Section 9: Aims of Children’s Services Plans
48. Section 9 sets out the strategic aims for a Children’s Services Plan. Under these provisions every Children’s Services Plan must be prepared with a view to securing the achievement of the following five aims:
(a) that “children’s services” in the area are provided in the way which –
(i) best safeguards, supports and promotes the wellbeing of children in the area concerned,
(ii) ensures that any action to meet needs is taken at the earliest appropriate time and that, where appropriate, action is taken to prevent needs arising,
(iii) is most integrated from the point of view of recipients, and
(iv) constitutes the best use of available resources,
(b) that “related services” in the area are provided in the way which, so far as consistent with the objects and proper delivery of the service concerned, safeguards, supports and promotes the wellbeing of children in the area concerned.
49. Taken together, these aims are about creating and maintaining a local environment which facilitates effective Getting it right for every child practice for individual children and young people. The Children’s Services Plan itself is the description of how public bodies and their partners will work together to achieve this, providing services which are organised and equipped to deliver high-quality, joined-up, trauma-informed and responsive and, where possible, preventative support to children and families.
(a) (i) Best safeguards, supports and promotes the wellbeing of children in the area concerned
50. A Children’s Services Plan must be prepared with a view to providing services in such a way that they best safeguard, support and promote the wellbeing of all children and young people in the local area. The purpose of this aim is to put the concept of “wellbeing” firmly at the heart of children’s services planning. In turn, it should mean that children’s services across the local authority area operate on a holistic and multi-dimensional understanding of “wellbeing”, in which all the various aspects of a child’s life are seen as interrelated, and given due consideration in the course of assessment and support. The improvement in children and young people’s health and wellbeing is also one of the key priorities of the National Improvement Framework, recognising the need to improve outcomes and support the wellbeing of our children and young people by offering the right help at the right time from the right people.
51. The eight wellbeing indicators set out in Section 96(2) of the Act - Safe, Healthy, Achieving, Nurtured, Active, Respected, Responsible, Included - were developed as part of the Getting it right for every child approach which aims to improve outcomes for all children and young people in Scotland. The Getting it right for every child approach was based on the UNCRC, and requires those who work with children and young people to put children at the centre of their day-to-day practice. Putting children at the centre in particular meets the requirement to consider the best interests of the child (Article 3) and the need for children’s views to be taken into account when decisions are being made about matters which affect them (Article 12).
52. For further guidance on “wellbeing”, and implementation of the Getting it right for every child approach in general, please refer to the information available on the Getting it right for every child webpages.
(a) (ii) Ensures that any action to meet needs is taken at the earliest appropriate time and that, where appropriate, action is taken to prevent needs arising
53. A Children’s Services Plan must be prepared with a view to providing children’s services in such a way that they are able to take action to support children at the earliest appropriate time, to prevent needs arising. This aim is about making sure children, young people and families get the right support at the right time. Whenever feasible, the “right time” will be before a child’s wellbeing is adversely affected (“primary prevention”). But where that is not possible, support for the child should be secured as soon as possible after wellbeing starts to be adversely affected (“early intervention”). Planning should also recognise the role of interventions to address needs and risk. A Children’s Services Plan must therefore be prepared with a view to securing children’s services which can fulfil both “primary prevention” and “early intervention”, across all aspects of wellbeing.
54. To explain further, “primary prevention” means providing the child, young person and parents/carers with the support they need in order to prevent the child or young person from experiencing adversity. Effective primary prevention is usually characterised by:
- support and help being directed to parents, carers and families, as well as the child directly;
- support being provided in the first few years of child’s life (pre-birth to pre-school); and
- children, young people and families accessing wider community support to improve their quality of life.
55. In a similar vein, “early intervention” means having a workforce that is able to respond to the needs of children, young people and families in a safe, effective, person-centred and trauma informed way, as soon as there are signs of difficulty. It is about recognising that wellbeing needs may emerge at any age, without warning, and that the speed and nature of the response can make a significant difference to how successful services can be in helping to address the need. Indeed, effective early intervention constitutes good preventative action, because it often prevents further and more severe difficulties arising. Examples of early intervention might include the support put around a child after the first reported incident of domestic abuse in the home, support given to a child involved in offending, or the provision of additional support to a child who has a barrier to their learning.
