While child protection procedures may be considered for a person up to the age of 18, the legal boundaries of childhood and adulthood are variously defined and there are overlaps. For example, the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 Part 1 defines a child as someone under the age of 18. However, other parts of the same Act define a child as someone who has not yet attained the age of 16 years.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child applies to anyone under the age of 18. However, Article 1 states that this is the case unless majority is attained earlier under the law applicable to the child.
The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 defines a child as someone who has not attained the age of 18.
Section 67 of the same Act inserted a new section, 26A, into the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. The current law provides that a young person born on or after 1 April 1999 who is looked after in foster, kinship or residential care is generally eligible to remain in their current placement, and be provided with accommodation by the local authority, until they turn 21 years.
The local authority has a duty to provide advice, guidance and assistance to looked after children until they reach the age of 26 years.
The Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act, 2007 can be applied to over 16's where the criteria are met.
Where a young person between the age of 16 and 18 requires support and protection, services will need to consider which legal framework best fits each person's needs and circumstances.
The key message in this guidance is the following: "Although the differing legal definitions of the age of a child can be confusing, the priority is to ensure that a vulnerable young person who is, or may be, at risk of significant harm is offered support and protection".