Enhancing child protection

11 Mar 2009 10:34 AM

A system allowing child protection agencies across Scotland to share information quicker and better ensure safeguards are in place for those at risk is to be developed over the coming year.

The £1.5 million Vulnerable Person's System (VPS) will help agencies react faster to changes in a child's circumstances in the future to keep them safe from neglect and abuse.

The VPS - which will also cover vulnerable adults - will initially allow police forces to share secure, accurate and up-to-date information electronically but will be open to other agencies in due course.

Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop, who will announce funding for the VPS at a multi-agency child protection hub in Edinburgh today, said:

"Child protection is everybody's business and we all have a duty to look out for young people and speak up if we have concerns about their welfare.

"The sickening death of little Brandon Muir has been a terrible reminder to us all why safeguards for Scotland's children are so important. His killer only moved into the family home weeks before, showing how quickly circumstances can change and why it's vital agencies get the most up-to-date information possible.

"Scotland already has the most robust child protection inspection system in the UK but it is imperative that we continue to ensure quick, effective support is put in place for vulnerable people.

"That means agencies working together and enabling information sharing - centered on the child or vulnerable person - is at the heart of that.

"Ensuring the latest intelligence is available to professionals quickly and securely puts them in the best position to get support to those who need it, when they need it.

"The new Vulnerable Person's System will do just that and help agencies track what is happening in a child or vulnerable person's life to make sure we intervene early to protect those at risk."

The VPS - designed on the existing ViSOR (Violent and Sex Offender Register) system - will go live for police forces throughout 2010-11.

It will reduce the need for unnecessary paperwork, speed up information sharing and enable police officers attending incidents to quickly assess if anyone involved is listed as being vulnerable, leading to more effective decision making.

From 2011 the VPS will be incorporated into eCare - the Scottish Government's multi-agency, electronic information sharing framework. At that point, the VPS will enable the police and other bodies like social work and health to bring together key information from various agencies' systems.

Deputy Chief Constable Neil Richardson, Chair of ACPOS Information Management Project, said:

"Recognising the needs of vulnerable persons and the delivery of the very best service to them is one of ACPOS's top priorities. We welcome this joint initiative with Scottish Government to provide the means to share information across the Scottish police service.

"Recent events surrounding domestic and child abuse have continued to focus our attention on the sharing of information and we do recognise the need to ensure that this information is kept securely. The VPS will be built to the highest standards of information security and any information shared will be on a need to know basis and on a case by case basis.

"Understanding a vulnerable person's needs and identification of the escalating risk gives us opportunities to make the earliest intervention in partnership with our colleagues in social services, education and health."

Association of Directors of Social Work in Scotland (ADSW) Vice President Harriet Dempster said:

"ADSW warmly welcomes the Scottish Government's investment in the VPS system. It will complement the work being done on eCare to share information electronically.

"Although electronic transfer will not happen overnight this announcement represents a significant landmark and will assist in the roll-out of the government policy Getting it Right for Every Child, an approach designed to streamline systems and processes to promote effective joint working.

"It will, when operational, remove the need for photocopying and faxing paper work to enable speedy exchange of key information and at the same time release front line staff to do more direct work."

The Scottish Government has committed £1 million to develop the VPS, with ACPOS contributing £500,000. It will be developed by ACPOS with the Scottish Police Services Authority providing technical expertise alongside experienced consultants.

eCare is the name given to the Scottish Government's multi-agency information sharing framework which covers, amongst other aspects, consent, standards, security, procurement, organisational development and technical issues relating to the electronic sharing of personal data.

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