56. However, irrespective of whether a service is orientated towards primary prevention or early intervention, the aim of a Children’s Services Plan is to detail how partners will identify and address needs. This will mean working with children and their families, communities, universal services and specialist services, including third sector services. This has important implications for the process of children’s services planning.
57. Firstly, success will be influenced by the effective implementation of the Getting it right for every child approach across all universal and specialist children’s services. Through this approach service providers and their staff collaborate with each other and work in partnership with children, young people and their families to identify and address the wellbeing needs of individual children and young people. Children’s Services Plans, which are strategic, should provide the framework for the planning of services, so that Getting it right for every child can be implemented effectively at a local level. This would include governance and quality assurance arrangements.
58. Secondly, to prevent needs arising planners will want to know: (a) what kind of needs currently (or are likely to) exist across the population of children and young people; and (b) what kinds of services and support actually work to prevent those needs developing further. To answer either of these questions planners will require information, coming from multiple sources (such as community engagement, consultation with children and young people, professional assessment, research) and in multiple forms (qualitative and quantitative). Children’s services planning partners should give proper consideration to what and how information is collected to inform the Children’s Services Plan.
(a) (iii) Is most integrated from the point of view of recipients
59. A Children’s Services Plan must be prepared with a view to providing children’s services in such a way that they appear to be “integrated” from the perspective of “recipients” (i.e. children, young people, carers and families). In the context of children’s services planning, “most integrated” refers to cooperation between providers of children’s services, working together to ensure services are planned and delivered in a way which best meets the needs of children and families. Successful realisation of this aim will mean that a child or family receives only the support they need, when they need it, from the service best placed to provide it (in the context of social care, the term “service” may include any relevant support to meet agreed personal outcomes, for example art classes). For more on the shift to an emphasis towards personal outcomes see the Social Care (Self-directed support) (Scotland) Act 2013 Statutory Guidance.
60. An “integrated” service also means that children and families will be able, as their needs change, to move easily between different services (whether universal or targeted), confident that they will have access to appropriate support at every stage. This will be particularly important for vulnerable young people moving out of children’s services and into “adult services” in areas such as disability, social care, mental health, drug and alcohol treatment etc.
61. In the context of children’s services planning, the focus here is on securing a joined-up approach, between local partners, to service planning and delivery. This joined-up approach is one of the foundations of Getting it right for every child, and a key pillar of the Scottish Government’s public service reform programme. It requires collaboration at every level (i.e. strategic, operational, frontline), and across all service providers, whether public or third sector. The process of children’s services planning is, in itself, a critical opportunity through which to embed the joined-up approach, bringing together all relevant parties to agree priorities and actions. Indeed, it will only be through close cooperation of local planning partners that all the links and key transition points between services will be identified, and a suitable plan put in place.
62. In enhancing the partnership and cooperation between service providers at the front line, this aim of children’s services planning should also help the local area to maximise the use of available resources through reduced duplication of activity, and the identification of, and subsequent investment in, the most successful interventions.
(a) (iv) Constitutes the best use of available resources
63. A Children’s Services Plan must be prepared with a view to providing services in such a way as constitutes the best use of available resources. This means that the plan should make clear how children’s services are going to be provided in a way which allows them to complement and enhance each other (rather than impede or duplicate each other). It also means that the children’s services provided should be, in themselves, efficient and effective.
64. This aim is therefore about securing “best value” as set out in The Local Government in Scotland Act 2003 – Best Value Guidance, from the services available in a local area. That is “best value” measured in terms of results, not just resources. In respect of children’s services planning, the aim is set out clearly (in section 9(2)): the provision of services which best safeguard, support and promote child wellbeing in the local area.
