New Scottish System To Protect Vulnerable Children Unveiled

A new system is to be developed to help child protection agencies in Scotland share information, it was announced today.

The £1.5 million vulnerable person’s system (VPS), which will be created over the coming year, should help the authorities react faster to changes in a child’s circumstances.

Announcing the system, Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “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.”

Brandon, who was just 23-months-old, died from a ruptured intestine following an assault by his mother’s boyfriend, Robert Cunningham.

A jury in the High Court in Glasgow last week found the 23-year-old guilty of culpable homicide.

VPS – which will also cover vulnerable adults – will initially allow police forces to share secure, accurate and up-to-date information but will later be open to other agencies.

It aims to reduce the need for unnecessary paperwork, speed up information-sharing and enable police officers attending incidents to quickly assess if anyone involved is classed as being vulnerable.

The system will go live for police forces throughout 2010-11 and from 2011 it will be incorporated in the Scottish Government’s eCare electronic information-sharing system – which will allow the police and other bodies such as in social work and health to bring together key information.

The Government is providing £1 million for the project, with the remaining £500,000 coming from the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (Acpos).

Ms Hyslop said: “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.”

Deputy chief constable Neil Richardson of Acpos welcomed the move and said: “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.”

Harriet Dempster, the vice president of the Association of Directors of Social Work in Scotland, said today’s announcement was a “significant landmark”.

She added: “It will, when operational, remove the need for photocopying and faxing paperwork to enable speedy exchange of key information and at the same time release frontline staff to do more direct work.”