Coronavirus (COVID-19): Children and Families Collective Leadership Group minutes - 12 November 2020

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 12 November 2020.

Attendees and apologies

Chair: Karen Reid

Meeting participants 


  • Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES) - Jennifer King, apologies from Douglas Hutchison
  • Care Inspectorate - apologies from Peter Macleod and Helen Happer
  • CELCIS, University of Strathclyde - Claire Burns
  • Children’s Hearings Scotland (CHS) - Elliot Jackson
  • Children in Scotland - Jackie Brock
  • Child Protection Committees Scotland - Tam Baillie (deputising for Alan Small)
  • Coalition of Care and support Providers in Scotland (CCPS) - Annie Gunner Logan 
  • COSLA - Eddie Follan, Jillian Ingram
  • Disabled Children and Young People Advisory Group (DCYPAG) - Jim Carle 
  • Education Scotland  - apologies from Laura-Ann Currie 
  • The Promise - Thomas Carlton, apologies from Fiona Duncan 
  • Inspiring Children’s Futures, University of Strathclyde - Jennifer Davidson
  • NHS Chief Executives - apologies from Angela Wallace
  • Police Scotland - Martin Maclean (deputy for Sam McCluskey)
  • Public Health Scotland - Debby Wason, Lynda Fenton
  • Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) - apologies from Neil Hunter
  • Scottish Government - Michael Chalmers, Iona Colvin, Carolyn Younie, Ann Holmes, Wendy Mitchell, Kate Smith, Ruth Christie (deputy for Angela Davidson), apologies from Sara Dodds
  • SOLACE - Grace Vickers
  • Scottish Social Services Council - Phillip Gillespie 
  • Social Work Scotland - Alison Gordon

Additional meeting participants:

  • Lesley Sheppard, SG Deputy Director, Care, Protection and Justice, Children and Families Directorate
  • Carolyn Wilson, SG Head of Supporting Maternal and Child Wellbeing, Children and Families Directorate
  • Daniel Boyle, SG Education Analysis Services, Learning Directorate
  • Justine Menzies, SG Education Analysis Services, Learning Directorate
  • Clare Simpson, Chair of the Advisory Group
  • Bill Scott-Watson, SG Interim Deputy Director, Strategy, GIRFEC and The Promise, Children and Families Directorate
  • Laura Holton and Elspeth Hough, SG Head of Family Unit, Children and Families Directorate
  • Leadership Group Secretariat: Anne-Marie Conlong, Chris Lindores and Claire Scott

Items and actions

Note of actions and discussion from 29 October meeting

All members content with the note as written and no updates on actions at this time.  


  • LG members to email LG Secretariat inbox with further comments or updates on actions

Scotland’s Strategic Framework update

Lesley Sheppard spoke about Scotland’s Strategic Framework, which was published late October and implemented on 2 November. There had been the first weekly review of allocation of levels with little movement this week. Lesley stressed that the perspective of children and families is feeding in to this review process, with rights, health and wellbeing central to this. 

A significant priority and focus is support for the most vulnerable. Lesley noted that the influence of the LG has brought the profile of the most vulnerable to the fore. Different restrictions are being kept under constant review to ensure they are proportionate to the risk of transmission. There is a balance to be struck between providing familiarity about what to expect at different levels and it is important to minimise the movement between levels while still being proportionate to the risk of transmission. Lesley stressed the challenge of ensuring complete alignment in such a volatile environment. 

Lesley stressed that we are working as hard as we can to streamline and clarify the guidance. The focus has been to bring clarity and guidance is due to be published the afternoon of 12 November. Communication is vital for children, young people and families and there is still a lot of work to be done on that front. Lesley highlighted that SG have worked closely with ParentClub and Young Scot, who have done brilliantly on this. 

Questions and discussion

The following key points were made in the discussion:

  • there are challenges for some families living on the boundaries of local authorities, where different authorities are taking different approaches. It was noted by Lesley that the updated guidance, due to be published on 12 November, should help with this
  • one member asked how we capture information about the impact on mental health when levels being initially applied and especially where levels change and restrictions are increased?
  • there are concerns over travel restrictions across different local authority areas for educational purposes and in particular that communication between local authorities and parents was not always happening as quickly as it should be. Eddie Follan advised that this concern had been raised at the last CERG meeting. Karen Reid confirmed that she and Eddie will follow up through COSLA and SOLACE
  • new Scottish Government marketing materials are more focused on trying to ask people not to tweak the rules due to personal circumstances. People are being urged not to look for loopholes and to follow the spirit, not the letter, of the rules. The new materials will be aimed towards young people but the loophole issue is a factor across all ages
  • there are challenges for practitioners, such as Health Visitors, who are looking at the Strategic Framework in terms of clinical practice which takes them across local authority boundaries.
  • Lesley acknowledged all of the challenges and noted that writing a strategic document that speaks to everyone is a challenge in itself
  • Iona Colvin noted that the existing guidance for social workers, home-visiting social care workers, residential childcare and contact for children in care is being revised and this will be circulated once it’s complete

Discussion from chat:
‘It would also be interesting to understand any impact on the care provision, of looked after children, when they are placed outwith their originating local authority.’
Unregulated activities guidance just published for info’


  • LG members to email LG Secretariat inbox with further queries or comments

COVID-19 child health data update

Daniel Boyle presented his slides, noting a generally positive picture from the data overall.

Daniel confirmed that LG members can share his slides within their organisations.

Questions and discussion

The following key points were made in the discussion:

How satisfied were we with the 2019 performance against target (with, for example, the 27-30 month review) and do the expectations for 2020 performance need to recalibrated because of COVID-19?

