Ahead of key debates or committee meetings we may submit a briefing note setting out the social work position on an issue.

These have been crafted to inform key stakeholders and politicians around specific issues and so will not be a complete picture of all the challenges and opportunities in a particular policy area. It may be helpful to read these briefings in conjunction with the official report of the relevant parliamentary debate or committee meeting.


Reducing the backlog of Unpaid Work hours: Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020

Social Work Scotland Position Paper – 15 July 2020

Social Work Scotland is the professional body for social work leaders. Over recent months we have been monitoring closely the evolving situation within the criminal justice system, with a particular concern over the management of unpaid work and other court mandated activities.

We are taking this opportunity to set out our position regarding the community order ‘variation’ provisions contained within Schedule 4, Part 6 (Section 15) of the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 (hereafter referred to as ‘the Act’), which we believe must now be used to reduce the backlog in unpaid work hours.

The extension of community orders with unpaid work requirements has bought the justice system valuable time, but without a systematic reduction in the number of outstanding unpaid work hours (through revocation or variation of orders) there is a major risk that Justice Social Work (JSW) will be overwhelmed, with serious consequences for the wider justice system.

Read the Unpaid Work – Use of the Coronavirus (S) Act 2020 paper (Word)

For further information please contact:

James Maybee, Chair, Social Work Scotland’s Justice Standing Committee



Joint statement: Early and effective intervention (EEI)

Download a copy of this statement (Word)

30 June 2020

Early and Effective Intervention (EEI) during the COVID-19 pandemic: a joint statement from Police Scotland, Social Work Scotland and the Scottish Government

There are times when concerning or harmful behaviour of children and young people may bring them into conflict with the law. EEI is an opportunity, where appropriate, to divert them from formal systems such as the Children’s Hearing System or report to Procurator Fiscal. EEI allows for a proportionate and appropriate response to address any identified needs and concerns.  We recognise that the restrictions imposed for COVID-19 are especially challenging for them, and this statement is intended to set out how we, as responsible partners, are approaching the principles of EEI.

EEI decision making should:

  • apply the principle of minimum intervention;
  • be prompt and proportionate;
  • actively seek and include the child’s views;
  • involve a holistic understanding of the child’s needs and circumstances;
  • include the views of parents or carers of children under 16, and those aged 16 and 17 years subject to compulsory measures of supervision through the children’s hearing system;
  • be co-ordinated, when multi-agency assessment and response is indicated.

Where a child has a ‘lead professional’ they must be consulted regarding the initial decision making and where any intervention is identified.  During COVID-19 restrictions initial gathering of information may be primarily by phone, or through the use of technology, when this is appropriate and secure.

Local protocols will determine local processes. Current guidance states that EEI referrals should, where possible, be progressed within 15 working days, and children and their families should be notified within 5 working days of the decision. However, if it is not possible for all the necessary information to be sourced within 15 working days, then reasons for this will be recorded, and decisions taken as soon as reasonably practicable.

Effective communication between Police Scotland concern hubs and the EEI coordinator is essential.

EEI referrals may be dealt with by a range of disposals:

  • Police direct measures;
  • No further action – for a number of reasons it may be appropriate to take no further formal action;
  • Current measures in place are appropriate as identified issues and concerns are already being addressed, no further formal action required;
  • Single agency referral – third sector partners, social work, education, health, fire & rescue are only some examples and as appropriate could undertake specific intervention or support such as Restorative Justice or substance misuse work;
  • Referral to Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) – although this should not be an alternative to offering support through EEI if appropriate and timely, but an option where compulsory measures of care may be considered necessary.

Where an offer of intervention and support has been identified, opportunities to deliver this or the format may be limited during this phase of the pandemic. Local authorities will have contingency plans to maintain essential service provision.

The option to give formal warnings should be maximised by Police Scotland in local areas, as appropriate. If there is a delay in implementation of a disposal that requires face to face contact, then the reasons for the delay must be recorded. The situation should be reviewed on a three-weekly basis.

Meaningful communication with the child, family and/or carer should ensure a shared understanding of: the reasons for decisions; allow for updates if there is any delay in intervention; and ensure a collaborative purpose and approach.

Under Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Act, Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) for not complying with restrictions related to COVID-19 can no longer be issued to anyone aged under 18. Previous provisions allowed issue to 16 and 17 year olds.

Full consideration must be given to alternative courses of action and as a last resort, where 16 and 17 year olds are charged with a Coronavirus offence, the most appropriate disposal should be a Recorded Police Warning.

Where a 16 or 17 year old, and indeed any other child, is found in circumstances which amount to a breach of the Coronavirus regulations, and where there are concerns for their safety or wellbeing, then a Police Concern Form must be submitted to ensure full consideration is given to the circumstances.

Child protection concerns should be progressed as usual, applying local protocols, which will take account of Scottish Government supplementary guidance on child protection during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Joint statement: Children and young people who go missing from care

Working together to protect children and young people who go missing from care during the Covid-19 pandemic:

A joint statement from Police Scotland,
Social Work Scotland and the Scottish Government

Download a copy of this statement (pdf)


The restrictions put in place to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic are particularly challenging for children and young people. We know that it is even harder for looked-after children and young people in the care system, due to being separated from their families and the close attention that’s paid to their behaviour.

This statement sets out how local authorities, care providers and Police Scotland as ‘corporate parents’ are working together to keep care experienced children and young people safe and protected during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Safety and protection continues to be central to all the decisions we make.

Protecting children and young people who go missing from care

If you are providing care to a child or young person, you should follow the local protocols and procedures which were in place prior to COVID-19. This means that care providers should continue to report concerns about children or young people in their care who go missing to the police, as usual.

All reasonable efforts should be made to locate the child or young person before calling Police Scotland, unless there is evidence that the child or young person is at risk of harm. If you have any child protection concerns related to the child or young person’s absence (such as concerns over child exploitation e.g. criminal, sexual or financial) then you must follow national and organisational Child Protection procedures.

The Scottish Government’s National Missing Person’s Framework defines the roles and responsibilities of key partners to prevent, respond to, support and protect children, young people and other vulnerable persons who may be regarded as missing. It describes a missing person as anyone whose whereabouts are unknown and:

  • where the circumstances are out of character, or
  • the context suggests the person may be subject to crime, or
  • the person is at risk of harm to themselves or another

There may be situations in which it is considered that the behaviours displayed are tolerable to the carer who will manage them as per their professional judgement, care plan and in the interests of the child or young person given the unique and individual set of circumstances. This should be kept under constant review.


Offender Management

Scottish Government Debate