Children and Families: National Leadership Group minutes - 12 September 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the Scottish Government group on 12 September 2023

Attendees and apologies

  • Louise Long (Co-Chair), SOLANCE 
  • Laura Caven, CoSLA
  • Jillian Gibson, CoSLA
  • Tim Allison, NHS Highland on behalf of NHS Chief Executives
  • Tracey Davis, Children's Health Commissoners 
  • Lynda Fention Public Health Scotland
  • Helen Happer, Care Inspectorate
  • Ben Farrugia, Social Work Scotland
  • Elliot Jackson, Children's Hearings Scotland
  • Neil Hunter, Scottish Children's Reporter Administration
  • Martin MacLean, Police Scotland
  • Sheena Devlin, ADES
  • Jude Turbyne, Children in Scotland
  • Mary Glasgow, CCPS
  • Sarah Gadsden, Improvement Service
  • Fraser McKinlay, The Promise
  • Alan Small, Child Protection Committes Scotland
  • Tam Ballie, Child Protection Committees Scotland
  • Joanna Anderson, CoSLA
  • Andrew Watson (Co-Chair), Scottish Government
  • Gavin Henderson, Scottish Government
  • Jane Moffat, Scottish Government
  • Jaime Neale, Scottish Government
  • Bryony Revell, Scotish Government
  • Joanna MacDonald, Scottish Government
  • Peter Donachie, Secretariat
  • Emily Aitchison, Secretariat

Items and actions


Andrew Watson welcomed attendees and introduced the deep dive session on funding. The session aimed to identify opportunities to better connect funding streams at national and local level to enable a shift of resources towards prevention and early intervention. The publication of the Programme for Government and Ministerial Mandate Letters last week and ongoing work for budget announcements in December means that it is an important time for the deep dive session to take place.

The note of the group’s last meeting on 8 August was issued to members on 7 September. No amendments have been received. There were two actions from the meeting:

  • co-chairs to discuss next steps for leadership group on action to support the workforce – in progress with support from the workforce development group
  • Paul Beaton/Natalie McLaughlin to circulate follow-up information on the workforce development group’s revised terms of reference and action plan – in progress. The workforce development group’s next meeting will be on 4 October and will discuss revised terms of reference and action plan although the meeting date may change as it clashes with social work Scotland’s conference

Theme one - understanding your system and shifting the balance 

Joanna Anderson described the significant pressures on local government budgets arising from a combination of factors including funding cuts in real terms; inflation and other rising costs; short term funding; and the wide ranging impacts of the pandemic creating more demand for services. There were constraints on the use of funding: an estimated 65% of total central government funding to local government was subject to ring-fencing and other restrictions or expectations with the remaining 35% available for local flexibility. Prevention and early intervention services were vulnerable to cuts as these tended to be unprotected areas of expenditure. Joanna also noted an increase in bid processes for funding (e.g. tests of change and other initiatives.) resulting in a multiplicity of separate funding streams with discrete application and reporting procedures. This creates additional workloads and other barriers for local authorities especially if the bid process delivers relatively small amounts of funding for each local authority. This is not an effective way of funding local government.

 The Verity House Agreement between Scottish Government and CoSLA signed in June marks a positive direction of travel in challenging circumstances. The agreement highlights shared priorities including tackling child poverty; sets out a default position of no ring-fencing or direction of funding; and a presumption in favour of local flexibility. Current funding lines and in-year transfers will be reviewed to achieve this. The agreement also undertakes to streamline data collection and reporting arrangements.

Sheena Devlin discussed the work taking place within Perth and Kinross to better understand and connect different funding streams. Sheena emphasised the need to take the necessary time to develop a cohesive strategic approach based on consultation and engagement with education and children’s services, social work, health; parents and young people; and other partners. This enabled Perth and Kinross to utilise a range of local, regional and national funding streams including from early learning and childcare; pupil equity funding; and the Tayside regional improvement collaborative. The resulting projects are well-connected; widely supported and have clear objectives across health, wellbeing and education. These include community link workers; a virtual campus which is providing additional support for young carers and looked after children in studying for qualifications; and a range of small grants and payments providing vital assistance to families experiencing financial hardship. 

