17 Feb 2021

Working with children and families

Working with children and families

Social work with children and families

Social work with children and families takes place across diverse settings and sectors and includes a broad range of interventions and services which aim to promote the wellbeing and protection of children and young people using a social ecological perspective. This involves promoting and upholding the importance of relationships with a children’s rights and child-centred perspective in a complex social, policy and legislative context. 

It is a hugely diverse area of practice which contributes significant expertise to universal services and across multiple formal and informal partnership arrangements. This includes education, community justice, health and social care, housing and homelessness, drug and alcohol use and mental health partnership arenas.

Social workers practicing within and across this area, work in close partnership with a range of individual statutory and voluntary agencies and can be working with children and/or young people across a wide age span from pre-birth on depending on their role.

Social workers will be working with children and/or young people who are facing multiple social and psychological transitions and within diverse family and community contexts. They work with the complex issues facing children and their families using strengths-based approaches, balancing rights and risks and taking appropriate action to protect and safeguard children and young people. 

Those working in this area are knowledgeable about and fluent in the application of specific legislation in relation to their powers and duties along with broader legislation, policy and guidance. They use this knowledge to take action which supports wellbeing and safety for individuals and the community.

Examples of the work often undertaken by social workers in this practice area include: 

  • completing complex and comprehensive assessments and provision of reports to assist decision making and to make legal applications
  • contribution to multi-agency planning and leadership of interventions to support and protect children and families
  • planning for and support for children where living with their family is not possible ensuring that the child is involved in decision making about their care
  • provision of evidence-informed therapeutic and behaviour change interventions.

Whatever setting you work in please find out about the relevant legislation, policy and guidance. We’ve included some links here, but always recommend that you check the most up to date and relevant material within your practice setting.

Key legislation informing practice with children and families in Scotland

The Children (Scotland) Act 1995 provides the range and scope of local authority intervention in the lives of children and their families and the duties and responsibilities.

The Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 sets out the framework for the care and protection of children by the imposition of Compulsory Measure of Supervision.

The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 concerns children’s rights and services in Scotland.

The Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Act 2019 raises the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland from eight to 12. It also provides certain safeguards to ensure that harmful behaviour by children under 12 can be responded to in an appropriate and meaningful way, which will not criminalise children.

Policy and practice guidance for working with children and families

Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) is Scotland’s national approach to improving outcomes and supporting the wellbeing of children and young people by offering the right help at the right time from the right people.

Scottish Government GIRFEC National Practice Model.

Protecting Scotland’s Children and Young People Policy Overview (2018) (PDF) provides a comprehensive overview of policy and legislations relating to the national approach.

The CELCIS (Centre for Excellence for Children’s Care and Protection) knowledge bank provides links to a variety of relevant resources and is home to the Protecting Children resources.

Children in Scotland resources on supporting implementation of the GIRFEC model.

The Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland provides a range of resources on protecting the rights of children and young people.

Please let us know about any guidance and resources that you would like to recommend to other NQSWs working with children and families.

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