New law to protect children

Date: 6th March 2017
Category: Protection from abuse or neglect

Emotional abuse and neglect of children will be a criminal offence under new legislation announced by the Childcare and Early Years Minister, Mark McDonald.

The Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937 will be updated to recognise the impact of emotional abuse and neglect, as well as physical harm.

In a statement to Parliament, Mr McDonald confirmed the move as part of a range of actions to strengthen child protection following the publication of two reports.

In response to the review of the child protection system led by Catherine Dyer, and the Child Protection Improvement Programme Report, the Scottish Government will:

  • Introduce new legislation to create a criminal offence of abuse and neglect of children.
  • Publish a National Child Protection Policy which identifies all responsibilities and action across government to support families and protect children.
  • Explore how best to establish a National Child Protection Register, to better protect young people on local registers who move to a new area
  • Produce national standards for those carrying out Significant Case Reviews, which currently vary in quality and timescale
  • Expand the role of the Care Inspectorate to analyse Significant Case Review findings and share learning at a national level, and to host a short-life working group to examine joint inspections
  • Establish a National Child Protection Leadership Group, chaired by the Minister for Childcare and Early Years, to support, strengthen and improve activity on child protection.

The Minister said, "This government is determined to ensure more of Scotland's children get the best possible start in life. This means protecting the most vulnerable in our communities from harm, abuse and neglect.

"Catherine Dyer's review concludes that, in general, our child protection system works well. However, both she and the Child Protection Improvement Programme Report have identified opportunities to strengthen all aspects of the system to better protect our children.

"I have accepted all of these recommendations in full and set out how they will be implemented swiftly and effectively. Importantly, we will introduce new legislation to make the emotional abuse and neglect of children a criminal offence, updating an 80-year old law whose archaic language has resulted in difficulties prosecuting offences."

Catherine Dyer's system review was asked to consider whether statutory underpinning was required for key aspects of the child protection system but recommended a range of other action before moving to legislate.

Mr McDonald continued, "I have made clear where I expect to see improvements in Scotland's child protection system, particularly in relation to consistency of approach. If in a year's time there is little evidence of real and substantial progress then I will not hesitate to bring forward legislation to provide an appropriate statutory underpinning."