Winter support funds and other assistance from Scottish Government contributed to this work. This support was welcome but there are challenges including short notice periods for spending. Sheena also highlighted the pressures arising from different criteria and reporting processes required for individualised funding streams. Perth and Kinross had employed a project officer to help oversee and monitor their strategic approach to funding. They have also developed evaluation measures including closing the poverty-related attainment gap.

Bryony Revell outlined the opportunities available through children’s services planning to improve the use of collective resources to achieve shared outcomes. Through GIRFEC policy, Scotland has a clear definition of wellbeing well-embedded in policy, legislation and practice and consistent with international definitions. Rights and wellbeing are intrinsically linked: upholding children's rights is fundamental to wellbeing. Children’s services planning must consider the needs of all children, young people and families living in that area as well as those with specific types of need (e.g. care experience; poverty; complex health needs). Crucially the plans cover both children’s and related services including alcohol and drug services; housing; and employability support. This provides a strong basis for developing shared outcomes amongst local authorities, health boards and the partner organisations involved in children’s services planning.

The statutory aims for children’s services planning includes securing best value and the associated criteria which the Scottish Government uses to review children’s services plans covers planning of future services and which areas will be subject to disinvestment to facilitate shifting resources towards preventative and early intervention options. This means partners need to look across their services - from prevention through to intensive support - to identify the totality of resources (assets; budgets; workforce) and ensure these are being used in the best way individually and collectively to provide a joined up whole system approach in their local area.

The review of children’s services plans for 2020-2023 shows children’s services planning partnerships experiencing challenges around understanding the totality of the local funding landscape and linking this to improving outcomes for children, young people and families. There is also a need for greater participation of the third sector in both commissioned and non-commissioned service provision. The Scottish Government is working with children’s services planning partnerships to help address these challenges and use children’s services plans as a key tool for driving improvements at local and national levels.  

 Fraser McKinlay reminded members of the extensive in-depth work that the Independent care review had undertaken to analyse the costs of the care system and set out in “the money” and “follow the money” reports. This work estimated that Scotland’s investment in “failure demand” services - the cost of the services required to support care experienced adults as a result of them being failed by the 'care system' as children - was £875 million per annum. 

The Promise has subsequently been working with a group of local authorities (Clackmannanshire; North Lanarkshire; and Scottish Borders) to pilot the human and economic cost modelling (HECM) approach that underpinned these reports. This found that, while progress was made in each area in analysing the direct costs of the care system, it was much more difficult to differentiate indirect costs across education and other services. The focus had therefore shifted to better connecting different funding streams to support care experienced children and young people. The lessons learned to date reinforced the issues already raised in the session – the number of separate funding streams and associated reporting requirements needs to be reduced; there must be more flexibility in the use of funding; and better multi-agency service planning and delivery.             

Jane Moffat updated members on whole family wellbeing funding. the programme for Government included a commitment to publishing a whole family wellbeing investment approach. This will consider how to best support local areas to transform their holistic support services and sustain those changes; learning lessons from the implementation work to date. The investment approach will also cover the work needed to achieve the target that by 2030 5% of community-based health and social care spend should be on preventative whole family support measures. The measures already discussed in the session such as better join-up of funding sources; reduced ring-fencing; and disinvestment to facilitate shifting resources towards preventative and early intervention options can all contribute to achieving this target.

The First Minister’s Mandate Letter to the Deputy First Minister highlighted that the Deputy First Minister will lead work across Government to deliver the commitment to whole family wellbeing funding.

