Caring for our children and young people: corporate parenting update 2018 to 2021

Second national report on corporate parenting by Scottish Ministers. In this 2018 to 2021 report, we provide an overview of corporate parents’ activities over the last three years, and how they have delivered their duties to support children and young people with care experience.

Chapter 11: Overarching Messages and Recommendations

This review of Corporate Parenting Plans, activity, and data between 2018 – 2021 identifies enablers, challenges, common themes and specific examples of activities under the corporate parenting duties. In this concluding chapter we highlight the overarching messages and themes emerging from this review of corporate parenting activity and provide recommendations for the future development of corporate parenting in Scotland. The intention of commissioning and analysing corporate parents’ reports and survey returns, and compiling the report in this way, is to share a rich resource of material for corporate parents to use to consider their activities, explore potential ideas and identify ways to strengthen and improve approaches for our children and young people with care experience and their families and carers.

Overarching messages

  • Our review identified that the design, structure, and content of Corporate Parenting Plans varied significantly. The Statutory guidance on Part 9 (Corporate Parenting) of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014[15] acknowledges that corporate parents’ different scope and remits means that Corporate Parent Plans are likely to vary, however, further support to corporate parents in developing their Plans and, above all, to help understand who the intended audiences are for Corporate Parent Plans (e.g. care experienced children and young people as a key audience as well as national and/or local partner agencies and internal staff) could bring focus to the scope of these across corporate parents.
  • Ensuring that Corporate Parent Plans are ‘live’ documents, and responsive to the context and needs of care experienced children and young people over time was identified as an enabling factor.
  • The overwhelming focus of Corporate Parent Plans and activities reported for this review were aimed at adolescents and young people, with emphasis on young people transitioning from school into further or higher education, employment or moving into independent living, and less so on infants and primary school age children; based on this there is a gap in corporate parent planning, activity and data relating to children and in particular under 5’s.
  • Participation of children and young people was acknowledged as an enabler, a challenge and a priority within the survey returns. It was evident that where corporate parents were able to effectively support the participation of children and young people in corporate parenting planning, this enriched the activity and actions of corporate parents. However, this engagement was a challenge for many corporate parents and greater focus should be given to the participation of children and young people within the development of corporate parent action plans and activity. This needs to be carefully planned across corporate parents to ensure that it is meaningful and has purpose as there is the potential for the same children and young people to be engaged on numerous occasions, while the voices of other children and young people are not being heard.
  • Recognition and understanding of diversity between care experienced children and young people (i.e. intersectional identities and needs based on race, disability, sexuality, gender identity; as well as young people who are, young carers, young offenders, unaccompanied children and young people etc.) and the incorporation of this within Corporate Parent Plans and activities was lacking.
  • The limited returns by Health Boards and Special NHS Health Boards has resulted in an underrepresentation of health services within this review when compared to other groups of corporate parents; particularly within our analysis of Corporate Parenting Plans. This information is important to understand exactly how children and young people with care experience are being supported with their physical and mental health needs.
  • Whilst most corporate parents identified staff learning and awareness raising as a key component of activity over this review period, few corporate parents talked to multiple and sustained opportunities to learn about and engage with their organisational responsibilities and duties as corporate parents. This is critical given that corporate parents referred to the impact of staff turnover with regards to continuity and understanding of corporate parenting roles, responsibilities, and activities.
  • Whilst many corporate parents referenced collaboration with national support organisations (e.g. CELCIS and Who Cares? Scotland), or through national and local corporate parenting forums, evidence of collaboration between corporate parents varied. In some local areas, there was evidence of on-the-ground joined up working between different corporate parents (e.g. schools, mental health services, colleges and universities) to provide seamless and supportive transitions for care experienced children and young people; yet in other areas, activity appeared disjointed. Less evidence was provided of national and local corporate parenting forums translating into collaborative working at a strategic level to collectively respond to the needs of care experienced children and young people. In particular, there was limited evidence of collaboration (and thus maximisation of resource) between corporate parents with routine interaction with children and young people and those with fewer or less routine interaction with care experienced children and young people.
  • Through acknowledgement of the UNCRC, The Promise and GIRFEC, several corporate parents identified within their priorities for the next review period a recognition of the national direction for services which support the wellbeing and uphold the rights of care experienced children and young people.
  • Our review of corporate parent plans highlighted that a number of corporate parents had not identified clear timeframes and measurements for planned activity. This led to challenges for being able to measure and articulate the impact of the activity undertaken, either at a service level or for each individual child and young person. Ensuring that corporate parents have milestones in place for meeting the priorities identified for the upcoming review period and that they have planned measurements for identifying progress relating to their activity would address this.

