Reflections on the new Scottish innovative child protection system


  • Robyn Agnew



child protection, Scotland


This paper reflects on my work in Scotland in child protection during 2009 and 2010. It reflects on the Scotland I discovered and The Highlands I worked in. It describes recent innovative political decisions that have informed social work practice across all professions and government departments. It describes the implementation of an essentially simple system, which provides support for every child in need, specific to that need. 

It is a system that could positively inform the further development of child protection in New Zealand. Given the current plan to seek ways to ‘modernise’ Child Youth and Family (CYF), this paper seeks to encourage a debate on the merits of this path-finding Scottish solution to their political, social, ethnic and professional barriers, which could also produce positive outcomes for children in New Zealand (Tolley, 2015). 

It describes the overlaying of this approach on top of a professional workforce, despite the silo bureaucracy of service delivery and regardless of professional jealousies protecting individual professions. It describes the responsibilities of all who interact with children and sets certain overlying responsibilities for ‘named’ persons. In this way the responsibilities for the protection of children is moved from the realm of the social work profession, which is overloaded, as it is currently in New Zealand, and applied directly to all professions that interact with children. 

The Scots have produced a reliable system which strengthens protective mechanisms at the point of service delivery to the child. This in turn develops a reliable and accountable protective society, in which children in need are identified early and supported throughout their contact with different services. The goal is an on-going intervention that can achieve change for the child and allow the child to reach their potential. It is an aspirational system of care, aiming for development of innate potential. 

I reflect on the system and the safety it provided to myself as a social worker, the relief of ‘sharing’ child protection responsibilities with all other professions and the clarity of roles which defines this system.

Author Biography

Robyn Agnew

In 1985 I graduated from Auckland College of Education with a CQSW. I worked for ADHB Children’s Mental Health Marinoto with a clinical caseload of children and families, becoming a senior social worker. I then worked with much the same client base at Child Youth and Family Services Specialist Services, as a therapist, becoming manager of the service. During this period I sat on the Advisory Group for the new Child Psychotherapy Degree at Auckland University of Technology. 

In 1999 I began to develop an interest, with other CYF senior staff, in providing systematic support for work-related harm. I went on to write the policy for Critical Incident Stress Management, in- corporating psychological work injury into CYF’s Health and Safety Policy. I oversaw the national implementation of these policies based in CYF’s Human Resources Group 2000 to 2006; organising and co-training up to 60 staff debriefers and up to 200 Peer Supporters; thus provisioning a national service to CYF staff; providing same-day support and considered follow-up; linking staff to psycho- logical support services for on-going work when required. 

In 2006 I left New Zealand for the UK and eventually spent some time in Scotland working as a child protection social worker 2009-10. I now work for the ADHB Starship as a paediatric social worker for Medical Specialties; for the Renal, Gastroenterology and Respiratory Teams; providing transplant and social work assessment and support for families with chronic illness. 

I love my work and love the breadth and possibility inherent in the profession. 


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How to Cite

Agnew, R. (2015). Reflections on the new Scottish innovative child protection system. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 27(3), 4–13.