Children and Families National Leadership Group - Minutes - 10 October 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group held on 10 October 2023

Attendees and apologies

  • Louise Long (Co-Chair), SOLANCE 
  • Laura Caven, CoSLA
  • Tracey Davis, Children's Health Commissoners 
  • Helen Happer, Care Inspectorate
  • Elliot Jackson, Children's Hearings Scotland
  • Neil Hunter, Scottish Children's Reporter Administration
  • Martin MacLean, Police Scotland
  • Sarah Gadsden, Improvement Service
  • Fraser McKinlay, The Promise
  • Tam Ballie, Child Protection Committees Scotland
  • Jim Carle, Disabled Children and Young People Advisory Group
  • Helen Budge, ADES
  • Laura Lamb, Scottish Social Services 
  • Alison Gordon, Social Work Scotland 
  • Joanna MacDondal, Scottish Government
  • Bryony Revell, Scottish Government
  • Gordon Paterson, Scottish Government
  • Jane Moffat, Scottish Government
  • Claire Chalmers, Scottish Government
  • Anna Richardson, Scottish Government
  • Franca Macleod, Scottish Government
  • Stephanie Crisp, The Promise
  • Claire Stuart, The Promise
  • Glenn Diciacca, Secretariat 
  • Emily Aitchison, Secretariat 

Items and actions


Joanna MacDonald welcomed attendees and introduced the aim of the session to consider:

  • opportunities to strengthen a more holistic, outcomes-based approach to improving the wellbeing of children, young people and families
  • key mechanisms and development work at national and local level that is helping to overcome barriers and promote improvement activity across sectors

No amendments were received to the note of the leadership group’s last meeting on 12 September. There were two actions from the meeting:

  • members to provide views on possible options for disinvestment - in progress
  • co-chairs to discuss next steps for leadership group’s work programme – in progress

Scotland’s approach – national performance framework

Anna Richardson described the development and structure of the national performance framework (NPF). The NPF consists of 11 national outcomes and 81 national indicators which evaluate progress on the outcomes. The national indicators include measures ranging from the gender pay gap to the quality of children’s services to loneliness to participation in cultural activities. The NPF was put on a statutory footing in 2015 in the community empowerment act and the act stipulates that Ministers consult on the national outcomes every five years.

The NPF was initially focused on Government performance to promote outcomes working and good use of data. However a wide-ranging review in 2018 positioned the NPF for the whole of Scotland and aligned the national outcomes with un sustainable development goals.

The latest review is taking place over 2023-24 and encompasses four strands of evidence gathering: desk-based research; online consultation; stakeholder engagement; and calls for evidence. Engagement work with young people included the Scottish Youth Parliament.  

Claire Chalmers summarised the current position in the review. The asks emerging from the evidence has been grouped into five categories including national outcomes and national indicators; implementation gap; and data and reporting. In relation to national outcomes and national indicators, 4462 asks have been condensed into 88 high level themes. Themes with the most asks include care; equality/reducing inequality; and housing and homelessness. The themes and asks are currently undergoing policy and analytical development in particular establishing whether the necessary data is available to support the request. The resulting proposals are due to be provided to Parliament early next year.

The following points were made in discussion:

  • there is a cluttered landscape of frameworks, data and indicators. These need to be streamlined and improved
  • changes in the NPF will have knock-on implications for the outcomes and data being used at national and local levels particularly in achieving long term goals. Significant work will be required to ensure good understanding and alignment across services
  • ensuring good holistic oversight of outcomes and indicators for children, young people and families will be crucial. Work taking place under the verity house agreement can help to achieve better alignment for Local and National Government

There was concern that the national indicator for child social and physical development shows that in 2021-22 17.9% of children were recorded as having a developmental concern at their 27-30 month review. This is an increase from the previous year (14.9%) and despite significant investment. Policy development work needs to take account of these concerns amid the current extremely challenging circumstances.  

Telling the story of children, young people & families wellbeing (national/local)

Bryony Revell reminded members of the aims and first phase of work on the children, young people and families outcomes framework (CYPOF). The CYPOF provides a high level overview of where and how the lives of children, young people and families in Scotland are improving as well as where more action is needed to improve wellbeing outcomes. It complements the npf with a more specific focus on children, young people and families and considers wellbeing as a whole rather than in policy silos.

The CYPOF consists of eight overarching wellbeing outcomes based on girfec (SHANARRI); more detailed shared aims around the three sides of the my world triangle (how i grow and develop; what i need from people who look after me; and my wider world); and a set of twenty-one core wellbeing indicators underpinned by deep dive data to understand a particular aspect of wellbeing in more detail. The CYPOF had a “soft launch” in 2022 to embed the approach over the next children’s service planning cycle (2023-26) and in line with more data becoming available over time.

Franca macleod discussed the main findings from the first national reporting  on the core wellbeing indicators published at the end of September. The data shows that the majority of children and young people in Scotland have broadly positive experiences across all specified aspects of wellbeing, although for many indicators there are substantial minorities not achieving positive outcomes. Outcomes for large majorities of children and young people were broadly positive around attainment, including literacy, numeracy, and positive destinations; peer relationships; and participation in positive leisure activities such as volunteering or sports clubs. 

