Risk management protocol for children and young people with problematic sexual and violent behaviours

Key points

The management of children and young people with problem sexual behaviours who present a risk to others is a major concern and an area of priority for the Scottish Government and local authorities. The SWIA/ HMIC report following the tragic killing of Karen Dewar highlights that effective risk management measures must be put in place. This includes a coordinated approach on the part of youth justice, child welfare, education and health.

Approaching problem sexual behaviours and their inherent risks can invoke a real anxiety in professionals across disciplines. This can result in a lack of clarity about roles and can leave workers feeling powerless to respond to their responsibilities in the management of risk. The Risk Management Framework and Protocol assists in making risk more tangible and thus enables professionals to employ strategies for effective risk management.

The Risk Management Protocol is a multi agency means to manage risk more effectively.  It requires the key agencies involved in risk management to meet regularly on a case by case basis to manage, evaluate and monitor risk as assessments and long term interventions are undertaken. It also provides a structure to improve the identification, risk assessment, planning for and management of children and young people who present a risk.

The Risk Management Protocol identifies those children and young people who are most likely to commit further sexually abusive behaviours and who require high levels of supervision. It provides a robust mechanism through which concerns about a young person’s problematic behaviours can be shared with relevant agencies in order that appropriate measures in risk management can be taken. This is in accordance with work undertaken by the Youth Justice Improvement Group to develop the existing Concordat: Sharing Information on Sex Offenders.

Philosophy underpinning risk management protocol

      • The responsibility for risk management has to be held within a multi agency perspective
      • Children and young people need to be recognised as significantly different to adult sex offender
      • Research indicates positive outcomes
      • The nature of risk is fluid and dynamic
      • Responsibility is a process, starting with the adults
      • The environment has a huge influence on the young person and on making risk more or less manageable
      • Viewing risk in terms of its manageability offers a tangible means for responding to it.


How to do it

Every child or young person to whom the protocol applies will have a risk management plan as set out in Getting it right for every child. This plan will be subject to close scrutiny through the risk management review process and will be revised accordingly to reflect the dynamic nature of risk.

Working Together (DfES 2010) recommends that where abuse of a child is alleged to have been carried out by another child or young person such behaviours should always be treated seriously and should be subject of a referral to child protection agencies both in respect of the victim and the perpetrator. This protocol should therefore be read in conjunction with the Child Protection Committee’s inter agency child protection procedures.

The protocol applies to children and young people who are exhibiting behaviours identified under reactive, extensive mutual and abusive in the Risk Management Framework.

Social work has the lead responsibility for the implementation of the Risk Management Protocol. The effectiveness of the protocol will however be determined by the ability of agencies coming together to share the responsibility for risk management.

The protocol offers a multi agency means to manage risk more effectively. It requires the key agencies involved in risk management to come together for an Initial Risk Management Meeting where a Risk Management Team is identified. This team meet regularly thereafter on a case by case basis to manage, evaluate and monitor risk as assessments and long term interventions are undertaken.  These meetings are called Risk Management Reviews.

The Risk Management Protocol is applied within both Child Protection Procedures and Children in Need, and can be directly accessed by clicking the link at the bottom of this page.

While the identification of problem sexual behaviours is a difficult task facing all professionals with child care responsibilities, Appendix One in the protocol can assist professionals in determining the need to refer to Social Work as well as assisting Duty Workers and Managers within Social Work determine the relevant processes thereafter.

For procedural guidance refer to flow chart Appendix 8 in the protocol by following the link below.

When children and families are first notified of problem sexual behaviours by a child or young person the need to proceed under Child Protection Procedures should always be considered.

It should be noted that the young person involved in the behaviours should be dealt with separately from the victim(s).

In understanding the assessment of risk, it is important to consider the probability of the event or concern in question and its likely or actual consequences.  In consultation with other key agencies, decisions should be reached on the basis of:

      • The seriousness of the behaviours
      • The vulnerability of the child/young person
      • The accumulation of information
      • The source of concerns
      • The context in which the child/young person is living
      • Any predisposing factors in the family that would suggest unmanageability of risk

Where a case discussion is convened consideration should be given to:

      • The initial risk assessment and respective roles and tasks
      • Immediate risk management requirements
      • The need for continued child protection procedures

Where the child in question is required to be subject to an initial child protection case conference and placed on the child protection register, the risk management process will be conducted through the core group system.

Where the decision is not to proceed to conference or not to register, the risk management protocol should be applied under Children in Need procedures.

Risk management protocol