ensure that children’s relationship with parents in the criminal justice system are maintained when it is safe to do so. When a child is considered at risk the response should be timely appropriate and proportionate and in keeping with Girfec and the SPS Child Protection policy held within their Family Strategy.  Every establishment has a Designated Child Protection Co-ordinator.

Scottish Fire and Rescue (SFRS)

SFRS have a central role in protecting children through fire prevention, any concerns that should arise throughout their duties should be passed to police or social work with immediate effect.

Faith Organisations

Religious leaders, practitioners and volunteers within faith organisations have a central priority in relation to the protection of children. They should have robust child protection protocols and a named Child Protection Coordinator. Any concerns regarding children should be passed to the police or social work without delay.

Armed Services

The defence community includes serving members of the armed forces, cadets, reservists, veterans and their families.

If a child/family of a serving member of the forces requires child protection services standard process apply as at Section 3.  There is a need for good communication and collaboration between the staff within the military unit and statutory services.

Sports Organisations/Clubs

Sports organisations work with a diverse range of children and young people within their communities. As in other activities and contexts abuse of trust can occur in sport of all kinds at all levels.

The Safeguarding in Sport Service in partnership with Children 1st supports sports organisations in keeping children safe by providing advice, consultancy, training and support. Every organisation/Club should have a designated Safeguarding Officer and should refer any concerns to police/social work without delay.


Public Protection

The aim of public protection is to reduce the risk of harm to both children and adults. Public protection involves collaborative inter-agency work at strategic and operational level , and overseen by a dedicated public protection fora. Child and Adult protection committees have a key role in delivering an integrated and consistent approach to planning and service delivery.

Multi Agency Public Protection Agency (MAPPA)

The purpose of MAPPA is public protection and the reduction of serious harm . MAPPA brings together Police Scotland, Scottish Prison Service, Health and Local Authorities in partnership as the Responsible Authorities to assess and manage the risk posed for certain categories of offenders. A Duty to Cooperate extends to other services including the Third Sector. Multi-agency consideration must be given to managing high-risk individuals. For those who have committed Sexual Offences, multi-agency consideration will include their levels of contact with children, both within the family and in the community. These considerations will also be taken into account where appropriate, for individuals convicted of certain violent offences , i.e., those assessed at MAPPA as “Other risk of serious harm” . 

Community Justice Partnerships

Community Justice partners are defined in the Community Justice (Scotland) Act 2016 (s13) as Chief Constables, health boards, integrated Joint Boards, local authorities, Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service, Scottish Fire and Rescue, Scottish Ministers, e,g., SPS and Skills Development Scotland. The statutory partners are required to engage and involve the Third Sector in the planning, delivering and reporting of services and improved outcomes against the Community Justice Outcomes and Improvement Plan (CJOIP).

Violence Against Women Partnerships (VAW Partnerships)

VAW Partnerships are the multi-agency mechanism delivering the local strategy and delivery plan relating to the eradication of violence against women and girls. The VAW partnership strategy highlights that violence against women and girls is underpinned by gender inequality, and that prevention necessitates tackling perpetrators and intervening early. Every Local Authority should have a VAW Partnership and designated Coordinator to provide collaboration between public and third sector organisations.

Alcohol and Drug Partnerships (ADPs)

Alcohol and Drug partnerships and Child Protection Committees should have local protocols to support relevant, proportionate and necessary information sharing between drug and alcohol services and children and families services . These protocols should define standard terms standard terms and processes withing assessments, co-ordinated and response to risk of harm to a child , including to responses to concerns during pregnancy. Specialist Third Sector and adult support services should be aware of the potential risks and need of children affected.

Multi-agency child protection training should be a standard requirement of the planning, and delivery of adult drug and alcohol services.


Concerns relating to a person in a position of trust

Referrals relating to a person who has a position of trust over a child or young person under the age of 18 years and who may have caused harm to a child or young person through abuse, neglect or exploitation, should always be considered for IRD. The IRD process outlined below should be followed, with the additional considerations of whether to inform the relevant employer or organisation and whether this person continues to be a risk to the child or young person and/or any other child or young person.


Organisations that work with children and young people should have policies in place that allow individuals to escalate a child protection concern outside of their management structure. This may be where an individual believes that their manager, senior managers or appointed child protection officer are not dealing with a child protection concern appropriately (including when allegations of harm are dismissed or minimised). It could also be where the individual suspects that a colleague who forms part of the management structure may be harming a child or young person. While these policies should be in place, any individual who has concerns about a child’s wellbeing should contact their local authority social work department or Police Scotland without delay if they believe a child or young person is at risk of harm.