Children and Families National Leadership Group Minutes - 22 March

Minutes from the meeting of the group held on 22 March 2023.

Attendees and apologies


  • Louise Long, SOLANCE
  • Jillian Gibson, COSLA 
  • Matthew Sweeney, COSLA 
  • Lynda Fenton, Public Health Scotland 
  • Peter McNaughton, ADES 
  • Kellie McNeill, Care Inspectorate 
  • Mike Burns, Social Care Scotland 
  • Mary Glasgow, Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland 
  • Elliot Jackson, Children's Hearing Scotland 
  • Neil Hunter, Scottish Children's Reporter Administration 
  • Martin Maclean, Police Scotland
  • Katherine Anderson, Children in Scotland 
  • Alan Small, Child Protection Committees Scotland

  • Jim Carle, Disabled Children and Young People Advisory Group

  • Michael Chalmers (Co-Chair), Scottish Government

  •  Joanna MacDonald, Scottish Government 

  • Gavin Henderson, Scottish Government 

  • Jenny Hamilton, Scottish Government 

  • Bryony Revell, Scottish Government 

  • Tom McNamara,Scottish Government

  • Fiona Dyer, Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice

  • Laura Holton, Scottish Government

  • Peter Donachie, Secretariat

  • Emily Aitchison, Secretariat

Items and actions


Michael Chalmers welcomed attendees to the meeting. There were no amendments to the note of the last meeting on 27 February. The update on the actions from the meeting were as follows:

Secretariat to include developing joint narrative in group’s work programme - will be included in the work programme to be discussed at the group’s meeting on 18 April. 

Follow up discussions on disabled children and young people’s advisory group assisting UNCRC Implementation work to take place between Gita Sharkey and Jim Carle - in progress. Jim and Gita to arrange meeting.

Secretariat to circulate Aberlour’s comments on work to assist Unaccompanied asylum seeking children to co-chairs of the UASC governance group and C&FNLG members - comments passed to co-chairs of UASC governance group. Comments were summarised in the note of the leadership group’s last meeting and the full version will be circulated to members for information.

Secretariat to schedule future discussions on consideration of the potential for better linking up funding streams to improve outcomes for children and young people; workforce pressures and recruitment and retention issues for children’s services - initial discussion to take place as part of the session on the group’s workplan on 18 April.

There is an outstanding action from the meeting on 12 January to develop a sharepoint for the group. The aim is to have this in place in early April. 

Review of progress on recommendations of the SLWG on under-18s in custody (Paper 3/1)

Tom McNamara provided an update on delivery against the four recommendations of the short life working group on under 18s in custody which took place between December 2021 and February 2022. This was as follows:

Recommendation 1 - undertake a trauma informed review of the young persons pathway to YOI.  Good work is taking place with the Scottish prisons service to better understand the characteristics of young people arriving in YOI and identify the opportunities for earlier trauma informed support and intervention. This will also assist work with secure care providers in providing alternative placements to YOI. Discussions are also taking place on alternatives to police custody. Joanna MacDonald added that the short life working group on the impact on children of parents/carers in prison is focusing on the need for trauma informed approaches in considering the impact on the child when a sibling or parent/carer is taken into prison. The SLWG will be providing its report and recommendations to the leadership Ggroup in May.

Recommendation 2 - recognising the needs and rights of the young person and support their understanding of court processes to ensure meaningful participation. The clear, consistent aim of the children’s care and justice bill and other work taking place is to ensure young people are effectively supported and do not enter the court system. However for the small number who are involved in court processes, the youth justice improvement board’s child’s rights implementation group and whole system approach to justice group are assisting the Judiciary in ensuring the needs and rights of the young people involved are met. This includes piloting and evaluating a new model of youth courts with funding support from the promise. Pilot work is currently taking place in Glasgow and North Lanarkshire and the evaluation will consider rolling out the model to other local authorities.

Recommendation 3 - assess and review key policies through the lens of UNCRC and other human rights treaties. The children’s care and justice bill and UNCRC incorporation bill are helping to ensure that this recommendation is delivered. This includes new statutory duties to prepare child rights and wellbeing impact assessments (CRWIA) for all new bills and decisions of a strategic nature that relate to the rights and wellbeing of children. 

Recommendation 4 - identify and remove legal impediments to alternatives to remand and take immediate action where possible to remove under-18s from custody. The children’s care and justice bill includes provisions that would raise the maximum age of referral to the children’s reporter to 18 and end statutory routes to placement of children in YOIs. The Scottish Government is also working with local authorities, secure care providers and other partners to develop alternatives to custody.

Tom noted that the Scottish Parliament’s education, children and young people’s committee had held an evidence session on the bill that morning as part of the stage 1 proceedings. The finance and public administration committee has issued a call for evidence on the bill’s financial memorandum with a closing date of 2 April. Current expectations, subject to Parly confirmation, were that the bill would undergo stage 2 proceedings after the post-summer recess and complete its passage through Parliament by the end of this calendar year.

