Children and Families National Leadership Group minutes: 18 April 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group held on 18 April 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Louise Long, SOLACE
  • Jillian Gibson, CoSLA
  • Lynda Fenton. Public Health Scotland
  • Tim Elliot, NHS Highland on behalf of NHS Chief Executives
  • Helen Happer, Care Inspectorate
  • Alison Gordon, Social Work Scotland
  • Laura Lamb, SSSC
  • Mary Glasgow, Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland
  • Elliot Jackson, Children’s Hearings Scotland
  • Neil Hunter, Scottish Children's Reporter Administration
  • Sam Faulds, Police Scotland
  • Jude Turbyne, Children in Scotland
  • Sarah Gadsden, Improvement Service
  • Fraser McKinlay, The Promise
  • Alan Small, Child Protection Committees Scotland
  • Jim Carle, Disabled Children and Young People Advisory Group
  • Michael Chalmers(co-chair), Scottish Government
  • Andrew Watson (Incoming Co-Chair), Scottish Government 
  • Gavin Henderson, Scottish Government 
  • Jenny Hamilton, Scottish Government 
  • Bryony Revell, Scottish Government 
  • Natalie McLaughlin, Scottish Government 
  • Peter Donachie, Secretariat 
  • Emily Aitchison, Secretariat 

Items and actions


Louise Long welcomed attendees to the meeting. This is Michael Chalmers’ last meeting as the Scottish Government’s Director for Children and Families and Co-Chair of the Leadership Group. Louise thanked Michael on behalf of the Group for his work and support. Louise also introduced Andrew Wilson who will become the Scottish Government’s Director for Children and Families; Early Learning and Childcare; Keeping The Promise and the Leadership Group’s new Co-Chair.

There were no amendments to the note of the last meeting on 22 March. There was one action from the meeting which is in progress.


Tom McNamara and Liz Murdoch to provide revised paper on under-18s in custody for Group’s meeting on 9 May.  

Children and families national leadership group’s oversight and advisory roles (paper 4/1)

Peter Donachie summarised the presentation sent to members prior to the meeting as preparation for the session. The presentation set out the vision and context for the group’s work; initial priorities and strategic themes; indicative milestones for this year; and associated Groups.

Members discussed the following issues:

The Group’s priorities, strategic themes and work programme:

Members agreed that embedding GIRFEC/GIRFE; UNCRC implementation; tackling child poverty; and keeping the promise (including whole family wellbeing funding) should remain the leadership group’s priorities. The main focus of the work programme should be to ensure that these priorities are delivered in accordance with the strategic themes the group has identified. These are:

  • ensuring a cohesive policy approach including a joint strategic narrative
  • clear governance arrangements that avoided overlaps and duplication
  • improving workforce capacity with support, training and leadership values
  • better join-up and more effective use of funding including through a greater shift to prevention and early intervention
  • improving engagement with children and young people
  • more effective use of data and intelligence
  • streamlined reporting and planning

Future agendas for the group should include deep-dives into each of these themes.

Members agreed the leadership group’s main roles should be on oversight, advice and influence rather than on governance processes which is the responsibility of the identified groups for each area of work. This would enable the group to concentrate on the overall direction of travel by creating more co-ordinated and efficient ways of working (including identifying interdependencies; promoting enablers; and addressing inhibitors); providing a strategic, cross-cutting forward look across priorities; and advice and review at key decision points.

How members can best support delivery of the group’s oversight and advisory role:

Members suggested their role should be to provide the leadership values and strategic support necessary to create the right conditions for delivering major transformational change programmes. Better oversight and advice on planning; funding; and workforce capacity as key pillars of change will be essential to achieving this.

On planning, members welcomed the indicative milestones and timelines for this year included with the presentation. It would assist planning, oversight and advisory work if this is extended to cover the years to the end of the parliamentary session. This would enable the group to identify better opportunities for join-up of activities and reducing the multiple demands on similar parts of the system with consequent workforce pressures.   

On funding, more work is needed to identify the range of different funding streams helping to deliver the group’s priorities and how best to maximise the benefits. The deep dive session will help to scope this out more fully.

On workforce, the main aims should be on values; training and development; and capacity. The focus on values will assist the workforce in making stronger connections between GIRFEC; UNCRC; and keeping the promise; and embedding this in practice. Support for training and development including refreshing the common core of skills, knowledge & understanding and values for the children's workforce will support this work. The workforce development group is holding a planning day on 28 April and members were invited to suggest issues to be considered. Suggestions included better supporting staff to deal with current pressures while providing more capacity for improvement and change including through more preventative and early intervention work.   

More generally, members will have an important role in identifying and influencing levers of change within their own and other organisations, networks and sectors. The emphasis should be on co-developing improvement processes at as an early stage as possible. In relation to streamlining reporting and planning, for example, Michael Chalmers and Andrew Watson will discuss with members of the Scottish Government’s public sector reform steering group how best to align work to take this forward.     

How the leadership group can strengthen links and relationships with associated groups:

Members agreed it is important for each of the associated groups to consider their role with the leadership group in driving forward whole system change and providing assurance that this is being achieved. There are some good examples of this such as the national child protection leadership group pushing outwards in promoting earlier and more intensive family support work as well as developing better links with youth justice and other policy areas. However, there is a complex landscape of different groups and a need for each group to better understand links and interdependencies. The presentation pack can help to do this and should be provided to each of the groups to help facilitate discussions on their role in creating the right conditions for whole system change; what support they would find most useful from the Leadership Group; and what support the Leadership Group needs from them. Contributions should be sought from the groups to help extend the information on indicative milestones and timelines for key areas of work. 

What will success look like for the group and how should this be measured:

Members noted that, given the breadth of the group’s work, it will be important to use a range of qualitative and quantitative approaches to measuring success. The suite of core wellbeing indicators and overview of outcomes developed for the children, young people and families outcomes framework will assist this work and the first national report will be discussed by the leadership group later this year. However, it will still be difficult to measure the success of preventative and early intervention work. These issues will be discussed further at a deep dive session on data and intelligence.

The chair suggested that the group develops a self-evaluation process with members. The co-chairs will consider this further and discuss proposals with members.

Next steps:

The chair invited volunteers to assist the secretariat in forward planning the next phases of the group’s work.

Any other business and close

The next meeting will take place on 9 May from 3.00 p.m. to 4.00 p.m. The main agenda items will be the report and recommendations from the short-life working group on the impact of children of parents/carers in prison.

Back to top