Publication - Minutes

Children (Equal Protection from Assault (Scotland) Bill implementation group minutes: November 2019

Date of meeting: 28 Feb 2020
Location: St Andrew’s House, Edinburgh

Minutes and papers from the fourth meeting of the group set up to consider actions if proposed changes to the law on physical punishment are agreed by Parliament.

Children (Equal Protection from Assault (Scotland) Bill implementation group minutes: November 2019

Attendees and apologies

Attendees

  • Sarah Meanley (acting chair)
  • Maria Gray
  • Leona Solley
  • Rachel Watson
  • Debbie Wicksted
  • James Cox (Scottish Government)
  • Chloe Riddell (Children 1st)
  • Matthew Sweeney (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities)
  • Wendy Wilson (Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service)
  • Detective Superintendent Elaine Galbraith (Police Scotland)
  • Alistair Hogg (Scottish Children’s Reporters Administration)
  • Clare Simpson (Parenting Across Scotland)
  • Clare Armes (NHS Lothian)
  • Steven Dehn (Office of John Finnie MSP) 

Apologies 

  • Umar Ansari (One Parent Families Scotland)
  • Jack Dudgeon MSYP
  • Angela Latta (Social Work Scotland)
  • Megan Farr and Máire McCormack (Children and Young Persons' Commissioner)
  • Simon Stockwell (Scottish Government)

Items and actions

Introduction

The acting chair welcomed the attendees and noted that there were new and returning members of the group.  Those present introduced themselves.  

Update on progress of the Bill

The acting chair provided an update on the Bill, noting that: 

  • the Bill (as was) has passed Stage 3 without amendment and had received Royal Assent on 7 November 2019;
  • the removal of the reasonable chastisement defence would come into force on 7 November 2020
  • the obligation to raise awareness was already in force 

Discussion paper on awareness raising

The group discussed a paper on awareness raising.  Group members suggested that, in addition to the audiences suggested in the paper, other audiences might be: 

  • Early learning and childcare professionals
  • Youth workers
  • Faith organisations
  • Children 
  • People without access to public funds (i.e. migrants)  

Maria Gray from the Scottish Government explained that some savings from planned spending have expanded the scope to invest in marketing relating to the Act.  Rachel Watson provided the group with an explanation of the options for marketing that are available and how this work could develop in the coming months.  She explained that a campaign could result in a toolkit that could be shared with partners such as third sector organisations.  The group is to be kept updated on developments with marketing work.  

The COPFS commented on the need to be clear about the change in the law.  NHS Lothian suggested that universal pathways could also be an option for reaching people, along with school nurses.  Children 1st advocated for a rights-based approach to awareness raising, highlighting the link to incorporation of the UNCRC.  The inclusion of brief material on the Act in Ready Steady Baby was also discussed by the group. [Action for SG – to consider suggestions and update the awareness raising paper]

The group commented on the draft circular annexed to the awareness raising paper, suggesting stronger focus on rights, context, the cultural shift represented by the Act and the inclusion of reference to support for parents.  [Action for SG – to consider suggestions and update the draft circular]

Draft minutes

The group agreed the terms of the draft minutes, subject to the correction of two minor factual points.  

Updates from group members

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service

The COPFS provided a brief overview of progress on the development of Lord Advocate’s guidelines on the Act.  Guidance for police is expected to be short and to include reference to: 

  • the changes introduced by the Act    
  • child protection guidance
  • facts and circumstances of each case
  • views of the child

Children 1st

Children 1st provided information about the telephone calls that Parentline, their national family support helpline, have received following the passing of the Act. They have received a number of supportive calls, including from a caller reflecting on his experience of physical punishment as a child. Some callers asked for clarification regarding the law, seeking advice about alternative methods and asking for advice regarding discipline approaches used by their ex- partners. 

Children 1st confirmed they have made no referrals to the Police as a result of calls about the Act. Their call takers are experienced at recognising child protection concerns and keeping children and families safe. Children 1st highlighted the importance of the support that Parentline provides in helping to support families as they become aware of the change in legislation.  

Police Scotland 

Police Scotland explained they are considering what will be required to implement the Equal Protection Act as part of a project which is also consider the Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Act 2019 and the Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Act 2019.  They are taking a child-centred rights-based approach and in mapping out costs they are seeking to identify where tasks can be achieved efficiently.  However, as there are 17,000 officers to train there is likely to be a significant impact. 

Child protection guidance review

James Cox provided the group with an update on progress with the ongoing review.  The Steering Group is due to meet towards the end of January, when it will consider a draft.  The guidance will emphasise rights and will include content on: 

  • rights
  • roles and responsibilities
  • decision-making process
  • areas of concern

Content on physical punishment of children has already been drafted and sits best as part of the content on areas of concern.  The guidance will focus on safeguarding and engagement with families. 

Discussion paper – monitoring 

The group discussed the paper prepared by the Scottish Government. The challenges to monitoring (tracking the number of convictions and seeing how attitudes towards physical punishment have changed) mean that monitoring could be difficult.  Scottish Government commented that there is a lack of existing data to measure against, and the Crown explained that it would be necessary to search through assault offences one by one in order to determine which ones were relevant to the removal of the defence.  [Action for the group: to consider further what can be done for monitoring.  Action for SG: to contact the Irish Government to see if any lessons can be learned from their experiences on monitoring.]

AOB

 The group agreed to hold the next meeting in February.  No any other business was raised.