A more mixed picture was found in relation to some indicators. This includes early child development where, although there are no concerns in a large majority of cases, the percentage of children with concerns has increased over recent years. Other relevant indicators include perceptions of neighbourhood safety; neighbourhood satisfaction; and having a trusted adult. In these areas, the majority of children and young people had positive outcomes, but notable minorities did not.

There are a number of areas where there is scope for substantial improvement, including physical activity; fruit and vegetable consumption; mental health and mental wellbeing; bullying; and perception that adults take young people’s views into account. In these areas, large minorities had negative outcomes. There were also substantial levels of economic hardship, with almost a quarter of children living in relative poverty after housing costs and an increasing number of families living in temporary accommodation.

Children living in the 20% least deprived areas had substantially better outcomes than those in the 20% most deprived areas across all indicators relating to development, attainment, mental health, physical health and area perceptions. Large differences in outcomes by sex were also found across a number of indicators, although the picture was more complex. Outcomes were better for girls in pre-school development and literacy; whereas outcomes were better for boys for mental health measures; physical activity; positive leisure activities, having a trusted adult; and perception of adults taking views into account. Children and young people with a long term health condition or disability had substantially worse outcomes than others in terms of peer relationships; bullying, having a trusted adult and perceptions of adults taking their views into account.

Next steps on the CYPOF include supporting greater connectivity with the NPF; and expanding cross-sector and cross-Scottish Government awareness and application. This will help to take forward longer term aims including better alignment of outcomes and indicator sets across Scottish Government; taking a more coordinated approach to data development; and rationalising the reporting landscape.

Keeping the promise – using data and intelligence

Stephanie crisp discussed the promise’s work in developing the use of data and intelligence as improvement tools and how this can help partner organisations to explore the question “how do we know we are keeping the promise?”

Stephanie noted the independent care review’s finding that current approaches to data were flawed as they did not reflect what matters to children and consequently could not be relied upon to support good decision making on its own. In particular, experiences and relationships are not readily quantifiable so are rarely embedded in the way services are designed or in reporting processes. This meant they are not fully prioritised by the workforce or routinely used to inform resourcing, direction, decision-making and improvement.

The promise is therefore supporting partners to make much better use of data for improvement including wider understanding of all impacts; whole life stories; and long term trends. The starting point for this work is the promise data map which aims to increase awareness of the breadth of data that currently exists and how this can be used in a more holistic, flexible and interlinked way. The promise data map is an improvement tool holding descriptive information that directly and indirectly impacts children, young people and their families. The data map will be linked to an online tool enabling partners and the public to visualise datasets in different ways; find out about the attributes of the data and systems being used; and over time see what data flows and linkages are in place (or not). The data map will provide a user friendly improvement tool for partners working towards keeping the promise. It will not however be a repository of actual data nor will it be a new outcomes framework with additional reporting requirements for organisations. 

As part of the data map, the promise is creating a set of “what matters?” Questions to help organisations in better integrating children, young people and families’ experiences and relationships in their work to keep the promise. The “what matters?” Questions draw upon the over 5.500 experiences that guided and informed the independent care review.  Phase 1 of the data map translated those experiences and resulting 12 composite stories into 977 questions and tested the concept. Following further analysis, this has been refined to 68 themes and matching “what matters?” Questions mapped to plan 21-24. 

The principles for the development of the “what matters?” Questions include the following:

  • they are written from the perspective of the child never to be asked of the child – they are directed at the workforce and wider system
  • they are written in an active, present tense as improvement and reflection are a continual process
  • they provide a guiding scaffolding for improvement but are not exhaustive or intended to be used as a new performance framework

Gordon Paterson and Laura Caven noted that Scottish Government and COSLA are currently considering in the context of the verity house agreement the data held by Local and National Government; development of key metrics; and joint reporting on keeping the promise. This includes making best use of existing data and identifying any gaps in provision.

Discussion session

The following points were made in discussion:

  • useful opportunities to promote better linkages to the NPFand CYPOF through a “golden thread” showing a clearer, more holistic approach to the collection and use of data from high level overviews to deep dives on keeping the promise and other issues
  • need to consider how to provide more effective oversight of data and outcomes; simplify the landscape for users; and avoid the risk of too many different frameworks and data approaches. The child assurance outcome board could assist this work. The leadership group should also have a further discussion on what action can be taken
  • potential opportunities to reduce staff workloads by maximising the use of modern technology to record, connect and analyse data and streamline reporting

There was agreement on the need to take account of experiences and relationships as part of a more holistic approach to outcomes and data. The “what matters?” Questions can help to do this. Claire Stuart reinforced that the aim is not for organisations to use the 68 questions in their totality as a survey or reporting tool. They are questions for the workforce to use as most useful and relevant to their practice. The aim is to support delivery and improvement by better understanding the impact, experiences and stories that lie behind the data

Final reflections from co-chairs

Joanna Macdonald and Louise Long thanked the presenters and suggested that the leadership group has a follow-up discussion on what improvements need to be made to support the workforce and children’s services.

Date of next meeting

The leadership group's next meeting is on 7 November and will be deep dive session on ensuring a more cohesive strategy policy approach. 

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