Children's Hearings Redesign Board minutes: January 2024

Minutes of the meeting held on 18 January 2024.

Attendees and apologies

  • Ian Donaldson, Scottish Government, Chair  (ID)

  • Jillian Gibson, COSLA (for Laura Caven, joint Chair) (JG)

  • Neil Hunter, Principal Reporter, Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (NH)

  • Elliot Jackson, National Convener, Children’s Hearings Scotland (EJ)

  • Lynsey Byrne, Social Work Scotland (LB)

Supporting officials

  • John Urquhart, COSLA (also for Laura Caven) (JU)

  • Tom McNamara, Scottish Government (presenting) (TMN)

  • Emma Wilson, Scottish Government (presenting, minute taker) (EW)


  • Laura Caven, COSLA

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

Ian Donaldson welcomed all to the inaugural Redesign Board meeting, thanking the members for agreeing to serve on the Board. He further explained that in their response to the Hearings System Working Group’s report published prior to Christmas, Ministers had assigned significant review, delivery, oversight and non-legislative redesign functions to the Board, insofar as those related directly to the hearings system. He acknowledged the importance of the Board forging and developing strategic links with wider public service actors and strategic leadership networks, in order to attend to the wider concerns and potential improvement work in areas of responsibility beyond the system’s scope. The tight initial membership of the Redesign Board aligned therefore with its purpose. Board members represented  the organisations that had the core statutory authority and accountability. The group should seek to be action-oriented and to drive things forward in a very practical way across 2024 and 2025. 

Ian Donaldson acknowledged comments from Board members about the need for focus, prioritisation and realism in the Board’s work. Neil Hunter and Elliot Jackson noted the demands and constraints imposed by the wider resourcing and pre-existing reform landscapes.

Draft Terms of Reference

The Board discussed the draft terms of reference and agreed a number of amendments. There was general acceptance of the tabled draft but the following changes were raised, discussed and accepted:

  • The addition of a section on voice that will address the inclusion of the views of children in the Board’s work
  • The insertion of the word “appropriate” before “pace of delivery” in the Membership section
  • Clarity that the usual rhythm of proposed quarterly meetings can be varied as appropriate according to emerging priorities and deliverables
  • The setting out of proposals for reporting – including but not limited to how the group reviews what it has done at each meeting; and on when there should be a formal review of the Board’s progress
  • A recognition of the importance of sequencing of activity – noting the criticality of logging, and responding to, other significant care and justice developments in Scotland

Clarity was sought about the reference to academics and whether the nature of their involvement had been decided. Officials clarified that the extent and nature of any involvement for academics would be for the Board to consider and decide.


Updated Terms of Reference to be circulated in advance of the Redesign Board’s next meeting.

Scottish Government presentation on response to the ‘Hearings for Children’ report

Tom McNamara and Emma Wilson from the Scottish Government gave a short presentation on the Scottish Government response, including background on the small number of recommendations declined by Ministers and outline suggestions for how the Board might wish to organise itself in relation to proposed identified workstreams. Slides would be provided to the group and published on the Redesign Board website. A general discussion followed on the need for proper programming and sequencing of the Board’s responsibilities and priorities.

Reflections on the Scottish Government response and discussion on Redesign Board priorities

This section of the meeting included consideration of the workstreams paper that had been sent to group members and would be published on the Redesign Board website.

Ian Donaldson emphasised the need for clarity about which of the recommendations are being covered in which workstream, what is the Board’s remit in relation to each, and how that could be communicated to others.

Board members considered  the terms and the implications of the Scottish Government response. There was acknowledgement of the value of the detailed cross-policy analysis, and the necessary space which had been created for further work by responding to many of the recommendations in a conditional or nuanced way, and by highlighting the need for further exploration or evidence-gathering.

Several group members expressed positive views about the ambition and ethos / direction of travel reflected in the ‘Hearings for Children’ (HfC) report, expressing a hope that the Board could be inspired and guided by the clear positive potential within some of the recommendations and by their underlying intent.  Board members agreed on the importance of preserving the value of the HfC report’s narrative and ambition.

The scale of the task involved with dealing comprehensively with the HfC report, the Government’s response and the associated task of redesign  was raised by several Board members. 

There was a broader discussion around the intervening developments since the preparation and May 2023  publication of the HfC report - especially in terms of the policy, legal and resourcing contexts. 

Lynsey Byrne noted the broad and fundamental points raised in Chapter 1 of the HfC report alongside the need for the Redesign Board to be aware of the wider context and the significance of workforce issues. The importance of engaging appropriately with the workforce was highlighted along with the need for clarity on policy matters such as the National Care Service and National Social Work Agency.

Noting the absence of social work from the membership of the Hearings System Working Group (HSWG), Board members agreed with Lynsey Byrne that it would be important that the forward work ensure needed to ensure that any recommendations relating to the social work profession fully reflected their perspective or experiences. 

The Board agreed that capacity and attention aimed at protecting the safety and  operational integrity of the current hearings system was vital to the children and families served by it. That needed to be factored into the Board’s programme of work and pace of change. 

Ian Donaldson summarised the discussion as demonstrating that sequencing presented as the key early issue for the group. He recognised the need to reflect the changing context, while not losing sight of the spirit, tone and the ambition of ‘Hearings for Children’. 


For the next meeting, Ian Donaldson and Jillian Gibson would like to see proposals on how the workstreams could be progressed – Ian Donaldson invited comments in writing by the end of January about the content of the workstreams paper and thoughts on potential programmes of work. 


The group asked that the next iteration of the workstream paper cover existing work that is underway and associated key milestones.


The group agreed that recommendation 7.3 is not a Practice and Procedure issue (resourcing / capacity/ strategic recommendation).


The group agreed that a sub-stream on digital capabilities should be considered.

Discussion on role of supporting groups – Planning Group, RIDG, CHIP

The Board agreed that the Planning Group that had been meeting on an informal basis since summer 2023 should be considered a sub group of the Redesign Board with a focus on delivery. It was noted that the Planning Group would be meeting the following week, and this remit would be communicated to them.

Any other business

No further items were raised.

Date of next meeting 

The group agreed to hold a further meeting towards the end of February. As joint chairs COSLA indicated that they were happy to share hosting arrangements for future meetings. 

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