Fighting for childhood in Scotland How we're standing up for children

We’re building a better future for Scotland's children through working with local services and communities and influencing national policy developments and political processes.

We use the information and learning gathered through our direct services with children and families to inform decision-making and encourage wider change to protect Scotland's children from abuse and neglect.

We want to move child welfare up the policy agenda and place it at the heart of building a better future for Scotland.


What we're calling for

We published How safe are our children? 2016 in June 2016. It is our fourth annual report compiling the most robust and up-to-date child protection data that exists across each of the 4 nations in the UK.

Compiling this data is part of our commitment to evidence, to help us to understand the problems we are seeking to address.

We've analysed the data looking at how safe our children are in Scotland and used this to shape our priorities. Read our policy calls below and our Scotland briefing paper (PDF).

Illustration of a pramTo address poor mental health we need to examine the reasons behind it.

We know that childhood experience of abuse is a major predictor of mental health issues.

Children's wellbeing relies on the quality of caregiving relationships from the earliest days. For very young children who have experienced abuse or neglect, providing them with the right support early on can help them get back on track.

We need to recognise that mental health needs can arise in infancy and to invest accordingly to meet the emotional needs of vulnerable young children.

We also need an increased emphasis on the mental health of new mums. Perinatal mental ill-health can inhibit a mother's ability to provide sensitive, responsive care to her baby. Our research shows that significant gaps remain in the provision of specialist perinatal mental health care in Scotland.

The Scottish Government has committed to developing a long term mental health strategy (First Minister, 2016). We strongly believe efforts to improve Scotland's mental health must have a focus on infant and perinatal mental health.

Concerns about neglect were identified for 37% of children on the child protection register in Scotland

Explanation: In Scotland multiple concerns can be recorded for each child (rather than just the main category of abuse). At case conference concerns about neglect were identified for 1,017 (37%) of the 2,751 children on the child protection register at 31 July 2015.

See also Indicator 14 in How safe are our children? 2016.

Neglect is a widespread and pernicious problem. It affects thousands of children in Scotland and is hugely damaging to their emotional and physical development and wellbeing.

We need to get better at responding to neglect by gathering and acting upon evidence about what works.

We would welcome an update of our criminal law to better reflect our understanding of neglect and its impact on children.

We also need to do more to support and nurture relationships between children and parents, parents and practitioners; and between local services.

The Children's Hearings System was set up in the 1970s to take children out of the court system. It was based on an understanding that children with welfare needs and children with offending behaviour are often the same children and are all equally children in need.

The Children's Hearings System works on 'the paramountcy principle' - that the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child is the paramount consideration.

Our experience of delivering direct services with young children and their families in Scotland has led to concerns about how the system is operating in practice. Making decisions to promote and protect the wellbeing of children is becoming a longer, more difficult and increasingly adversarial process.

Supporting the Children's Hearings System to make timely and informed decisions for very young children who have experienced abuse is a priority for us.

Illustration of a gavelThe criminal justice system can be a further traumatising experience for children who have been experienced abuse or neglect.

The legal system is designed by adults, for adults. This needs to change.

It is recognised that Scotland is lagging behind other countries in how we protect vulnerable witnesses.

Taking learning from international models we advocate a move towards developing a Children's House model (Barnaverndarstofa, 2013):

  • limiting children's exposure to the formal court process
  • ensuring that children have appropriate and timely access to therapeutic support.

Mouse illustrationThe online world has huge benefits for children and young people. But it has also brought new risks such as:

  • pornography is more readily available than ever before
  • children report accessing inappropriate material on social media
  • there has been an increase in the number of illegal child abuse images.

Key to protecting children is the provision of high-quality, age-appropriate relationship, sexual health and parenthood (RSHP) education. We need to ensure that we give children and young people the skills to make healthy and safe choices.

Scotland consultation responses

Our policy team in Scotland respond to government consultations and write briefings to influence the development of policies and laws that affect children and young people. Below are the most recent government consultations we've responded to.

Statistics on child protection in Scotland

Official statistics help tell us how many children have been identified as needing support or protection in Scotland.

See the statistics

How child protection works in Scotland

Find out how the systems and laws of Scotland work to help keep children safe from abuse and harm.

Find out more

Research and resources

Equally protected?

A review of physical punishment research published since 2008.
Find out more

Getting it right for mothers and babies

Report outlining current provision of postnatal and antenatal mental health services in Scotland, and making recommendations for future developments.
Find out more

Challenges from the frontline

Investigates how welfare reform and austerity policies are affecting work with vulnerable families in Scotland.
Find out more

More research from Scotland

Find more research and resources from Scotland in our library catalogue.

View research reports

Services for children and families in Scotland

Boy leaning on a climbing frameWe have service centres across the United Kingdom which offer a combination of services to children, families and professionals. We support parents and families in caring for their children and provide therapeutic assistance to help children move on from abuse.

We also provide help and support through the NSPCC helpline, Childline and our work with schools.

Find out what services are available for children and families in Scotland - and how to get in touch:

What you can do in Scotland

Child protection training in Scotland

We have a range of Scotland specific training courses and a consultancy service that can help you grow your child protection knowledge and skills.
Find out more

Find an event near you

From marathon to skydives, bake sales to gala dinners, we've got an event for you in Scotland.

Find an event near you

Make a donation today

A child will contact Childline every 25 seconds. Donate now and help us be there for every child.

Donate now


Follow the official NSPCC Scotland Twitter account

Follow @NSPCC_Scotland


Follow our official NSPCC Facebook page

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  1. Barnaverndarstofa ([2013]) The Children's House in Iceland: "Barnahus" (PDF). Reykjavík: Barnaverndarstofa.

  2. First Minister (2016) Priorities speech: taking Scotland forward. Edinburgh: The Scottish Government.