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Policy in Scotland

Children under one

July 2012

Baby in blueThis briefing outlines:

on protecting infants from abuse and neglect in Scotland.

Related NSPCC resources

Child protection in Scotland

Children under one

NSPCC policy

As part of the NSPCC's All babies count campaign, we are calling on the Scottish Government to:

  • place the promotion of healthy infant mental health and development at the heart of the National Parenting Strategy, ensuring there is a focus on securing positive parent-child attachment

  • review the level and consistency of early years services across Scotland, highlighting good practice as well as gaps in provision

  • incentivise the reallocation of resources at a local level towards effective and evidence-based early interventions, so the aims of the Spending Review can be realised locally.
Read our full NSPCC Scotland campaign briefing: all babies count (PDF, 43KB)

Read also our research briefing on Infant mental health: the policy context in Scotland (PDF, 179KB) setting out the national mental health policy and the NSPCC's views about what needs to be done to meet the needs of infants at risk.

Government policy

In May 2011 the Scottish National Party became the majority party at Holyrood, pledging to introduce "new legislation that creates an obligation on councils, the health services and government to deliver early years services and to see early years education as an essential part of the learning journey." 

The Government has since announced plans for legislation and policy development focusing on: prevention, appropriate early intervention, child-centred service delivery; and support for parents to build their confidence and capacity. 

A consultation on the Rights of Children and Young People Bill closed on 1 December 2011 and a Children's Services Bill is planned for 2013.


A refreshed framework for maternity care: the maternity service action group (PDF)
The Maternity Services Action Group, made up of professional and service stakeholders and Scottish Government officials, produced a refreshed framework for maternity care in January 2011.  It outlines a number of key principles including the importance to maternity care planning and provision of early intervention, prevention, and promotion of maternal and infant health and wellbeing.

A pathway of care for vulnerable families (0-3): guidance (PDF)
NHS Quality Improvement Scotland developed new guidance to support the implementation of the Early Years Framework in March 2011.  The pathway covers the universal journey from conception to age 3.  The antenatal period is recognised as a critical time to engage with women and their families to identify additional needs. Higher risk families are identified as including: first time young mothers, parents misusing substances; those experiencing domestic abuse; those with emotional or mental wellbeing issues; and those where a parent or child has a disability. Authoritative parenting and the development of an affectionate bond of attachment are specifically referred to as protective factors.

National guidance for child protection in Scotland 2010 (PDF)
New child protection guidance was published by the Scottish Government in December 2010.  revises the previous guidance, published by the Scottish Office in 1998. The guidance provides a framework for practitioners to support and protect children. In particular, it highlights particular indicators of risk including: domestic abuse; parental alcohol and drug misuse; disability; and sudden unexpected death in infants and children. It also increases protection for unborn babies.

A new look at HALL 4: the early years: good health for every child (PDF)
A new look at HALL 4 published in January 2011 updates Scotland's Health for All Children 4 (2003). The 'new look' concentrates on the early years and includes information on: the Health Plan Indicator (HPI) which should be llocated by six months and outlines the support required based on the assessed level of need; and the delivery of health improvement information and advice.


Recent developments in Scottish policy should be considered in the context of two earlier initiatives.

Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) 
Getting it Right for Every Child is the cornerstone for all Scottish Government policy relating to children and young people.  Introduced in 2006, GIRFEC puts the needs and well-being of children and young people at the heart of any interventions.  The approach encourages better coordination between agencies, and places a high value on early intervention.  Progress on improving outcomes for children is measured through eight wellbeing indicators: that children should be safe; healthy; achieving; nurtured; active; respected; responsible; and included. 
The Government has announced its intention to put GIRFEC on a statutory footing from 2012.

The Early Years Framework (PDF) 
The Early Years Framework (EYF), published in December 2008 and covering a ten year period, is one of three policy frameworks of Scottish Government (the others being Equally Well and Achieving Our Potential) which together form the basis of social policy.  EYF advocates a shift from crisis management to prevention and early intervention; and highlights the early-years as often being "the earliest and best opportunity to intervene". Several actions are outlined as important to moving the agenda forward, including: more help to develop parenting skills within antenatal and postnatal care; a renewed focus on 0-3 as the period of a child's development that shapes future outcomes; more consistent access to intensive family support services in the early years; and adult services putting a greater focus on the needs of young children and families.  Early years framework: progress so far (PDF) was published in 2011.

Joining the dots: a better start for Scotland's children (PDF)
Recent policy developments include Susan Deacon's review of the early years, Joining the dots, published in March 2011, which found that the importance of early years is sufficiently recognised in Scotland; that there is sufficient research, evidence and good practice; and that action is now needed.

Child poverty strategy for Scotland (PDF)
In March 2011 the Scottish Government published the poverty strategy, which aims to maximise household resources and improve children's wellbeing. It sets out three key principles: focusing on early intervention and prevention; taking an assets-based approach; and ensuring that children's needs are at the centre of service design.

Policy and guidance

Maternity services

Refreshed framework for maternity care (PDF) 
Scottish Government, 2011
This framework has been produced by the Maternity Services Action Group and will be followed by an outcomes focussed implementation plan in 2012.

Modernising nursing in the community 
NHS, on-going
One of the key work streams is public health nursing (0–5).

Keeping childbirth natural and dynamic 
Scottish Government, 2009
A programme which aims to promote multi-agency working and implementation of care pathways

Families and parents

Pre-birth to three: positive outcomes for Scotland’s children and families (PDF)
Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2010
This guidance seeks to support and inform early years practice across Scotland. 

The early years framework (PDF)
Scottish Government, 2008
Aims to shift the focus from crisis management to prevention, early identification and intervention. Focus on supporting parents and the antenatal period. 

Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) 
Scottish Government, 2008
Framework to help coordinate children’s services. It is the foundation for work with all children and young people, including adult services where parents are involved. Builds on universal health and education services. Broad safeguarding and wellbeing rather than narrow child protection focus. Emphasises joint responsibility of all agencies. The Scottish Government has indicated its intention to put GIRFEC on a statutory footing from 2012.

Early Years Framework Parenting Task Group report 
Scottish Government, 2008
Looked at a number of interventions to target risk before conception and during pregnancy.

Child health and health inequalities

Infant mental health: the policy context in Scotland (PDF, 179KB)
NSPCC, 2012
A briefing paper giving an overview of national mental health policy, looking at objectives that have been met and identifying gaps and presenting the NSPCC's views about what needs to be done to meet the needs of infants at risk.

A pathway of care for vulnerable families 0–3 (PDF)
Scottish Government, 2011
This has been developed by NHS Quality Improvement Scotland and seeks to support a consistent approach to meeting the needs of pregnant women, children and families. The guidance covers the period from conception to three years.

A new look at Hall 4: the early years (PDF)
Scottish Government and NHS Scotland, 2011
This guidance concentrates specifically on the early years and includes a reinstatement of a 24–30 month review for all children.

Personal child health record
Scottish Government, 2010
'Red Book' replaces a series of different local health records with one national standard for babies born throughout Scotland from 1 January 2010.

Towards a mentally flourishing Scotland (PDF)
Scottish Government, 2009
One priority area is ‘Mentally healthy infants, children and young people’.

Equally well (PDF)
Scottish Government, 2008
Report of the Ministerial Taskforce on Health Inequalities. Includes a focus on early years. 

Better health, better care (PDF)
Scottish Government and NHS Scotland, 2007
Includes under-ones in section on ‘Best possible start’.

Related content

Children under one homepage

NSPCC campaign policy briefings for children under one

Contact the NSPCC Information Service for specialist information on legislation, guidance and policy in the UK or any child protection topic