Children's services planning: guidance

Updated guidance (2020) for local authorities and health boards on exercising the functions conferred by Part 3 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.

Section 11: Children’s Service Plan Review 

113. Under section 11(1) a local authority and the relevant health board: 

(a) must keep the Children’s Services Plan under review; and

(b) may in consequence prepare a revised Children’s Services Plan.

114. A local authority and the relevant health board are therefore under a duty to keep their Children’s Services Plan under review. This is to ensure that the plan continues, over the three-year period, to accurately reflect the local context (needs, priorities, resources, etc.) and is fit for purpose (i.e. in reference to the local context, sets out how all services will be provided in such a way as to achieve the plan’s aims). As local circumstances may change relatively quickly, the duty to review provides a basis on which decisions to alter or adapt service provision can be made. 

115. The Act does not prescribe timescales for the review of the Children’s Services Plan. The duty is simply to “keep its plan under review”. However, in view of the fact that a local authority and relevant health board are under a duty to report annually on their performance and progress in delivering the plan (section 13 of the Act), it would be logical to connect these two functions; the review becoming the process through which the annual report is prepared.

116. The Act also does not dictate how the review of the Children’s Services Plan should be undertaken. However, if the review is to contribute meaningfully to the overall children’s services planning process, it must: (a) establish if services are being delivered in line with the plan’s aims and objectives; (b) ascertain what impact, if any, the services covered by the plan are effectively safeguarding, supporting and promoting the wellbeing of children; and (c) identify ways in which either delivery and/or the plan may be improved (to better meet current aims and requirements). 

117. This demands that systems be put in place to regularly collect and analyse information relating to service performance and child wellbeing. Such information should come from a range of sources, and include both quantitative and qualitative data. The views of children, young people and families, and the professionals and volunteers working with them will be particularly valuable in making assessments of progress (in respect of children and young people feeling safe, healthy, included, etc.). Moreover, much useful information will already be stored in the information management systems of children’s services planning partners, and by service providers, offering detailed insight into how services are working for specific groups of children. But careful consideration must be given to how such information is collected, anonymised, collated and analysed, ensuring at all times that it is done in appropriate, safe and proportionate ways, in line with current law and guidance on personal information use and sharing.

118. The findings of a review may suggest that changes are needed in the Children’s Services Plan. Where this is the case, local authorities and relevant health boards are encouraged to take appropriate action. Section 11(1)(b) provides a local authority and the relevant health board with the power to prepare a revised Children’s Services Plan.  

119. If a local authority and the relevant health board choose to revise their Children’s Services Plan, the duties set out in section 9 (Aims), section 10 (Process) and section 11(1) (Review) of the Act apply. This means that the revised plan must essentially be treated like a new plan, with “other service providers” and Scottish Ministers given the opportunity to participate and contribute to in the preparation of the revised plan, other persons (including social landlords and relevant organisations) consulted with, and the plan prepared with a view to securing the same “aims of the Children’s Services Plan”. The revised plan must itself be kept under review.


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