65. This aim (of securing and improving child wellbeing) will be achieved, in part, through the provision of preventative and joined-up services (see aims (ii) and (iii) above). In eliminating the duplication of processes (such as assessments), improving communication throughout the system, ensuring the best placed person provides the support to a child or family, and intervening early. The Getting it right for every child approach should help local areas to make the best use of their resources. But critically, intervening early and coordinating activity will not, in themselves, deliver positive results. The support provided needs to be both appropriate and of quality, as an ineffective or inappropriate intervention is unlikely to ever constitute the best use of available resources.
66. Children’s services planning partners, therefore, need to give careful consideration as to how they will evaluate the effectiveness of children’s services (both universal and targeted), in terms of their success in responding to and addressing children’s wellbeing needs. This process will require information on the costs and outcomes of services to be collected and analysed, supplemented by qualitative evaluation (feedback from children, families, etc.).
67. With its focus on securing children’s services in such a way that they constitute the best use of available resources, children’s services planning should be seen as a strategic commissioning process. That is one based on thorough assessments of population need (current and projected), and an informed understanding about which services/interventions work most effectively (in terms of costs and outcomes) to help children and families.
(b) Related services […] provided in the way which […] safeguards, supports and promotes the wellbeing of children
68. The final strategic aim of a Children’s Services Plan is focused on the provision of related services. Under section 9(2)(b) a Children’s Services Plan must be prepared with a view to providing related services in such a way that they (insofar as is consistent with the objects and proper delivery of the service concerned) safeguard, support and promote the wellbeing of children in the area concerned.
69. “Related services” are those services provided in the local authority area by (a) the local authority, (b) the relevant health board, (c) an “other service provider”, or (d) Scottish Ministers (in exercising the functions under the Prisons (Scotland) Act 1989), which, although they do not fall into the definition of a “children’s service”, are still capable of having a significant effect on the wellbeing of children and young people.
70. Every local authority and relevant health board will make their own determination about which public services meet the definition of a “related service” in their local area. Once that has been agreed, the Children’s Services Plan must then detail, with a view to achieving this aim, how those related services will be delivered in a way which safeguards, supports and promotes children’s wellbeing. This requirement mirrors that placed on “children’s services” by section 9(2)(a)(i), and it demands that related services have an understanding of the concept of “wellbeing”, and that they are provided in such a way that they can respond positively and proactively to individual children’s (and by association families’) needs. For example, if housing were to be included as a “related service”, a Children’s Services Plan could explain how housing will contribute to keeping children safe and healthy.
71. However, the aim of securing related services which safeguard, support and promote children’s wellbeing must be done so in a way which is “consistent with the objects and proper delivery of the service[s] concerned” (section 9(2)(b)). This means that, while related services must be focused on meeting children’s wellbeing needs, they can only do so within the parameters afforded by their primary function(s). To return to the housing example, the primary function of this service is to provide housing options and support to the community, therefore its contribution to this aim will be made (primarily) through the provision of high-quality housing options and support to families and young people.
Outcomes and objectives
72. While all Children’s Services Plans must be prepared with a view to securing the achievement of the aims set out in section 9, Scottish Ministers have not set specific outcomes. This is to provide a local authority and the relevant health board with the flexibility to identify outcomes and objectives which correspond to local needs and context (i.e. demographics, community assets, resources, etc.), and to ensure that the Children’s Services Plan can be linked into the Local Outcomes Improvement Plan, the Health and Social Care Strategic Plan, and other relevant local plans.
73. A local authority and relevant health board should also ensure that the National Performance Framework and relevant national outcomes and objectives are reflected in the Children’s Services Plan. This includes the national commitment to reducing child poverty and meeting the targets set in the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017.
74. The outcomes and/or objectives identified by a local authority and the relevant health board should be consulted on with all partners. This will be particularly relevant in respect of the “progress indicators” chosen, where a specific metric (e.g. immunisation rates) may be used to evidence progress and/or contribution towards realising improved child wellbeing (healthier, safer, respected, etc.).