Coronavirus (COVID-19): Children and Families Collective Leadership Group minutes - 13 January 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Children and Families Collective Leadership Group (CLG) on 13 January 2022.

Attendees and apologies


  • Des Murray (Co-Chair), SOLACE
  • Peter Macleod, Care Inspectorate
  • Helen Happer, Care Inspectorate
  • Claire Burns, CELCIS
  • Fiona Dyer, Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice
  • Alan Small, Child Protection Committees Scotland
  • Neil Hunter, SCRA
  • Elliot Jackson, Children’s Hearings Scotland
  • Sheila Gordon, Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland (CCPS)
  • Jillian Gibson, COSLA
  • Laura-Ann Currie, Education Scotland
  • Jackie Brock, The Promise
  • James Carle, Disabled Children and Young People Advisory Group
  • Debby Wason, Public Health Scotland
  • Martin MacLean, Police Scotland
  • Claire McGuire, NHS NES
  • Alison Gordon, Social Work Scotland
  • Sarah Gadsden, Improvement Service
  • Laura Lamb, Scottish Social Services Council
  • Jude Turbyne, Children in Scotland

Scottish Government

  • Joanna MacDonald
  • Gavin Henderson
  • Phillip Gillespie
  • Lesley Sheppard
  • Lindsay MacDougall
  • Jane Moffat
  • Jennifer Hamilton
  • Donna Martin
  • Susan Stewart
  • Bryony Revell
  • Angela Davidson
  • Carolyn Wilson
  • Chris Gosling
  • Gordon Paterson
  • Mairi MacPherson
  • Rachael Dunk
  • Yvonne Gallacher

Other attendees

  • Angela Latta, Scottish Government (for agenda item two: latest developments in the pandemic)
  • Ann McKenzie, Scottish Government (for agenda item three: Child Poverty Delivery Plan)


  • Peter Donachie
  • Lorraine Henderson

Items and actions

Welcome and note of the last meeting

Michael Chalmers welcomed members to the meeting and introduced Des Murray as the group’s new Co-Chair on behalf of SOLACE. Michael thanked Grace Vickers for all the work she has undertaken for the group.

There were no amendments to the notes of the meetings on 9 and 16 December. The following actions have been taken following the meetings:

  • the Secretariat and Scottish Government Child Protection Team provided members on 23 and 24 December with links to supplementary National Child Protection Guidance and other updated guidance for children and family services in light of the Omicron variant
  • the Co-Chairs issued on 23 December a set of shared messages to senior leaders in health and other key services re-emphasising the need to prioritise the wellbeing of children and families during the latest phase of the pandemic. Organisations, where at all possible, must avoid redeployment of frontline staff with a role in the protection of children to minimise the impact on identification of families in vulnerable situations and their access to support

Centre for Excellence for Looked after Children in Scotland (CELSIS) and  Social Work Scotland (SWS) have provided information on the use of physical restraint in residential care settings.

Latest developments of the pandemic

Michael Chalmers updated members on the action being taken at national level to tackle the omicron variant and support children and family services. This included changes to self-isolation rules and the development of a revised strategic framework, due to be published in early February, to ensure that services are both resilient and flexible. Michael noted the impact of the pandemic on child development and early learning and the importance of addressing this through the work being undertaken across partners on family support, early learning and childcare. A debate on Family Support took place in the Scottish Parliament today.

Des Murray highlighted that staff absence rates across Health, Social Care and other services were around 25% and expected to continue at the same level for several weeks. The absences are due to a mix of COVID-19, self-isolation and winter seasonal illness and placing significant strains on services. There are also concerns over staff exhaustion, mental health and wellbeing. Mutual aid across local authorities and other resilience measures are being employed. As part of ongoing work to assist staff and maintain services, it is essential to ensure targeted and effective joined up working and avoid overlapping or disconnected initiatives.

