Former national commissioner for children and young people, Tam Baillie, is now the chairman of the child protection committee and convenor of the adult protection committee, taking over from chief inspector Lindsey Tulloch and Max Barnett respectively.
Baillie, who has been heavily involved in policy making in the sector, said that he had ambitions for services in Shetland and intends that the two committees be merged into a “public protection” committee, looking after children and vulnerable adults, who can include the elderly, educationally challenged and those with mental health issues.
He also said that young people had an important role to play in formulating policy and indeed educating the older generation about the use and potential dangers of the internet.
As well as the good points he had found in Shetland, Baillie said that substance misuse within families was a “characteristic” of the isles.
Baillie said that there was a good basis in Shetland in terms of the existing partnerships and this had the potential to be strengthened further.
He said: “I am ambitious for Shetland in terms of how it can improve services for children, young people and adults.
“I think people here are looking along progressive lines and are looking at least for better aligning the child and adult protection activity, and one of the objectives is to have a public protection committee which merges those roles.
“So that is something really exciting in terms of a change of agenda. We do not know what it will be called, but one of the tasks is to manage the change from two separate committees to being one committee. It’s been done in other parts of the country but Shetland would be one of the first.”
He said that the protection of children and vulnerable adults involved the same general principles and having the right support and services in place and accessible.
“They are different in that children’s [services] has got a very strong statutory base around it whereas, adults, I think there is still an issue in terms of people’s awareness of the vulnerability of adults and one of the things we need to be mindful of if we are merging the child and adult agendas is that we do not lose the adult protection agenda within a lot of that. Vulnerable people are vulnerable people whether they are children or adults.”
The paid appointment will see Baillie serve 24 days per year leading the two local committees.
Baillie was Scotland’s children’s commissioner from 2009 to 2017. He previously worked as a manager and practitioner with children and young people for over 35 years in the statutory and voluntary sectors in Scotland and England.
Among other interests, he is currently a board member of the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) which supports the children’s hearings system and is a consultant and trainer on children’s rights.
Although based in Glasgow, Baillie will maintain frequent contact with and visit Shetland regularly. He will also represent Shetland at national adult and child protection meetings, which are usually held on the Scottish mainland.
Baillie said his decision to become involved in Shetland was largely based on his previous experiences in the isles when he visited as part of his remit as children’s commissioner.
He said: “Public protection has been a really big bit of my career from the time that I was working directly with children and young people, through to some of the instances where I was involved in policy.
“Most recently, when I was commissioner, child protection was a big part of the role, both in terms of policy and individual cases because people would contact the commissioner’s office where they had concerns. It was not our job to investigate, it was our job to make sure that people were pointed in the right direction.
“The second reason is that as commissioner, I was here. I treated every local authority the same. I visited Shetland the same number of times I visited other local authorities and always had a really, really warm welcome when I was in Shetland. I think Shetland has a lot going for it. There is a strong partnership here that I am getting to know.
“I am greatly encouraged by the openness and the willingness to engage and I have come across people who are really positive about the execution of their responsibilities and duties in regard to the protection of children, young people and adults.
“That’s part of the delight of being here – to work with the community, to work with the partnerships and try and ensure that children and young people and adults are better protected,” Baillie added.
“There’s clearly issues for children and young people in terms of protection, and the issues that have become apparent really are substance misuse, substance misuse in families, and that is a characteristic of Shetland.
“But there is also the digital world – which is exactly the same for children in Shetland as in any other part of the country. The internet is a good place to be, but it is a place where children need to know the kind of things they should be doing and the behaviours they should be having to keep themselves safe.
“Their parents need to be confident in engaging with the digital world and be confident of asking their children and young people and educating themselves as well about some of the things that need to be borne in mind to ensure safety.”
The Shetland adult and child protection committees are multi-agency bodies that include representatives from Shetland Islands Council, NHS Shetland, Voluntary Action Shetland, Police Scotland, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, SCRA and the Procurator Fiscal Service.
They support local agencies to ensure that children and young people and vulnerable adults are kept safe from harm from abuse and neglect. The committees also oversee training for staff and volunteers in local agencies, to ensure that training meets national minimum standards.
Last week, Shetland’s Child Protection Committee presented its 2017/18 annual report to the NHS Shetland board and the council’s education and families committee.
The report highlights achievements during the year, including delivering internet safety training to parents and young people, sharing information and good practice on the SaferShetland website and building stronger links with partners including the Shetland domestic abuse partnership, the alcohol and drug partnership and the mental health partnership.
The Child Protection Committee’s Annual Report can be downloaded here.