Children’s Services Research: independent steering group


This group has been set up to oversee and direct independent research into how best to deliver children's services in the context of the National Care Service (NCS).

The purpose of the research project is to answer the question: how do we ensure that children, young people and families get the help they need, when they need it?

It is being carried out by the Centre for Excellence for Children’s Care and Protection (CELCIS) at the University of Strathclyde, and will run until autumn 2023. 

Read the group's terms of reference.

About the research

CELCIS will be conducting five strands of research to answer the above research question. The strands are:

  1. Rapid Evidence Review of the published literature
  2. ‘Deep Dive’ to examine the approaches to integration and delivery of children’s services taken in a range of high-income countries
  3. National scoping and mapping study to explore the different models of integrated service delivery and any potential effects on a range of outcomes.
  4. National surveys of the Children’s Services workforce and Children’s Services leaders to build on the emerging findings from the national scoping and mapping study.
  5. Targeted focus groups/interviews with professionals to explore and better understand the findings from strands 3 and 4.


Open section to read biography.


Professor Brigid Daniel, Professor Emerita, Queen Margaret University


Brigid Daniel is a qualified social worker and worked in local authority intake and children and families teams before moving to academia. She has worked in social work education at Dundee and Stirling Universities and latterly as the Dean of Arts and Social Sciences at Queen Margaret University. Brigid has researched published widely on child development, children’s resilience, child neglect and the child protection system.


Professor Ruth Jepson, Director of The Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and Policy, Edinburgh University


Professor Ruth Jepson is Director of The Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and Policy and a Professor of Public Health in the School of Health in Social Science, University of Edinburgh. She has over 30 years of undertaking research in the practice and policy arena. Her research focuses on how social determinants impact the health of populations across the life course.  She is particularly interested developing and evaluating complex interventions to reduce the negative impacts of such determinants, with a focus on reducing health inequalities. 

Professor Sandra Nutley, Professor Emeritus, University of St Andrews


Sandra has over 40 years of experience of working in and researching public policy and management, including in healthcare, social care, and education services. She has expertise in the use of evidence to inform policy and practice, performance assessment, and the management of organisational change.

Professor Barbara Fawcett, Honorary Professor, Strathclyde University


Professor Barbara Fawcett is an experienced researcher and has published widely both nationally and Internationally. She has a background in social work and social policy and has held key academic positions at the University of Bradford, the University of Sydney, the University of Birmingham and the University of Strathclyde.

Dr Ruth Astbury, Lecturer and Programme Leader, University of the West of Scotland


Dr Ruth Astbury currently leads the PgD Specialist Community Public Health Nursing School Nursing Programme at the University of the West of Scotland, following a career in school nursing and health visiting. Research interests include shared decision-making within the context of health visiting practice and an ambition to understand the impact of the transformed school nursing role on children, young people and their families within Scotland.  

Lisa Bunting, Senior Lecturer, School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queens University Belfast


Lisa has worked in the field of child welfare and child protection research for the past two decades and has specific interests in the impact of childhood adversity, the development of trauma informed children’s services and the influence of deprivation and poverty on child welfare interventions. She has recently led on the first national prevalence survey of mental health problems and trauma exposure among Northern Ireland youth and, together with colleagues at Queen’s, has conducted a rapid evidence review of system-wide trauma informed care implementation to inform the regional roll-out of the NI Safeguarding Board’s Trauma Informed Initiative. She is currently working on analysis of national children’s social care data to identify trends in the relationship between area level deprivation, involvement with child protection social work, and patterns of repeated service use over time. 

Leah Bromfield, Director of Australian Centre for Child Protection and Chair of Child Protection, University of South Australia


Professor Leah Bromfield is an internationally recognised academic and leader in the field of child abuse and neglect, with 20-years research experience in child protection systems and practice and is the Director of the Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia.

In addition to her impressive traditional academic track record, she has authored more than 200 commissioned reports, policy and practice papers in issues affecting child protection systems, chronic maltreatment and cumulative harm, and has worked closely with state, national and international governments on establishing and implementing child welfare reforms, including the National Framework for Protecting Australia's Children.

The impacts of Professor Bromfield’s research, support of government reform, and assistance to Inquiries and Royal Commission’s has been profound with lasting national and international changes to law, policy and practice. In 2021, she was appointed Commissioner for the Inquiry into the Tasmanian Government’s Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Institutional Settings.

Allister Short, Service Director for Women's and Children's services within NHS Lothian


Allister Short is Service Director for Women's and Children's services within NHS Lothian and has worked within the public sector for almost 20 years. This has included the role as Chief Officer of an Integrated Joint Board and has worked extensively across the Health and Social Care system. He has a background in community education, with a particular focus on youth work practice and young people, having also worked within a national voluntary youth organisation for a number of years.

Barry McLeod, Programme Manager, Public Service Improvement Framework, Improvement Service


Barry works in the Improvement Service and leads on self-assessment across the public sector, including Integration Joint Boards, Community Planning Partnerships, Public Protection Committees, Child Protection Committees and Adult Protection Committees. He is also part of the Joint Management Team (JAM), who, on behalf of National organisations Integration Huddle, were tasked by the Ministerial Strategic Group to provide improvement support for HSCP Chief Officers.  Previously, Barry led on an evaluation of reablement for the Scottish Government, he also led the research on a report into Deferred Payment Agreements for Care Homes (Scottish Government) and was one of the authors in a report for Scottish Care, titled Home Delivery: A Profile of the Care at Home Sector in Scotland 2015.

Claire Stuart, Head of Insights, The Promise Scotland


Claire leads the Insights Team at The Promise Scotland and is a member of The Promise Scotland’s Senior Leadership Team. The Insights Team establishes what information Scotland needs to #KeepThePromise. They also make sure the people who need that information both know and understand it.

The work Claire leads splits into two parallel programmes:

  • data, information and evidence used to understand Scotland’s progress to #KeepThePromise and
  • data, information and evidence as improvement tools across the change landscape

Margaret O’Brien, Professor of Child and Family Policy, UCL’s Thomas Coram Research Unit


Margaret was Director of UCL’s Thomas Coram Research Unit between 2013-2021. Her current ESRC research focuses on COVID recovery in low-income families with a child under 4 years old and inequalities in access to parental leave across EU28. Her specialist research is on fathers and family life with a work-family policy and parenting support focus.

Between 2000- 2013 Margaret was Co-Director of the University of East Anglia’s Centre for Research on Children and Families.  during this time, she was the Principal Investigator (with Prof Bachmann & Husbands) of the National Evaluation of Children’s Trust Pathfinders 2004-2007 funded by Department of Education. Following the Children Act 2004, Children’s trusts were England’s attempt to integrate education, health, social services and other partners, to promote cooperation with the aim of improving children’s well-being.

Claire RM Burns, Insights Lead, The Promise Scotland – interim


Claire is the Insights Lead at The Promise Scotland. Claire leads on the Feedback Loop, working with others to use data, evidence, and research to find out if and how things are changing so that Scotland can #KeepThePromise by 2030 or earlier.  Her work helps The Promise Scotland to understand where things are or aren’t working; why; and what could be done better to make change happen.

Stephanie Crisp, Improvement Lead, The Promise Scotland – interim


Stephanie is the Improvement Lead at The Promise Scotland. Stephanie works with others to use data, evidence, and research as a tool to improve the wider landscape so that Scotland can #KeepThePromise. This means she focuses on the big levers of change, like data and money, and the things that need to be in place to support good practice. She also works to make sure that this work stays rooted in what the Independent Care Review heard about what matters to children and families.


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