  • Carolyn Wilson noted that the 27-30 month review is going in right direction as the number of concerns has gone down and there seems to be an improvement on previous years - ultimately, a year-on-year improvement is the aim. Carolyn noted they don’t have access to the detail of the child health reviews - this will come out routinely as part of annual statistics due in April 2021, but they are working with Public Health Scotland (PHS) to interrogate this data sooner. One member noted it was an achievement to have maintained 2019 performance throughout 2020 but we need to get back on track with more ambitious targets. 
  • one member welcomed the data but noted that it doesn’t tell us about the state of children’s health across the nation. They added that we need to triangulate the data in order to meet our aspirations to improve the health of children and young people, especially for those in low Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) areas.
  • another member noted the importance of focusing on those in these SIMD areas when looking at inequalities.
  • Carolyn noted that the presentation is a readout of statistics from Public Health Scotland, so no triangulation or cross-referencing took place.

Anecdotal feedback from across the UK on breastfeeding indicated that rates may have increased because families had the space and time to bond with children without visitors.

How is this info (especially on A and E attendance) being cross-referenced with other information in terms of child protection?

  • Carolyn noted this is not cross-reference at a national level at the moment
  • Daniel noted they are looking at indicators through the SOLACE data group, exploring what can be correlated to understand the connections
  • Lesley Sheppard in chat: ‘The data on A and E attendance has certainly sparked discussion in Child Protection Team in SG and exploration is underway.’

We should consider the impact of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) when discussing vulnerabilities as, from international evidence, there are higher levels of alcohol abuse and teenage pregnancies during pandemics (although the concern is for the increased alcohol use across pregnancies at any age).

  • Carolyn noted that there is activity more generally around FASD and highlighted that lack of access to sexual health services across all ages during lockdown is a bigger question. She added that the number of teenage pregnancies in Scotland is very small so it’s difficult to make assumptions about any increase or decrease
  • Ann Holmes said that services have not noted any increase in teenage pregnancy but data on this is not available yet

Will the Universal Health Visiting Pathway look at how services such as NearMe and telephone compared with face-to-face contact? One question is that there may be more potential for abuse to go undetected when using digital/phone only.

  • Justine noted that there are two phases to the pathway evaluation – the first phase has just been completed, but the parent aspect of that had to be completely modified, reducing the reach. It did provide an opportunity bring in the Covid-19 specific questions
  • other outcomes are being explored with the Family Nurse Partnership (FNP) in relation to the use of telehealth as part of that model
  • Karen Reid informed members of the request to commission a short sharp 3 month deadline to go back to the Risk, Vulnerability and Public Protection Group to collate data and information on the impact of Covid-19 on children and adults across Scotland building on what is currently reported. LG members agreed to commission the Improvement Service to carry out this work and Karen and Michael will be in touch regarding this
  • one member suggested that CELCIS could be involved as they’ve just done a mapping of children’s data. LG members agreed that it would be ideal if PHS, Improvement Service and CELCIS could all work together

Discussion from chat:


  • LG Secretariat to circulate further details on health visitor universal pathway evaluation to LG members, provided by Carolyn Wilson and Justine Menzies
  • Jim Carle and Wendy Mitchell to discuss access to AHPs and equipment for disabled children and young people
  • Wendy Mitchell and Eddie Doyle to connect with Claire Burns, Tam Baillie/Alan Small and Jennifer Davidson on linking A and E data with child protection data
  • LG members to email LG Secretariat inbox with further queries or comments

Leadership Group Secretariat - update on forthcoming agenda items

Anne-Marie gave an update on a number of items confirmed for the remaining two meetings and also for looking ahead into the new year. 

Next meeting on 26 November:

  • update on CYP Advisory Group - Clare Simpson, current Chair of the Group, and Amy Woodhouse, Children in Scotland
  • update on Children’s Hearings recovery plan - Elliot Jackson and Neil Hunter
  • child poverty - the impact on the most vulnerable families and those who face multiple disadvantage – this will be a starter discussion where the NSPCC and Barnardo’s will present their Challenges from the Frontline report. This will be an opportunity to begin to explore the key findings and issues and then have a more dedicated session early next year for a deeper discussion around implications and actions for the LG and Scottish Government

10 December - final meeting of 2020:

  • update on the GIRFEC Refresh - Bill Scott-Watson and SG GIRFEC Team, Scottish Government
  • update on Digital inclusion - Felicity Sung, Bill Scott-Watson, Connecting Scotland
  • National Trauma Training Programme Update and learning from deep-dive events - Laura James (Improvement Service), Sandra Ferguson (NES), and Sharon Glen (Scottish Government)

Early in 2021:

  • update on youth work 
  • update on support for kinship families



Karen reminded members about the information that had been sent out with the meeting papers about the proposed Family Support Delivery Group. Nominations for membership should be sent to the SG Family Unit by 16 November. The first meeting is expected to take place on Thursday 19 November. 

Karen advised that following the 15 October LG meeting at which Jim Carle spoke about the impact of COVID-19 on children with disabilities, she has discussed with Jim and intends to ask the CYP Advisory Group to scope a piece of work, which would involve getting evidence and the narrative around the impact of disability and Additional Support Needs (ASN). LG members agreed to this. Jennifer King highlighted that this could tie in with Additional Support for Learning (ASL) Action Plan.

Thomas Carlton asked about progress in the work around investigating deaths of young people in care. Iona advised that this work is ongoing and she will bring this back to LG for further discussion.

Annie raised the question about some national groups being paused when Covid broke out. She asked if the national Child Protection Group will be restarted. Michael confirmed the Child Protection group will restart and others are being considered by Bill Scott-Watson to avoid duplication.


  • Michael Chalmers advised that a paper will be produced and circulated to see how the national groups fit with one another
  • members to e-mail suggested agenda items for future meetings to:
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