Section 8: Requirement to Prepare Children’s Services Plans
40. Section 8(1) of the Act requires every local authority and its relevant health board to jointly prepare a Children’s Services Plan for the area of the local authority, in respect of each three-year period. The start of the first three-year period was determined by Scottish Ministers, and set out in The Children’s Services Planning (Specified Date) (Scotland) Order 2016, which came into force on 7 October 2016. This specified 1 April 2017 as the date that the first three year Children’s Services Plan was required to be in place.
41. Sub-section (2) sets out that a Children’s Services Plan means a document setting out the local authority and health board’s plans for the provision of all “children’s services” and “related services” over the three-year period.
42. The public sector duty regarding socio-economic inequalities set out in section 1 of the Equality Act 2010, otherwise known as the Fairer Scotland Duty, requires that when taking strategic decisions, particular public bodies, including local authorities and health boards, must have due regard to how they can reduce inequalities of outcome caused by socio-economic disadvantage in the exercise of their functions.
Identifying “children’s” and “related” services
43. In order to prepare a Children’s Services Plan, a local authority and the relevant health board will need to establish which of their services, and the services offered in their area by “other service providers” and Scottish Ministers, fall within the definitions.
44. Local authorities and relevant health boards must ensure that their Children’s Services Plan is comprehensive in its scope, covering the local services (provided by the local authority, relevant health board, “other service providers” and Scottish Ministers) which fall into the categories of “children’s service” or “related service”. It is particularly important that third sector services and private sector providers are included in the preparation of and consultation for the Children’s Services Plan. This will ensure the plan is fully integrated and makes best use of all resources in the area to deliver on local priorities.
45. To make sure that all “children’s” and “related” services are covered in the plan, local authorities and health boards are free to use whatever methods they wish to identify the relevant “children’s” and “related” services provided in the local authority area.
46. Whatever method(s) a local authority and health board choose to identify the services to be covered by their Children’s Services Plan, it is important that it is a thorough and transparent process. The Act (and this guidance) has avoided being prescriptive about which services to include in order to ensure local authorities and health boards have the autonomy, in collaboration with relevant partners, to make decisions which reflect local context and assessments of need.
47. However, in exercising that autonomy, local authorities and health boards should keep the purpose of Children’s Services Plans clearly in focus to: articulate how various services will work together to best safeguard, support and promote the wellbeing of all children in the area concerned; have a local workforce that is trauma-informed; ensure that any action to meet needs is taken at the earliest appropriate time and that, where appropriate, action is taken to prevent needs arising; be most integrated from the point of view of recipients; and constitute the best use of available resources.