The programme for Government also committed to establishing a new Ministerial group focusing on the delivery of best start, bright futures across government to strengthen our approach and more closely co-ordinate policy to maximise impact on child poverty. This would ensure that a whole family wellbeing approach is taken to tackling child poverty and support the Government’s commitment to keeping the promise.

Feedback, evaluation and learning from children’s services planning partnerships on their WFWF work to date has highlighted that designing and embedding of fundamental change will take time and dedicated support. This includes considering how to sustain services beyond the lifetime of the fund and embed the shift to preventative spend. Monitoring and the use of data also remains an area for improvement

Theme one - dicussion session 

Members made the following points in discussion:

  • there needs to be more coherent mapping of planned spending over the short, medium and longer term. This must be supported by prioritisation and sequencing work across the range of transformational change initiatives in children’s services (e.g. implementation of bairns’ hoose; children’s hearings system redesign) and workforce capacity for delivery
  • a carefully planned programme of areas for disinvestment over the medium and longer terms needs to be developed and linked to the mapping of planned expenditure for transformational change especially the shift towards prevention. Previous attempts at disinvestment have not been very successful. A future programme for disinvestment therefore needs to build both a strong case for change and how this will be implemented
  • consideration should be given to providing bridging funding to support the process of disinvestment in some areas to provide more sustainable funding for others. This includes supporting and developing workforce capacity, skills and professional practices necessary to implement change successfully
  • better join-up of funding sources and reduced ring-fencing were strongly supported. There are good examples of organisations already using a mix of different funding streams to support children and families. Those highlighted included Fife gingerbread and partner organisations which are using funding from WFWF; City Region Deal; and Corra Foundation. 
  • evaluation work for WFWF and other funding streams need to review the criteria adopted to ensure they have not been so tightly drawn that they create unanticipated barriers to achieving the desired outcomes
  • taking action on all the above issues are essential to ensuring sustainability of funding for tackling child poverty; family support and other priorities. They are also necessary to address the risks arising from the end of WFWF and other time-limited funding streams

Theme two - the role of philanthropy in improving outcomes

Jude Turbyne introduced the session by providing some reflections on the role of philanthropy in assisting the work of the third sector and more broadly. It should be remembered that most people are philanthropists. For example, the latest survey evidence from the Scottish charity regulator indicates that 86% of the Scottish public donate to charity. This highlights both the strength and commitment from the public to supporting the third sector and how the work undertaken by the third sector is an integral part of our social fabric.

Philanthropic resources are used for a variety of purposes but the most important benefits include greater potential for more flexible and innovative use of funding as, in general, there is less ring-fencing or restrictions than other funding streams.

There is significant scope to improve current models of funding for the third sector. There is an over-reliance on short-term funding with consequent risks for sustainability of services and planning for future innovation.  The emphasis on securing best value has led to some unintended adverse consequences including increased workloads from additional reporting and monitoring requirements. There is also a need to better balance the combination of public and philanthropic funding to promote transformational change.

Theme two - discussion session

Members made the following points in discussion:

  • need to link funding much more strongly to national and local outcomes. The leadership group’s deep dive session on outcomes and data next month provides an opportunity to discuss this further
  • the third sector should be involved in discussions on potential areas for disinvestment to free up resources. The innovative role of philanthropists can help in bridging the implementation gap between current practices and embedding transformational change
  • the mapping of planned spending over the short, medium and longer term should include proposals on how to better balance the combination of public and philanthropic funding to promote transformational change.

Final reflections from co-chairs

Andrew Watson and Louise Long observed that:

  • the session reiterated the importance of the prioritising and sequencing work and linking this to better overall planning of future spending
  • Tthere is a need to better connect outcomes, data and evidence to planned spending
  • tisinvestment is a crucial but difficult area and members were invited to provide further views on this issue

The co-chairs will discuss further the issues raised in order to plan the leadership group’s future work programme.

Date of next meeting

The leadership group's next meeting is on 10 October from 3.00 p.m - to 4.30 p.m and will be a deep dive session on ourcomes an data.

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