Angela Latta discussed the work taking place to sustain child protection services and emphasised the importance of maintaining physical visits to children at risk of harm. The contribution of universal health and education services to child protection work is vital and the messages on avoiding redeployment of Health Visitors and Family Nurse Partnership staff should be reinforced over the coming weeks.  Carolyn Wilson reported that Health Visitor and Paediatric Services are experiencing significant staff pressures but services are being maintained. Only one Health Board is having difficulties in obtaining sufficient staff for ongoing vaccinations work.

Martin Maclean noted the pressure of staff absences on Police Scotland work. Regional mutual aid arrangements and deployment of specialist officers and probationary staff are helping to address the situation.  Critical services including child protection work are being maintained.

Phillip Gillespie confirmed that the data being received through the Workforce Development Group indicated that staff absences were around 25% and local resilience partnerships were taking a range of actions to maintain services. Phillip invited members to provide comments and views on further action that the Workforce Development Group can take at national level to support staff.

Elliot Jackson updated the group on the Children’s Hearing System. The situation feels less acute today than in mid-December. Significant planning work has taken place across Children's Hearings Scotland (CHS) and Scottish Children Reporter Administration (SCRA) to:

  • pivot hearings online from face to face through late December and January. Scenarios are being looked at for February and March. This move has been widely welcomed by partners such as Social Work and other professionals who attend hearings
  • prioritise key infants, children and young people who are in most need for a children’s hearing
  • scenario planning/impact assessments around the 25% reduction in the paid and unpaid workforces. Significant absences are not being seen as yet but organisational resilience across both organisations remains fragile. Wellbeing initiatives across the paid and unpaid workforces remain critical

Discussions are ongoing with Scottish Government officials regarding emergency powers. Preparatory work is also taking place in relation to the publication of the revised Strategic Framework to ensure a swift response to the new operating framework.

Alan Small raised concerns over the timescales for implementing the revised National Child Protection Guidance. Currently Child Protection Committees Scotland (CPCs) are working to a two year implementation plan with deadline of September 2023. Given the strain on services at present, there is a risk to achieving full implementation within the current timeframe. It would greatly assist CPCs if a statement of comfort could be provided indicating a degree of flexibility over implementation. Joanna MacDonald noted that there are variations across the country regarding the changes that need to be made in response to the revised guidance. Some areas only need to make limited changes to current practices while in others more extensive work is required. The situation will be kept under review with the aim of taking a pragmatic approach in challenging circumstances. This will include strong communications links with CPCs to identify issues early and provide support as required.        

Additional key points from MS Teams chat:

  • COSLA and SG released a joint statement yesterday regarding prioritisation of essential social care services
  • there was a query over when updated guidance on residential child care will be issued

Child Poverty Delivery Plan

Ann Mackenzie provided an update in the development of the next Child Poverty Delivery Plan. The first Delivery Plan was published in 2018 and set out four ambitious income-based targets to be met by 2030.  Interim targets have also been set to be met by 2023. Two further Delivery Plans are due in March 2022 and 2026 and these must set out how the targets will be achieved. The headline measure for relative poverty is to lift 140,000 children out of poverty by 2030 – reducing levels from 24% to 10%.

The Delivery Plan set out three key drivers of child poverty reduction:

  • increasing incomes from work and earnings
  • reducing household costs
  • maximising incomes from social security and benefits in kind

Building on these drivers, the main themes emerging from the consultations for the next Delivery Plan - and most closely linked to the Collective Leadership Group's (CLG’s) remit are:

  • the need to support priority families across all policy actions and address barriers related to stigma and discrimination
  • provision of whole family support with the recognition that there is a need to make this support easier to access for families
  • childcare is key to helping obtain secure employment with a need to address barriers to take-up and ensure flexibility of provision

Ann noted that independent projections are highlighting the challenge faced in meeting the interim targets: JRF estimate that, depending on the value of the Scottish Child Payment, around 22% to 23% of children will be in poverty in 2023 to 2024. However, the analysis will also show how initiatives undertaken in response to the first Delivery Plan, including the Scottish Child Payment, have prevented a worsening of child poverty.

