Scotland politics

Former Crown Office chief to lead child protection review

Woman with two children generic Image copyright AFP

An independent review of the child protection system in Scotland is to be led by former Crown Office chief Catherine Dyer.

Ms Dyer, who retired as chief executive of the prosecution service in March, will lead the in-depth review, which was announced in February.

Education Secretary John Swinney confirmed her appointment at a child protection summit in Perth.

Politicians, police and council bosses have come together for the conference.

Child protection professionals from across Scotland are taking part in discussions and group work at the event, which was set up as one of the recommendations of the Brock Report, a child protection study published in November 2014.

Mr Swinney and Health Secretary Shona Robison both gave speeches at the event.

The deputy first minister said the "long-standing" event was set up before issues such as the Liam Fee case were raised, although it was discussed in speeches.

'Priorities for change'

He added: "Child protection is the responsibility of every person in society, but we must also accept that those of us in leadership positions over services charged with child protection, bear a particular responsibility.

"An essential part of the child protection improvement programme is a review of policy, practice, services and structures so that we can identify strengths, achievements and priorities for change.

"We will look at child protection committees, initial case reviews, significant case reviews and the child protection register to ensure that they work together to create a holistic, coherent and responsive child protection system that optimises outcomes for children."

Mr Swinney said Ms Dyer would bring "expertise, experience and independence" to the review from her time as chief executive of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

She worked as Crown Agent, the civil service head of legal staff in the Crown Office, who works as a legal advisor to the Lord Advocate on prosecution matters.

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Mr Swinney previously told BBC Scotland the government was working as quickly as possible to implement the recommendations of the Brock Report, as well as the Daniel Report from 2012.

The deputy first minister said the conclusions of the current review of child protection arrangements would "become clear towards the end of the year".

Speaking since the verdict in the Liam Fee case was delivered on Tuesday, some social workers have said that their caseloads have grown.

Some have said they are spending 80% of their time on paperwork and only 20% dealing face-to-face with the families that need their help.

'Single point of contact'

Concerns have also been raised about the government's controversial named person scheme, which is due to be rolled out across Scotland later this year.

Highland Council has been running the initiative for eight years.

Speaking on the BBC's Good Morning Scotland radio programme, director of care and learning at the council, Bill Alexander, said the aim of the scheme was to give families a single point of contact for advice.

"What's important to most families is not a social worker, they don't want social workers in their lives. They wanted a single point of contact if they wanted advice or if they had a concern about their child's well-being," he said.

"The Scottish government adopted this only because families said it was important to them."

Mr Alexander added: "What that has meant is that more families in Highland...have had that early support.

"That's meant that need has not escalated for many families and therefore the number of children being referred to the children's reporter has reduced, the number of children being looked after has reduced, and significantly in relation to this issue, the number of children deemed to be at risk of significant harm has also reduced."

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