The enactment of the Protection of Children (Scotland) Act 2003 is a significant development in the protection of children in Scotland. The government took this step in close liaison with 30 Child Protection Committees (CPCs) established throughout Scotland. Another relevant piece of legislation is the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, which gives certain powers to those who believe a child is at risk of harm.
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Under the Protection of Children (Scotland) Act 2003, Scottish ministers have a requirement to keep a list of people who are deemed unsuitable to work with children. "Children" under the terms of the act applies to those age 18 and younger. Those who have previously caused harm to young people, or who have knowingly exposed them to harm, are not permitted to work with children. In this context, "harm" is not restricted to physical harm. If anyone who is on the list continues to work alongside children, they are committing an offence.
As a result of the act, any individual who applies for a paid job or voluntary position that involves working with children will have his details checked against the list as part of the application process. Any applicants who are found to be on the list will be rejected immediately. If anybody who is working with children causes harm to a child, or puts a child at risk of harm, and consequently is dismissed from her position, her employer must refer her for inclusion on the list. Referrals may be made retrospectively, if there is sufficient evidence to warrant it.
Under the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, anybody can apply to court for a child protection order if he has reason to believe a child may be at risk of "significant harm." The act also gives the power to local authorities to apply for a child protection order if they suspect a child is at risk of harm. If the application is successful, the sheriff can order that the child be removed from her home and taken to a safe place, alongside any conditions the court deems necessary, such as the child having no contact with a particular person until further order of the court. A child protection order lasts for a maximum of eight days, during which time further legal action will be taken to start the process of deciding the best long-term plans for the child.
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