Child protection measures
Child protection register
In Scotland the child protection register (CPR) is a confidential list of all children in the local area who have been identified as being at risk of significant harm. It allows authorised individuals to check if a child they are working with is known to be at risk.
If a child is added to the CPR they must also have a child protection plan, which sets out what action needs to be taken by whom and when, in order to safeguard the child and promote their welfare.
If the local authority believes that a child is at risk of significant harm they may take the child into care to help keep them safe.
Unless the level of risk requires the courts to get involved immediately, care proceedings will only start after extensive efforts to keep the child with their family.
If the child is still at risk following these efforts then the parents will be invited to a pre-proceedings meeting as a final attempt to avoid going to court.
A child may be taken into care voluntarily through Section 25 of the Children (Scotland) Act.
A local authority must provide accommodation for children who do not have anywhere suitable to live. This includes children who have nobody to look after them or whose parents are unable to look after them for a period of time, due to illness or other problems.
Going to court
In Scotland, there are two different ways a local authority can ask to take a child into care:
- if the child is in immediate danger the local authority can ask a sheriff court to grant a child protection order (CPO)
- a referral can be made to the children’s reporter. The reporter will decide if it’s necessary to refer a child to a children’s hearing for compulsory measures of supervision.
A child can be subject to an order from the children’s hearing and an order from the sheriff court at the same time.
In all cases, a child should be given the opportunity to give their views if they have capacity. The Children’s advocacy guidance (Scottish Government, 2014a) gives information about children’s capacity to make decisions.
A child’s social worker will make a plan, sometimes referred to as a care plan, setting out how they think the child should be cared for.
The children’s hearing will make a decision about the care of the child based on the child’s protection, guidance, treatment or control needs. They may make a child protection order.
Under a supervision order a child can either live away from home (in foster or residential care) or continue living at home under the supervision of the local authority.
Once a supervision order has been made the child protection plan will be carried out, regardless of where the child is living.
A compulsory supervision order has no set limit, but should only last as long as is necessary. It must be reviewed by a children’s hearing at least once a year when it can be continued, changed or stopped.
After three months a parent of a child can ask for the children’s hearing to review the supervision order. A social worker can ask for a review at any time.
A parent, child or social worker can also appeal the decision made at the hearing but this must be done in writing and within strict time limits.
In Getting it right for looked after children and young people (Scottish Government, 2015), the Scottish Government makes it clear that a child’s views should be taken into account when deciding where they should live, and that remaining at or returning to their home with the necessary support should be considered as the first option.
If the local authority believes it would not be safe to return a child home, the court can make a permanence order. These orders remove parental responsibility and give it to the local authority.
If adoption is not seen as the way forward the local authority can delegate parental responsibility to the child’s foster carers while it remains the legal parent of the child.
If adoption is seen as the best option, the local authority can apply for a permanence order with authority to adopt. This means the local authority can place a child with prospective adoptive parents without the birth parent’s consent.
Once a permanence order has been made, prospective adopters can apply to the court for an adoption order. Once an adoption order is granted parental responsibility is transferred to the adoptive parents.
Under Section 29 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (Part II Chapter I Section 29) and Regulation of Care (Scotland) Act 2001 local authorities have a duty to assess the needs of care-leavers in order to provide advice, guidance or assistance to them until the age of 26.