Children and Families National Leadership Group minutes: 9 May 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group held on 9 May 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Louise Long (co-chair), SOLANCE 
  • Jillian Gibson, CoSLA 
  • Lynda Fenton, Public Health Scotland 
  • David Park, NHS Highland on behalf of NHS Chief Executives 
  • Chris Lumb, Care Inspectorate 
  • Alison Gordon, Social Work Scotland 
  • Jess Elsey, SSSC 
  • Mary Glasgow, Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland 
  • Elliot Jackson, Children's Hearing Scotland 
  • Lisa Bennett, 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 
  • Andrew Watson(co-chair), Scottish Government 
  • Gaving Henderson, Scottish Government 
  • Jenny Hamilton, Scottish Government 
  • Liz Murdoch, Scottish Government 
  • Tom McNamara, Scottish Government
  • Lesleyann Russll, Scottish Government 
  • Peter Donachie, Secretariat 
  • Emily Aitchison, Secretariat 

Items and actions


Andrew Watson welcomed attendees to the meeting. There were no amendments to the note of the last meeting on 18 April. The following actions are being taken forward:

  • Michael Chalmers and Andrew Watson to discuss streamlining of planning and reporting with members of public sector reform steering group – in progress
  • co-chairs to discuss self-evaluation process for the group – in progress.

The secretariat is also in contact with members to finalise arrangements for accessing the leadership group’s team space.

Updates on short-life working groups on under-18s in custody (paper 5/1); and the impact on children of parents/carers in prison

Liz Murdoch and Tom McNamara discussed the additions and revisions made to paper 5/1 on the progress on delivering the four recommendations of the short life working group on under-18s in custody following the group’s previous discussion in March. The revised paper provided greater clarity on who is taking forward the actions on the recommendations and how this is being done. Liz Murdoch confirmed that whilst the recommendations sat with the youth justice team as the lead, all of the recommendations require input and support from partner organisations.

The group’s discussion focused on recommendation 1 - undertake a trauma informed review of the young person’s pathway to YOI and recommendation 3 - assess and review key policies through the lens of UNCRC and other human rights treaties.

On recommendation 1, the children and young people’s centre for justice (CYCJ) had previously undertaken a review of pathways to YOI in 2014 and will work with Scottish Government on the current review over the next few months. The review will cover the process a child goes through and the various stages and interactions on the way before reaching YOI, this includes pathways into police custody and courts and be linked to work progressing through the national trauma training programme. While the children (care and justice) (Scotland) bill will end the placement of under 18s in YOIs in the future, this work is still important to understand the points leading to a detention in a locked facility. Members emphasised that the review should be action-focused and undertaken quickly. 

The Scottish prison service (SPS) are contributing to recommendation 1 including through compiling case studies based on the children currently in their care to establish more detail around their placement in YOI, and to assess whether those needs can be met comprehensively in secure care in future.

Members noted the need to provide good information flows, tracking and better understanding of outcomes arising from alternatives to custody. This will help to identify good practice and implementation gaps.  

On recommendation 3, the Scottish Government’s children’s rights unit is developing a children’s rights issue tracker and undertaking other work to meet this recommendation.

Members highlighted the importance of action on the recommendations being linked to wider work in education. Education Scotland is a member of the youth justice improvement board and can assist in making the necessary connections. ADES also offered their assistance. Tom McNamara will consider these and other options for taking work forward.  The national youth justice conference in June will provide opportunities for sharing information and good practice.

Liz Murdoch noted that the Scottish Parliament’s committee sessions on the children’s care and justice bill, including this morning’s meeting of the finance and public administration committee, has raised a number of funding and workforce issues relevant to the leadership group’s deep dive sessions. 

Peter Donachie gave a brief update on the short-life working group on children impacted by parents/carers in prison. The report of this group will now be discussed at the leadership group’s June meeting to enable some further engagement work to take place.

Members agreed the importance of considering the added value that the leadership group provided to work on under-18s in custody and the impact of children of parents/carers being in prison. The group had authorised the recommendations of the short-life working group on Under-18s in custody and will perform a similar role for the report on the impact of children of parents/carers in prison. The group will also influence, challenge and support the action being taken on implementing the recommendations at key review points. However, there is scope to be more specific about the group’s future role and the secretariat will take this forward.


  • Tom McNamara to discuss with Louise Long options for linking action on recommendations to wider work on education
  • secretariat to discuss with Joanna Macdonald leadership group’s role in relation to report on children impacted by parents/carers in prison.

Deep dive sessions on leadership group’s strategic themes (paper 5/2)

Peter Donachie introduced paper 5/2 which provided an overview of suggested content and outcomes for the group’s deep-dive sessions over the remainder of the year. The sessions will cover each of the strategic themes the group has identified for its work:

  • more effective use of data and intelligence to deliver better outcomes for children and families
  • a more cohesive policy approach and clearer governance arrangements to avoid overlaps and duplication
  • streamlining the planning/reporting landscape
  • better join-up and more efficient use of funding including a greater shift to prevention and early intervention
  • strengthening participation and engagement work with children and young people
  • improving workforce support and capacity 

Members were invited to provide views particularly on the outcomes to be achieved from each session and improving the links with the groups most closely associated with the leadership group. Comments from members were as follow:

  • the most pressing issues are workforce support and capacity; funding; and streamlining planning/reporting and these sessions should be held first. The deep-dive on funding should be held in September to help influence budgetary plans for the next financial year and beyond. The session should include a focus on greater flexibility of funding to improve outcomes
  • the session on outcomes, data and intelligence could usefully consider how best to use national and local level data more pro-actively to assist the most vulnerable children and families including through the shift towards prevention and early intervention. A previous example was the drill-down work on national and local data on whether there were instances of “hidden harm” where the needs of vulnerable children and young people were not being identified and met during the pandemic. There are also opportunities to link health data and intelligence more closely with work on tackling child poverty
  • the session on participation and engagement with children and young people should include a focus on better co-ordinating the different initiatives taking place and identifying and promoting good practice

The sessions will be scheduled to last an hour and a half and consideration given to holding them as in-person or hybrid meetings in different venues.


  • secretariat to discuss deep dive sessions with ADES
  • secretariat to discuss session on workforce with SSSC
  • secretariat to discuss with the improvement service, public health Scotland and SCRA session on data and intelligence
  • secretariat to discuss with children in Scotland development of the session on participation and engagement with children and young people
  • secretariat to discuss arrangements for sessions with co-chair

Any other business and close

Lesleyann Russell provided an update on the UNCRC innovation fund which is due to launched on 11 May. Information will be provided to members and they were invited to promote widely within their sectors the opportunities available to apply for funding. Ideally work could be funded across a range of areas and groups including early years; youth justice; housing and assisting those with disabilities.   

The next meeting will take place on 20 June 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 and the report on the redesign of the children’s hearings system

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