Recording information both electronically and manually identifies a robust and effective safeguarding policy and practice in the event of any inspection. It helps the school monitor and manage its safeguarding practices. Records of disclosures made by children should be:
• Factual, using the child’s own words.
• All records should be dated, signed and filed in chronological order.
• Any handwritten notes taken during or immediately after a disclosure should not be destroyed but kept securely attached to the child protection forms. These hand written notes may be used as evidence or clarification for any future court case.
All child protection concerns should be treated as sensitive information and kept separate from general school records. Child protection records should be kept together in a secure filing cabinet accessible only to the relevant staff involved in CP issues. A child may have an open CP file if staff have already raised concerns, information may have been forwarded on by a previous school or if the school is alerted by another agency (e.g. health, social care).
The law of confidentiality, data protection and human rights principles must be adhered to when obtaining, processing or sharing personal or sensitive information or records. Current guidance from the Records Management Society is that when a pupil with a child protection record reaches statutory school leaving age, the last school attended should keep the child protection file until the child’s 26th birthday.
Any confidential information shared should be relevant, necessary and proportionate to the circumstances of the child and limited to those who need to know. Information gathered about possible risks to a child should be pursued from all related sources including services that may be involved with other family members. Significant historical information should be taken into account. When information is shared a record should be taken of when it was shared and to whom, for what reason and whether the information was shared with or without consent. If for some reason information is not shared the reason and the logic as to why must also be recorded. There is a significant difference between making the child aware that information will/may be shared and seeking their consent. Relevant information must always be shared if a child’s wellbeing is considered to be at risk.
Every child who has a child protection record has the right to access their personal record if it is appropriate to do so. If doing so affects the child’s health or well-being or that of others involved or would impede an ongoing criminal investigation it would be prohibited.
Parents are entitled to see their child’s protection file on behalf of their child unless it affected the health and well-being of child or others involved. Older children may be entitled to refuse parents access unless this was to affect the child’s health and wellbeing or that of another person. If a parent makes a request to access the records on a child’s behalf, this should be done in writing.
Once the information of a disclosure is shared with the Child Protection Coordinator they would then make a professional judgement about what action needs to be taken in accordance with their child protection procedures. If the concern is regarding child welfare then an initial phone call/meeting with parents regarding the child’s wellbeing may be arranged. It is important that the child is aware that any disclosure made will be treated sensitively but may need to be shared with other professionals if it is considered necessary to protect them or others from harm (i.e. domestic violence).
The CP Coordinator may then make a referral to the Social Work Department to discuss their concern. The Social Work Department has a duty and responsibility to act upon the information given to them. Social work may decide no further action is required on their part however may request the school/nursery to identify areas of support in which case a Children’s Plan will be actioned.
If the Social Work Department think further investigation is required an Initial Referral Discussion (IRD) is the next stage of integrated information sharing, risk assessment and decision-making about risk to the child. This IRD will include Health, Police, Social Work, Named Person and CP Coordinator. The IRD is the central method within the Child Protection process and determines whether a child protection investigated is necessary. If the child is at severe risk emergency action may be required to move the child to a place of safety.
Following an investigation it is important to remember the child/young person and ensure their needs are the centre of everyone’s focus.
The Children’s Hearing System is the care and justice system which upholds the welfare and rights of children. It ensures targeted support is provided to those in need of the necessary measures to ensure their care and protection. The Children’s Reporters are independent officials who receive referrals from a number of services such as social services, police and parents as a result of a variety of concerns. The reporter investigates each referral to decide if the child should be brought before a Children’s Hearing.
The Children’s Reporter may decide:
• that a children’s hearing is not required
• that a children’s hearing is not required but the child or young person should be referred to the local authority so that advice, guidance and assistance can be given on an informal and voluntary basis – this usually involves support from a social worker
• to arrange a children’s hearing because they consider that a compulsory supervision order is necessary for the child or young person.
The many reasons to bring a child to a hearing are set down in the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011. The hearing can make a number of different decisions:
• that formal, compulsory supervision measures are not required and discharge the case
• that the panel members need more information to help them make a decision about what is best and they can defer (postpone) the hearing until a later date and in this case they can make decisions about what should happen to the child or young person in the meantime if this is necessary as a matter of urgency
• That compulsory measures of supervision are needed to help the child or young person and can make a compulsory supervision order. This will have measures attached to it which can include where the child or young person is to live, (for example with foster carers or a relative) or who the child should see and when.
If a child is deemed to be at immediate risk they may be removed from the home without notice by applying for a Child Protection Order via a Sheriff. If a Sheriff is unavailable any person may apply to a Justice of the Peace for authorisation to remove a child to a place of safety. A Police Constable can also remove a child for up to 24 hours in a place of safety if they have reasonable cause to believe that the conditions for making a Child Protection Order are satisfied.
All local authorities are responsible for maintaining a central register for all children including unborn children who are the subject of an inter-agency Child Protection Plan. This called a Children Protection register.
If a child moves from one Scottish authority to another and has a Child Protection Plan or Supervision Requirement then all records of that child should be sent with the child. If a child is on the Child Protection Register then the receiving authority should request the child’s file from the previous authority.
It is not just the responsibility of staff and services who work with children to report concerns of possible harm or abuse. It is everyone’s responsibility. Any member of the public can report a concern directly to their local social work department or any of the numerous helplines including NSPCC or Childline who would help you with the right cause of action. If a child is in immediate danger you can call the police on 999 or 101.
As a practitioner you can contact Social Work for any updates on concerns you have previously raised regarding child protection issues. However if a child protection concern has been reported and you feel it is not being handled in the appropriate way then you can follow a Whistleblowing Policy process. The relevant agencies and authorities will then take action on your behalf – you can remain anonymous.