Child protection in Scotland Legislation, policy and guidance

The Scottish government is responsible for child protection in Scotland. It sets out policy, legislation and statutory guidance on how the child protection system should work.

Child Protection Committees (CPCs) are responsible for child protection policy, procedure, guidance and practice at the local authority level. CPCs make sure that all the different local agencies, such as children's social work, health services and the police, work together to protect children.

The key guidance for anyone working in Scotland is Scottish Government (2014) National Guidance for child protection in Scotland.


This act provides the legislative framework for Scotland's child protection system. It sets out:

  • parental responsibilities and rights, and
  • duties and powers public authorities have to support children and intervene if there are concerns about a child.

View the Children (Scotland) Act 1995

This act sets out the law relating to adoption.

View the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007

This act sets out measures to prevent unsuitable adults from working with children.

View the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007

Provides definitions of sexual offences and consent. Part 4 of the Act provides for offences relating to sexual behaviour towards children. Part 5 provides for offences concerning sexual abuse of trust. Came into force on 1 December 2010.

View the Sexual offences (Scotland) Act 2009

Building on the aims of the Early Years Framework, this act aims to put children and young people at the heart of planning and services to make sure their rights are respected across the public sector.

View the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014


Policy and guidance

National guidance for child protection in Scotland

Updated in May 2014 – the National guidance for child protection in Scotland provides the current guidance and a national framework for anyone who could face child protection issues at work. Further guidance has been published for health professionals, and protecting disabled children.

Child protection committees will have their own inter-agency child protection procedures which are based on the national guidance.

Download National guidance for child protection in Scotland

Getting it right for every child

Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) is the Scottish government's approach to making a positive difference for all children and young people in Scotland. Its principles help shape all policy, practice and legislation that affects children and their families.

It provides a consistent way for people to support and work with all children and young people in Scotland. It aims to improve outcomes for children and make sure that agencies work together to take action when a child is at risk or needs support.

GIRFEC says children should be:

  • safe
  • healthy
  • achieving
  • nurtured
  • active
  • respected
  • responsible
  • included

GIRFEC is based on 10 core components that can be applied in any setting and any circumstance. Progress is measured through a set of 8 wellbeing indicators that are the basic requirements for all children and young people to grow and develop and reach their full potential.

The GIRFEC approach is reinforced by measures in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 which will come into force from 2015.

Download Getting it right for every child

The Early Years Framework

Published in 2008, the Early Years Framework aims to give all children a better start in life by focusing on prevention and early intervention from pre-birth to age 8.

It sets out 10 changes that need to take places over ten years to improve outcomes for children.

Underpinned by GIRFEC, the Early Years Framework is one of 3 interlinking frameworks that provide the cornerstone of the Scottish government's social policy. The other two frameworks are:

  • Equally Well - focusing on health inequalities
  • Achieving Our Potential - focusing on poverty and income inequality.

(Scottish Government, 2008)

Download Early Years Framework

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