The publication of the latest research from the SCRA (Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration) into Child Protection Orders (CPOs) in Scotland is illuminating and instructive.
But while it demonstrates the organisation’s leadership and commitment to a vision where vulnerable children and young people in Scotland are safe, protected, and offered positive futures, it also serves to bring into sharp focus the need to examine the current practice in Scotland around how we protect children.
As Scotland’s leading children’s charities, we recognise that CPOs remain a necessary measure to keep vulnerable children and young people safe, by removing them from situations where they may be at risk of significant harm. However the number of children subject to CPOs is significant and increasing, and so we urge the Scottish Government to address the following questions.
Could an earlier intervention yield more positive results? Do we offer children and families sufficient support to address emerging problems, or do we act too late in too many families which results in the need for more extreme measures?
The introduction of the Named Person, along with a review of the Children’s Hearings Structures, gives a fresh imperative to the Scottish Government and those working in the field of child protection, to look at whether CPOs are truly working for the children of Scotland.
Alongside the new Named Person system, the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act introduced the power to make specific provision for children on the edge of being taken in care. While some very urgent cases may require a CPO, for most children an effective integrated pathway from universal services, to targeted interventions and intensive family support would be a better way to address their needs.
A particular spotlight should be shone on those children in the research who were already known to specialist services at the point of the CPO being granted – some of these children had been known for 4 years before the CPO application. We know that children who continue to live at home, while being overseen by the local authority, have the poorest outcomes. Therefore it is vital that we know more about what supports were provided to these children, what impact those supports had and what we intend to do to provide other children in similar circumstances with the RIGHT support to thrive, not just survive.
There is widespread recognition that early intervention is better than crisis intervention, but this research report provides evidence that it has proved challenging to make this shift. The report is a wakeup call for children’s services in Scotland. We need to move from rhetoric to meaningful action. If we do not, children will continue to suffer.
As Scotland’s children’s charities, we share the aim of the Scottish Government to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up. In light of these recent findings, we now seek answers to some difficult questions about what else needs to change, to make that a reality.