Conclusions, actions and next steps

The three-years to the next reporting date for Corporate Parenting coincide with the timescales set out in the Plan 2021-24 published by The Promise Scotland. Corporate parents should by now have a clear focus on working together, and ensuring that new policies, practice and participation approaches underpin the delivery of the priorities set out in The Plan, specifically in relation to: A Good Childhood, Whole Family Support, Supporting the Workforce, Planning, and Building Capacity. While some corporate parents are more central to the delivery of these priorities, all corporate parents have a contribution to make, including to how we work together to support change systems and infrastructure. One of the foundations outlined for this work is Voice, or listening to, and meaningfully and appropriately involving children and young people in decision making about their care. Listening to the needs, fears, wishes and experiences of children and young people with care experience is core to the corporate parenting role and must also continue to drive the activities and priorities of corporate parents.

As we move to the next phase of corporate parenting in Scotland, our conclusions and key actions which we would encourage corporate parents to focus on include:

  • The national commitments aimed at improving outcomes for care-experienced children and young people and their families. These include The Promise and the priorities identified in the Plan 2021-24 and Change Programme ONE, UNCRC incorporation, and continuing to embed the Getting it right for every child approach across their activities, services and support.
  • The maintenance of Corporate Parent Plans as ‘live’ documents
  • Increased planning, activity and measurement of activity relating to infants and children
  • Increased recognition, understanding and attention to diversity between children and young people within planning and activities
  • Support to corporate parents to collaborate and plan for the participation of children and young people within corporate parent planning and the development of actions plans and priorities
  • Continued focus on developing knowledge and understanding of corporate parent responsibilities across staff at all system levels
  • Increased collaboration between corporate parents in the development and delivery of actions and the maximisation of opportunities and resources for children and young people. Children’s Services Partnerships have the potential for a stronger role in supporting collaboration, planning and delivery of actions by corporate parents, particularly those partners who could develop their approaches further.
  • A full set of returns from Health Boards and Special NHS Boards in responding to their role as corporate parents is necessary, building on the positive examples found within this review, in order to demonstrate their understanding of the needs of children and young people with care experience and the important role that health services can play in assessing and meeting those needs.

The Scottish Government, and other national bodies have an important role to play in supporting corporate parents to understand and respond to the implications of The Promise, UNCRC incorporation and other significant policy changes. The Promise Scotland are in place to provide the oversight and direction and have already begun this process via a route map outlined in The Plan 21-24 to guide the change needed to deliver The Promise. Change Programme ONE and its future updates will help corporate parents to identify who is doing what to drive those changes forward and where the gaps are in terms of what still needs to be done, which should assist corporate parents in identifying their own priorities to support the implementation of The Promise. Above all, it is the views, experiences and asks of children and young people with care experience that must help guide corporate parents in the development of their Corporate Parent Plans and future activities.

Further information and contacts

We would like to thank corporate parents for their time in completing the corporate parenting survey which informed the development of this report. We would also like to extend our thanks to the Centre for Excellence for Children’s Care and Protection (CELCIS) for their support in providing analytical assistance and to Who Cares? Scotland for the continued learning and development support provided to corporate parents throughout this reporting period.

If you would like to make contact with a corporate parent or request further information about this report, please contact



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