Children and Families National Leadership Group minutes: June 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the Scottish Government group on 20 June 2023.

Attendees and apologies


  • Louise Long, (Co-Chair), SOLACE
  • Jillian Gibson, CoSLA
  • Lynda Fenton. Public Health Scotland
  • Pamela Dueck, NHS Highland on behalf of NHS Chief Executives
  • Tracy David, Children's Health Commissioners
  • Lynne McNiven, Director of Public Health
  • Chris Lumb, Care Inspectorate
  • Alison Gordon, Social Work Scotland
  • Laura Lamb, SSSC
  • Carol Wassell, Children’s Hearings Scotland
  • Neil Hunter, Scottish Children's Reporter Administration
  • Martin Mclean, Police Scotland
  • Jude Turbyne, Children in Scotland
  • Sarah Gadsden, Improvement Service
  • Fraser McKinlay, The Promise
  • Chloe Riddle, The Promise
  • Carrie Lindsay, Children's Services Planning Strategic Leads Network Co-Chair.
  • Jim Carle, Disabled Children and Young People Advisory Group
  • Andrew Watson (Co-Chair), Scottish Government 
  • Jane Moffat, Scottish Government
  • Jenny Hamilton, Scottish Government 
  • Bryony Revell, Scottish Government 
  • Kirsty Pate, Scottish Government
  • Tom McNamara, Scottish Government
  • Emma Wilson, Scottish Government
  • Peter Donachie, Secretariat 
  • Emily Aitchison, Secretariat

Items and actions


Louise Long welcomed attendees to the meeting. There were no amendments to the note of the last meeting on 9 May. The following actions are being taken forward:

  • Tom McNamara to discuss with Louise Long options for linking action on recommendations on under-18s in custody to wider work on education – in progress
  • planning of deep dive sessions: secretariat to discuss deep dive sessions with ADES workforce session with SSSC; session on data and intelligence with SCRA; session on participation and engagement with young people with children in Scotland - in progress
  • Lesleyann Russell to provide further information on the UNCRC innovation fund – achieved: issued on 15 May

Short-life working group on children and young people impacted by family in secure careor custody (paper 6/1) 

Kirsty Pate discussed the draft report and recommendations of the short-life working group on children and young people impacted by family in secure care or custody. The group had been established by the previous Covid-19 children and families collective leadership group in response to concerns that a consistent approach is not being taken to identifying and addressing the needs and vulnerabilities of these children and young people.

The short-life working group noted a lack of data on the number of children and young people impacted by family in secure care or custody. The group mapped out the journey a child or young person might experience where a family member is taken into secure care or custody. This process identified the following issues:

  • risk of children and young people’s rights are not being consistently identified, supported and promoted in line with UNCRC incorporation
  • varying practice across local authorities to support children and young people to maintain ongoing relationships with family in secure care or custody where it is safe to do so. There are particular difficulties where the children and young people involved are in different local authorities from the secure care or custody facilities in which their family are situated
  • inconsistent approaches in court practices with variation in when and with whom contact by the court is made

The group reinforced the importance of the GIRFEC national practice model in improving consistency and providing early intervention and support to ensure children and young people’s rights are being promoted; their views are heard and acted upon; and their experience is improved. There are also good opportunities to raise awareness and extend best practice including the use of virtual parenting and other initiatives to improve parenting from custody; and better supporting relationships between siblings.

The group has made the following recommendations:

  • adopt a rights respecting trauma informed approach to child planning
  • incorporate the child impact assessment into the assessment and planning process to ensure proper consideration of this aspect of a child’s needs and rights
  • raise awareness and support and promote rights of parents/guardians in secure care or custody and consider a child impact assessment to ensure all children likely to be impacted are identified
  • support the rights and duties for children to have relationships with siblings and parents in secure care or custody

A delivery plan is being developed to implement the recommendations with a range of stakeholders already offering their assistance including the Scottish prisons service. Engagement work will continue over the Summer and the leadership group will be invited to agree the final report and delivery plan in the Autumn.

Members welcomed the report as excellent work. The following points were made in discussion:

  • the report and development of delivery plan should be discussed with community justice partnerships
  • there are good opportunities to link up the report and delivery plan with work on secure care pathways, standards and applications. This can help to create a more consistent, systematic approach that better supports family relationships. This should be discussed with chief social work officers and secure care group
  • discussions should also be held with ADES to identify opportunities for their members to assist the work taking place

Work should continue to identify and promote good practice in sustaining family relationships e.g. extending the Solihull Approach to early intervention to involve more fathers in custody; greater assistance for family members who are not in custody in supporting the children and young people involved.