Members made the following comments in response to the update:

  • there are significant examples of good practice showing how better linking of universal services in health and education can deliver whole family support. This includes work by North Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership involving collaborations across GP practices, mental health support, education services and other partners
  • the focus in the Delivery Plan on improving the provision of support and advice in relation to social security, Scottish Child Payment and debt support is essential for parents/carers with long term health conditions. Advice and access to respite care is also crucial for these families
  • the analysis work on the interim targets should reflect the importance of preventative spend in addressing child poverty. It also identify the broad range of pressures and impact of policy changes upon priority families. For example, the rise in cost of living expenses and changes to Universal Credit payments
  • Children’s Services Planning will have an important role in linking up work. Consideration should be given to streamlining the range of demands on local authorities and other partners for legislative and other reporting requirements. For example, returns covering a broader range of purposes than at present

Additional key points from MS Teams chat:

  • local authorities are place shaper/maker - Education Authority (ability to reform and align locally)
  • planning and investment authority (create the conditions for change)
  • infrastructure lead (free digital for all)
  • support for people hub (benefit maximisation)
  • housing for all etc. SOLACE would be happy to discuss some case studies/exemplars

COVID-19 recovery strategy

Simon Mair provided an update on work to take forward the COVID-19 Recovery Strategy.

The aims of the strategy are to:

  • address the systemic inequalities made worse by COVID-19
  • make progress towards a wellbeing economy
  • accelerate inclusive person-centred public services

The three main outcomes for delivering these aims are:

  • financial security for low income households
  • good, green jobs and fair work
  • wellbeing of children and young people

The implementation of the strategy is being overseen by the COVID-19 Recovery Strategy Programme Board co-chaired by the Deputy First Minister and COSLA President. The Programme Board will ensure a consistent, collaborative approach to implementing the strategy across partners and clear measurable impact of the actions being taken. The Programme Board will not replace or duplicate existing arrangements for undertaking individual actions within the strategy. The main focus will instead be on making use of a broad range of evidence and examples of good practice in service delivery to achieve the outcomes; driving forward collaborative change through new ways of working; and reducing risks to delivery through the high level political buy-in that the Programme Board provides.

The COVID-19 Recovery Strategy is closely aligned with the Child Poverty Action Plan and a range of other initiatives. Simon invited CLG to consider areas for collaborative working. Suggestions included:

  • The Children, Young People and Families Wellbeing Outcomes Framework
  • developing and implementing the Whole Family Wellbeing Fund
  • joint working on Keeping The Promise
  • mental health and wellbeing including better joint-working and more innovative approaches to supporting families under stress

Further discussions will take place between the COVID-19 Recovery Strategy team and CLG to take work forward.

Young people under 18 years old in custody

Joanna MacDonald provided an update on developments. The sub-group’s next meeting is on Tuesday 25 January. The Governor of Polmont YOI will be attending to discuss the action being taken in response to the concerns expressed by the sub-group and CLG itself. The sub-group’s report and recommendations will be provided to CLG at the end of February. 

Members raised issues on short term action to ensure sufficient capacity in secure care provision and longer term improvements to create a more sustainable model for secure care. This work should be discussed by CLG in conjunction with the sub-group’s report.

Action plan for 2022 to 2023

Due to lack of time, this item was deferred to a future meeting. 

AOB and close

A Joint Workshop between CLG and the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) Strategic Implementation Board on the Theory of Change work for embedding UNCRC across services is taking place on 24 January. Members received an invitation to the workshop on 23 December. 

Members have been invited to help promote the recruitment campaign for Children’s Hearing Panel Members running from 12 January until 9 February.

The Promise Implementation Plan will be issued before the end of the Scottish Parliamentary Year in June this year.

CLG’s next meeting is on 3 February and will include sessions on the impact on children of parents being in prison and children’s wellbeing budgeting work in Perth and Kinross.

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