Child protection reviews in Scotland

By Sarah Peel, SCIE's Deputy Head of Learning Together

Featured article - 02 June 2016

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I always prefer to travel up to Scotland by train when I can; it’s useful time, whether for working or just gazing out of the window and letting the mind wander. I was in the wandering place yesterday, coming back from an intense couple of days supervising the progress of two Learning Together child protection reviews and pondering why on earth a coach full of tourists had been taking photographs of a car park in Kilmarnock. The buzz of the phone broke that particular reverie – an email from Community Care, which included a piece on how authoritarian responses to social work ‘failures’ damage morale and increase risk to children. Interested, I thought about where I’d come from that day and how different it seemed to be in Scotland.

I’ve been doing work for SCIE in Scotland for about four years now, helped in no small part by the existence of a national child protection resource called With Scotland, who have been actively facilitating relationships between SCIE and the various regional/city councils. In 2012 we piloted use of SCIE’s Learning Together model for Serious Case Reviews (SCRs) across three regions of the North East of Scotland. (In Scotland they’re called Significant Case Reviews). We were working closely with the Child Protection Committees in each pilot site. Since then, we have trained representatives from pretty much every region to have an awareness of the model and its benefits and a growing number of reviews are being commissioned. Three Lead Reviewers from Scotland are now accredited to use the model with others in the pipeline. Last year, new guidance around the conduct of SCRs was issued that recommended Learning Together as one of two evidence-based models to use. In business terms, it’s a growth area.

Because Learning Together, a systems-based approach to evidence gathering and learning, is so collaborative by nature, my work as trainer, reviewer or supervisor has brought me into contact with a lot of different people, from frontline practitioners to Chief Executives and Committee Chairs. Common to all has been the desire to learn from what has happened and a frankness and honesty when thinking about possible solutions that is more than commendable. And I guess that is the point – child protection practice in Scotland, although the work is as complex, nasty and overwhelming as it is down here, exists within an organisational culture that tends towards the enablement of learning rather than learning by whip or by rote. The chance that solutions will be thoroughly and creatively debated across organisational tiers is high – and long may it last!

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