  • Kirsty Pate to discuss with Joanna MacDonald incorporating members’ views in the next stages of work on the report

Hearing system working group redesign report 

Chloe Riddell summarised the main themes and recommendations of the hearings system working group report. The group was chaired by Sheriff Mackie with the involvement of the promise Scotland, children’s hearings Scotland and the Scottish children’s reporter administration. There was extensive design and collaboration work with children and young people including 12 sessions with care experienced young people and 11 sessions with parents and carers. Engagement work also took place with other organisations and partners. The design and collaboration programme was based around 50 questions; 40 calls to action from our hearings, our voice and a totality of 5,500 voices of those with experience of care. There was also an updating of Isla’s story to map the journey through the children’s hearings system. The resulting report makes 97 recommendations across 14 chapters including:

  • more intensive family and other support to reduce the numbers entering the children’s hearings system. This includes greater investment in mental health support
  • more focus on restorative justice approaches
  • improvements to referral pathways with earlier involvement where this is in the best interests of children and families; greater consistency in referral pathways; and modernising the language used
  • systemic and operational changes that need to be made to the children’s hearings system to improve outcomes. Crucially this includes a fundamental shift from an adversarial to inquisitorial approach. There has to be more preparation time and other support for hearings and greater continuity of chairs and other decision makers. The chair and panel members should be remunerated
  • greater support and a stronger voice for children and families involved with the children’s hearings system. This includes better advocacy support with offers of advocacy repeated at different stages of the process
  • improved training and other support for the children and families workforce that support the children’s hearings system
  • more clarity and accountability about the decisions reached and follow up actions and better information sharing across the children’s hearings system

The report proposed that Scottish Government put in place a high-level, collaborative programme for delivery and implementation including a programme board with an independent chair. Work on costing the recommendations is underway and due to be available after the Summer.

Members made the following comments:

  • the report marks an extremely important moment for the children’s hearings system. To help work through the 97 recommendations, they could be considered in terms of those recommendations which are driving transformational change and those which are more process focused. The shift from an adversarial to inquisitorial approach is a key transformational change
  • the report highlights that the supporting structure for children’s hearings needs to work more effectively. There is currently a lack of systems data and information flows between organisations require improvement
  • the focus on children’s rights provides a strong basis for work going forward from improving trauma-informed and relationship based approaches with children and families to better advocacy arrangements to more effective shared use of the child’s plan  
  • there is a key role for local planning/provision of services and support through children's services plans in each area, including how available data is used to help inform assessments of need for children, young people and families
  • there are links to wider work taking place on promoting sibling relationships for looked after children and those in care
  • the report emphasised workforce pressures which is an ongoing concern for the leadership group. There are opportunities to consider the role of the workforce development group which is having its planning day shortly and then the leadership group’s own deep dive session on workforce issues

Tom McNamara and Emma Wilson described the next steps and engagement work that the Scottish Government is undertaking. The Scottish Government is committed to taking a thorough, collegiate approach in responding to the report. Initial engagement is taking place with a range of stakeholders including children’s hearings Scotland, Scottish children’s reporter administration, CoSLA, Social Work Scotland, the promise Scotland and the youth justice improvement board. Neil Hunter and Carol Wassell reaffirmed SCRA and CHS’s commitment to working closely with partners on children’s hearings redesign.

Early analytical and scoping work on the recommendations is taking place with Scottish Government policy leads being requested to provide information by the end of this week prior to initial discussions with Ministers.  Planning, sequencing and aligning the work to take place in relation to other key policies, particularly the children’s care and justice bill, will be crucial.

A children’s hearing redesign board will be set up with responsibility for governance and delivery of the workstreams resulting from the report with consideration of the board having an independent chair. Plans are also being developed for a public consultation next year. Discussion will take place with the co-chairs over the role of the children and families national leadership group in relation to children’s hearings redesign.


  • Tom McNamara and Emma Wilson to discuss role of leadership group in children’s hearings redesign work

Any other business and close 

Louise Long noted that the first report on children’s services reform is due to be published this week and arrangements should be made for the leadership group to discuss the report with Brigid Daniel.

The leadership group’s next meeting is on 8 August and will be the deep dive session on data and intelligence. Members had previously indicated a preference to move to in-person meetings for the deep dive sessions. The secretariat have therefore provisionally booked a conference room in the Scottish Government’s building in Atlantic Quay, Glasgow for the meeting. However, if relatively few members are unable to attend in person, the meeting will be transferred to a wholly online meeting.


  • co-chairs and secretariat to discuss timing for session with Brigid Daniel on children’s services reform report
  • secretariat to contact members regarding availability to attend an in-person meeting on 8 August
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