The leadership group had received written comments on the recommendations prior to the meeting and these were posted in the chat bar for members to consider as part of their discussion. The main points from the written comments were:

  • the paper could be clearer / more specific about what work has actually taken place in the twelve months since the SLWG made its recommendations. In particular, it’s not clear whether (under recommendation 1) a trauma informed review of the pathways has been undertaken, and if so, what were the results
  • recommendation 2 - supportive of this work and believe it must include engagement with the judiciary.  CYCJ have good contacts who could develop peer training and support for a new approach to youth justice. Not very clear what is intended by a ‘crib sheet’ for the creation of youth courts in Scotland
  • recommendation 3 - ongoing UNCRC work is really important, as is the mapping work being undertaken by together of existing legislation. This is a useful and important piece of work that should be properly resourced. We need to be clear what the rights gaps are so they can be filled, possibly through the promise bill? Does Ms Haughey’s announcement last week, with the hope that the bill will be brought back before Parliament before the summer break, affect any of the timing / approach to this?
  • recommendation 4 - very supportive of work to end use of YOI and the promise Scotland will be giving evidence to that effect as part of the scrutiny of the bill. This is an important full stop on good progress Scotland has made to date and needs to be supported with ensuring alternatives to YOI, through enhanced support orders and ensuring that secure care, if required, is trauma informed and rights respecting

Comments from members during discussion were as follows:

  • it is essential that sufficient financial and other resources are made available to support the development of alternatives to custody. Workforce capacity also needs to be taken into account. This will be crucial to ensuring the success and credibility of alternatives to prosecution  / custody. Tom responded that resource and capacity issues are being considered carefully including through the revision and further development of the Financial Memorandum as it undergoes Parliamentary scrutiny. Hoped to organise a resourcing and implementation discussion with partners for early summer – with identified unmet requirements to feed into 2024-25 budget process
  • baseline data and data for improvement is also essential to enable local authorities and other partners to better develop, monitor and improve provision. While a range of useful data is available, there needs to be more real time management information
  • an analysis should be undertaken of the potential pressure points on and unintended consequences of developing alternatives to custody
  • the care inspectorate is undertaking a review of secure care pathways with the final report to be published this autumn

It was agreed that Paper 3/1 should be revised and developed to clarify who is taking forward each recommendation; how this is being done; and the end point for the leadership group’s work.

Additional points from MS Teams chat:

  • we need to really grasp the cross system support, investment, strengthening and resilience  required across the provisions in the wider Bill - parts of what we would have previously referred to as the youth justice system feel quite threadbare at the moment

Whole family wellbeing funding spending proposals for 2023/24 

Laura Holton presented whole family wellbeing funding spending proposals for 2023/24. For 2022/23; the three elements of funding were: direct support to children’s services planning partnerships (£32m); national support for local delivery (£6m); and cross-policy portfolio approaches to system change (£1.4m).

The spending proposals for 2023/24 are to continue the three elements of funding with: direct support to Children’s Services Planning Partnerships (£32m); national support for local delivery (£6m); and cross-policy portfolio approaches to system change (£6.5m) with funding focused on delivering 12 specific projects.

The main challenges and responses being developed by the team are as follows:

Communications and engagement particularly clarity and consistency of messaging and targeting strategically at local level – more resource is being providing to support this work including exploring approaches such as better join up with communications on the promise and wider buy-in from local leaders.

Timescales for transformation – these will be developed and revised as CSPP plans and evaluation reports are received.

Funding landscape – consideration is being given to providing greater leverage by pooling different funding streams.  It is however essential to protect the additionality of WFWF and this will be emphasised in allocation letters.  Work is also taking place to streamline reporting arrangements for WFWF and related funds.

Third sector engagement – a dedicated workstream is scoping out the support infrastructure and other issues to improve third sector engagement.

Sustainability of change – it will be crucial to unlock barriers and share learning of successful work in definitively shifting resources towards preventative spend and the outcomes being achieved.

Workforce recruitment, retention and skills – the pressures on workforce capacity are well understood and the team is mapping out opportunities for greater join up between programmes. The evaluation and other work will also seek to identify risks to delivery and how these can be best managed.

Ensuring appropriate level of support for CSPPs – the learning into action network; how good is our family support toolkit; and other support is being developed to assist CSPPs in developing their capacity to implement transformational change.

Comments from members were as follows:

  • staffing pressures are a clear risk to successful delivery and to help address this, it is crucial that there is greater alignment across programmes. There are opportunities for join-up within and across CSPPs on whole family support work in relation to the drugs mission. There also needs to be a continuing focus on better joint working in tackling child poverty; keeping the promise; and other preventive and early intervention initiatives
  • the leadership group’s oversight role for WFWF needs to be considered further

Additional points from MS Teams chat:

  • families affected by drug and alcohol use in Scotland A Framework for Holistic Whole Family Approaches and Family-Inclusive Practice helpfully flags connections to children's services planning duties, as does the self-evaluation framework for ADP's, highlighting the necessity of local governance connections between ADP'S to ensure services and support for children, young people and families is an integral part of the local children's services plan.

Any other business and close

There was no further business from members. Michael Chalmers announced he will be leaving his post of Scottish Government Director of Children and Families at the end of April.  Michael will be undertaking some focused work on prevention over the summer prior to taking up a new post in the autumn. Andrew Watson, Director for Early Learning and Childcare, will also become Director for Children and Families.    

The next meeting is on 18 April and will discuss the leadership group’s oversight, advisory and governance roles.

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