Children and Families: National Leadership Group - Minutes - 18 April

Minutes from the meeting of the group held on 18 April 2024

Attendees and apologies

  • Louise Long(Co-Chair), SOLACE
  • Laura Caven, CoSLA
  • Jillian Gibson, CoSLA
  • Tracy Davis, Child Health Commissioners 
  • Ali Macdonald, Public Health Scotland
  • Mike Burns, Social Work Scotland
  • Neil Hunter, Scottish Children's Reporter Administration 
  • Elliot Jackson, Children's Hearing Scotland
  • Sam Faulds, Police Scotland
  • Sheena Devlin, ADES 
  • Sarah Gadsden, Improvement Service
  • Tam Ballie, Child Protection Committees Scotland
  • Mary Glasgow, CCPS 
  • Kathy Henwood, Children's Services Planning Strategic Leads Network 
  • Jim Carle, Disabled Children and Young People's Advisory Group 
  • Fraser McKinlay, The Promise
  • Claire Burns, CELCIS 
  • Jane Scott, CELCIS 
  • Andrew Watson(Co-Chair), Scottish Government
  • Joanna Macdonald, Scottish Government
  • Gavin Henderson, Scottish Government
  • Mairi Macperson, Scottish Government
  • Paul Beaton, Scottish Government
  • Mariela Fordyce, Scottish Government
  • Peter Donachie, Scottish Government
  • Emily Aitchison, Scottish Government


Items and actions


Andrew Watson welcomed attendees to the meeting and highlighted key issues in the agenda including how the group can make the most of next month’s in-person planning session.   

The note of the group’s last meeting on 19 February had been sent to members on 8 April and no amendments had been made. An update was requested on whole family wellbeing funding. Gavin Henderson responded that Scottish Government is discussing approaches to whole family wellbeing funding including as part of the promise implementation plan. The promise implementation plan is due to be published in May and further discussion will be held with the leadership group at the next meeting.      

Public protection

Joanna Macdonald and Fiona Marshall discussed the work taking place on public protection particularly the proposal to establish a national public protection leadership group. 

There is no legal definition of public protection in Scotland. It is a term used to encompass the many different strategic approaches and responses to keeping children and adults safe in our communities. It also describes the range of local structures put in place in response to child protection, adult support and protection, violence against women and girls networks, high risk offenders via multi agency public protection arrangements and suicide prevention. Governance and accountability arrangements may vary across local areas.

The main opportunities from taking a public protection approach are to:      

  • support families and those vulnerable to harm
  • support the multi-agency public protection workforce
  • improve pathways and information between and across services.
  • collate learning and implementing national recommendations from learning reviews
  • consider a whole systems approach to collecting, interrogating and understanding data locally and nationally
  • strengthen national and local leadership

A range of discussions have taken place with SOLACE, CoSLA and other stakeholders across the public protection landscape. Scottish Government have established a cross-government team to help take work forward. Scottish Government Ministers have met as a joint public protection ministerial group and support the work taking place.

Scottish Government and SOLACE have been working jointly on a  proposal for a national public protection leadership group which would provide national multi-agency leadership of public protection. The group’s main responsibilities would include:

  • driving continuous improvement of public protection arrangements across Scotland through creating a supportive environment for the sharing of best practice and the development of national initiatives
  • providing a space for local and national public protection leaders to help bring more coherence and simplification to public protection policy with due regard to capacity

C&FNLG members made the following points in discussion:

  • it is essential to reinforce GIRFEC as the key strategic approach across public protection work for children and families
  • there needs to be a clear purpose and added value in setting up a new group with a strong emphasis on delivery
  • the overall governance and accountability arrangements for public protection work should be clearly articulated
  • improving data sharing continues to be highlighted in learning reviews and the group should include a focus on this issue. Corporate parenting for care experienced children and young people was also highlighted as an important area of work
  • there is also a continuing need to improve the preventative element of public protection work
  • the national child protection leadership group is currently on pause.  Consideration should be given to restarting the group in the context of the public protection work
  • the needs of disabled children and young people need to be taken into account from the outset of the group’s work

Members were supportive of the proposal to establish a national public protection leadership group.

Development of in-person planning meeting on 21 May

Claire Burns and Peter Donachie discussed with members the development of the in-person planning meeting on 21 May. Members agreed the key aims of the session should be to reflect on the leadership group’s functions and priorities. The following points were made in discussion:

  • in terms of the group’s functions, there needs to be greater clarity on whether the group has primarily an advisory or decision making role including the amount of leverage it has to address implementation gaps.  The session should also consider the group’s authorising role in relation to the issues on leadership culture resulting from the research on children’s services reform including ensuring more effective multi-agency working
  • in terms of priorities, addressing workforce pressures and capacity issues are a clear focus for the Group.  Other priorities include de-cluttering the policy landscape and improving sharing of data and intelligence
  • the session also needs to cover wider pressures and enabling contexts particularly public sector financial challenges and work to tackle child poverty

Refresh of workfoce development sub-group

Paul Beaton and Mariela Fordyce discussed the work taking place on the refresh of the workforce development sub-group. Members emphasised the need to produce a manageable set of deliverables and suggested support for workforce wellbeing should be a key focus for action. It would also be important that the group did not become too unwieldy through an overly large membership. The group’s terms of reference had been circulated to members prior to the meeting. The above comments and any further views provided by members will be taken into account in finalising the terms of reference.       

Any other business and date of next meeting

There was no additional business. The group’s next meeting is the in-person planning session on 21 May from 1.30 p.m. – 4.30 p.m.

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