Section 14: Assistance in Relation to Children’s Services Planning
134. Under section 14, those persons and organisations consulted with in the preparation of a Children’s Services Plan, other service providers and Scottish Ministers, must comply with any reasonable request made of them, by the local authority and relevant health board, to provide information, advice and assistance which would facilitate the general process of children’s services planning (as set in Part 3).
135. The persons and organisations to which this “duty of assistance” applies are:
(a) any “other service provider” and Scottish Ministers (but only insofar as the information, advice or assistance requested relates to a children’s service or related service which these persons contribute to providing). Section 7(1) lists the “other service providers” as –
(i) the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland;
(ii) the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service;
(iii) the Principal Reporter;
(iv) the National Convener of Children's Hearings Scotland;
(v) the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service; and
(vi) an integration joint board established by order under section 9 of the Public Bodies (Joint Working) (Scotland) Act 2014.
(b) any of the persons mentioned in section 10(1)(b). These are –
(vii) organisations, whether or not formally constituted, which represent the interests of people who use, or are likely to use, any children’s service or related service in the local authority area;
(viii) organisations, whether or not formally constituted, which provide a service in the area which, if that service were provided by either the local authority, relevant health board, “other service provider” or Scottish Minsters, would be considered a children’s service or related service (for the purposes of children’s services planning),
(ix) social landlords who provide housing in the area of the local authority, and
(x) any such other persons as Scottish Ministers may by direction specify.
136. For an explanation of what is meant by “organisations […] which represent the interests” and “organisations […] which provide a service”, please see chapter “Section 10: Children’s Services Plan – Process”.
137. The term “information, advice and assistance” covers a range of activities which may be of benefit to children’s services planning and implementation. A request for assistance may come in the form of, among others, a request for data (e.g. on the number and characteristics of service users), a request for people to participate in a process (e.g. a planning group) or support in delivery (e.g. implementing an aspect of the plan). This breadth should enable a variety of different organisations to add value at different times.
138. A “reasonable request” is one which is relevant (in view of the person’s function), practicable (in view of the person’s capacity) and consistent with the person’s expected level of involvement in delivering the Children’s Services Plan. The reasonableness of a request will therefore be determined, in large part, by the person whose participation or contribution is being requested; what will be considered a reasonable request for one person may not be for another. For example, what would be a reasonable request of an “other service provider” (in terms of the provision of information, advice and assistance) may not be for independent organisations (and in particular those which receive no public funds).
139. However, while it is important that local authorities and health boards take into consideration the impact (e.g. the administrative and “opportunity” costs) which a request for information, advice or assistance may entail, they should not neglect the value smaller groups and organisations can bring. These smaller groups and organisations often play a critical role in safeguarding and improving the wellbeing of children, and while they may have less capacity to respond to a request for assistance, their insight can improve both the planning and implementation of Children’s Services Plans. One solution to this would be for a local authority and the relevant health board to offer relevant organisations a range of opportunities to provide assistance, allowing the groups and organisations to determine their own level of engagement. In respect to third sector organisations, this process could be facilitated by the local Third Sector Interface.
140. Finally, under section 14(3) the duty to comply with a request for assistance does not apply if the provision of the information, advice or assistance would:
(a) be incompatible with any duty of the person; or
(b) unduly prejudice the exercise of any function of the person.
141. This means if a person judges that fulfilling a request for assistance may be incompatible with another of their duties (such as those related to confidentiality or data protection), or that to do so would unduly prejudice them in exercising one of their functions (such as providing a service), they are entitled to refuse to comply with the request.