In 2003 the First Minister launched the Child Protection Reform Programme ( CPRP) - a three-year initiative with the goal of improving protection of children at risk of neglect and abuse and reducing the number of children who need protection.
A process review of the CPRP was carried out by Dundee University's Centre for Child Care and Protection and Barnardo's Scotland Research and Development Team, with the aim to investigate:
- how the CPRP was planned and implemented;
- the aims in planning the programme in this particular way; and
- whether or not the process was successful.
Three strands of activity were carried out.
1. Contextual studies - analysis of CPRP Steering Group minutes and associated documents; re-analysis of data about children's knowledge of the Children's Charter; scrutiny of the views of social workers in community care and criminal justice settings; analysis of the previous year's print media coverage of 'child protection'.
2. Strand A - 61 interviews with Professional Advisors, members of the Child Protection Steering Group, policy makers and stakeholders; 2 focus groups with members of Child Protection Committees ( CPCs), Drug and Alcohol Action Teams and service leaders from social Work, police and health.
3. Strand B - analysis of 373 questionnaires from professionals - education (170), nursing (43), medical (21), police (15), reporters, (14), social workers (95), voluntary agency staff (15); 3 focus groups with a total of 21 participants from social work, education, health, the police and Scottish Children's Reporter Administration ( SCRA).
- Documentary analysis evidenced the extent of discussion with, and involvement of, a range of stakeholders throughout the CPRP.
- Children and young people in Dundee have developed a resource pack about the Children's Charter - 'Charterman' - as part of an Enterprise in Education challenge. The pack explains the key messages of the Charter in a manner accessible to children and young people.
- Before child protection training, social workers in adult settings expressed anxiety about making a mistake, described feelings of being overwhelmed, and indicated the need for clarity about their roles and responsibilities.
- Media coverage tended to focus on adult offending and substance misuse and few explicit links were drawn between systems to tackle these and the CPRP; however, concepts relating to the CPRP were covered in the context of local authority and health board initiatives.
- There was an overwhelming consensus that the CPRP has been successful in meeting its aims and objectives and has lead to improvements at a national and local level.
- Respondents noted increased public and professional awareness of children's needs for care and protection.
- All sub-projects of the CPRP were influential; the Framework for Standards' and guidance for CPCs tended to be singled out as particularly important.
- Much of the success so far was attributed to the extensive work and commitment put in by staff, at all levels in all key agencies, in taking the national policy agenda forward locally.
- The majority of respondents both agreed that practice to safeguard the welfare of children had improved (71%), and that policy had improved (75%); nearly two thirds (62%) agreed that practice changes were for the better for children; two thirds agreed (66%) that policy changes were.
- Of the 166 who had heard of the CPRP two thirds (65%) agreed with the aims and 80% felt that it built on good practice.
- Whether professionals had specifically heard of the CPRP or not, they were clearly aware of changes in policy and practice and were largely in support of the direction of change.
- In both the survey and focus groups professionals described significant improvements in the amount of awareness, information sharing and joint working; they considered that there had been a rise in a sense of shared responsibility for identifying the unmet needs of children and helping to meet those needs.
- In the survey and in focus groups there was a strongly expressed view that increased awareness had lead to an increased workload for all professions and that this had impacted on resources.
Points for consideration
The CPRP was informed by a high level of consultation with stakeholders from all professions; the success of the CPRP to date has been largely due to the extensive work 'on the ground' by all key agencies.
Further work is required to develop opportunities for frontline professionals and the general public to contribute to policy development.
The CPRP was planned and implemented in a structured way; breaking it into sub-projects helped with such a complex project.
There needs to be careful assessment of the timescales and sense of direction required in order to keep so many sub-projects on schedule.
The 'Framework for Standards' and multi-disciplinary inspection process have retained a sharp focus on outcomes for children.
Further research will be needed to establish whether multi-disciplinary inspection is the most effective way to improve outcomes for children.
Professional Advisors were key to the operation of the CPRP, especially via their links with Child Protection Committees.
The role of Professional Advisors, and whether or not they are expected to 'represent' their profession, could be better clarified.
The CPRP was informed by developmental theory and was congruent with policy developments across the UK.
There was scope to provide more explicit reference to theory and research on children's needs, factors that impact upon development and the most effective way to support parental capacity.
The CPRP was successful in articulating the need for a more integrated approach to child care and protection.
Further debate is needed and professionals and agencies will require further clarification about how a focus on 'child protection' will be maintained within a context of broader approaches to child welfare.
The stated aims of the CPRP were clear.
To avoid the varying interpretations of aims it would be helpful to improve clarity about the aims of related policy developments.
The CRPR has been successful in raising awareness, across the board, of children's needs for support and protection.
Without the capacity for an effective response to the identified needs of children, raised awareness can be counter-productive.
The CPRP has contributed to tremendous developments in multi-disciplinary initiatives at both strategic and practice levels.
There is a need for further debate and clarity about the role, responsibilities and accountability of each profession, for the promotion of children's welfare and their protection from harm.
The CPRP has lead to nursing and education staff both providing more direct help to children, and making more referrals to the police, social work, and the Reporter.
There is a need for very detailed analysis of the resource implications of the reported increase in referrals in response to children in need of further support.
The CRPR has developed a significant momentum for change.
As the CPRP comes to an end attention will need to be paid to ways to maintain the momentum.