Coronavirus (COVID-19): Children and Families Collective Leadership Group minutes - 15 October 2020

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 15 October 2020.

Note of discussion and actions from 1 October meeting

Members had no further updates or queries.

Leadership Group – ‘lessons learned’ and next steps – further discussion

Bill Scott-Watson introduced the paper, along with several annexes, noting that these bring together many issues previously discussed at the LG, setting out some updates and actions, and asks for direct input/comment from LG members, particularly on points 4, 5, 6 and 9. Point 11 on youth justice had not been discussed at LG before, so Bill advised that Claire Lightowler has been allocated time to introduce that paper (Annex D). 


  • members to send any further comments via the LG Secretariat:

On points 4 (public information and access arrangements for family support) and 5 (role of education hubs and any additional support measures)

Bill Scott-Watson noted that this was discussed at the last LG meeting on 1 October 2020 and asked LG members what actions should be put in place and who would be best placed to lead on these. Key points from the discussion were as follows:

Recognition that actions 4 and 5 are linked in terms of local communication. There is a role for strategic leads and local children’s services partnerships in terms of reviewing their communication, ensuring pathways are clearly understood and publicised. For example, local partners noted that pathways to education hubs during national lockdown weren’t always clear, although statutory services thought they were following GIRFEC pathways.  Similar issues were noted around family support. These issues may have to be resolved locally rather than nationally.

This is all wider than just statutory organisations and we need to ensure that this reaches into universal health services, so that families who are not involved with statutory services can get support. For example, how would these processes align with maternity services, health visitors, family nurse partnership, etc.?

On point 5, if schools and nurseries have to close again, what is the expectation in terms of them providing support for families (beyond sending out school work)? Some staff have, informally, been supporting families who aren’t under any statutory provision. There is a question around what is good practice if the situation changes significantly.

  • Bill stated that the priority will be ensuring that schools and nurseries do not have to close
  • Karen noted that we may need to look at alternative provision for education hubs if they are needed again. Thinking about work with CERG, we may need a holistic strategic risk register across education and children’s services or risk thresholds across tiers – this could be more targeted than a blanket approach, e.g. perhaps only covering a specific year group
  • Douglas Hutchison confirmed that hubs been discussed during ADES escalation planning, taking into account the new context

It was noted that we need a read-across to SG colleagues in Early Learning and Childcare, as well as CERG. Eddie Follan has been having discussions with Alison Cumming (SG) around critical childcare.

The recognition of the wider context, including disabled children and young people was welcomed.  There is a need to ensure clear communications pathways for CYP who are educated outside of their local authority area. Allied Health Professionals often access disabled children and young people through schools and this should also be taken into account.

The point was made that the framing of ‘vulnerable’ children may have affected access to hubs for some CYP in lockdown. 

  • Karen noted that information from the previous lockdown showed that many families were adhering to national guidance and therefore not sending their children to hubs. If hubs are set up again during a further lockdown, national and local communication must be clear and consistent with regards to ‘vulnerable’ children

Michael Chalmers asked LG members how to make the right support available to the right people without potentially stigmatising or discouraging them by using terms such as ‘vulnerable’?

Comments from Teams chat:
‘Local partnerships absolutely should be thinking of the role of all partners – community and voluntary sector should be involved in all areas.’
‘This needs wider input than strategic leads in local authority areas – i.e. actively involve someone from Health Boards and acute services sector.’ 
 ‘Health boards are statutory members of the children services planning groups.’
‘The Promise Team would appreciate the opportunity to be involved in the discussion regarding this.’
‘Previous debate at strategic leads re: 'valuable' rather than vulnerable - our challenge would be understanding of this - additional support would be grounded in GIRFEC but risks muddle with purely educational interpretation - agree important to have further discussion on framing.’


  • Alison Gordon to raise the need to review communication, especially around pathways, at the next strategic leads meeting
  • Alison Gordon to ask strategic leads group to think about language and narrative – particularly around the use of ‘vulnerable’ – in order to not create further inequalities
  • NHS Chief Executives group to look into how family support can reach into universal health services (as suggested by Karen Reid in Angela Wallace’s absence)

On point 6 - disabled children, young people and families

Bill noted Annex A provides an update on three actions from the Disabled Children and Young People’s Advisory Group (DCYPAG) Bill noted that regarding the first update (arranging a GIRFEC deep dive for a future LG meeting), GIRFEC is covered by Bill’s new remit in his Directorate.

Jim Carle talked through the three actions in the paper. For action two (Return to School and Contingency Planning), Jim noted that one option would be for a disabled children and young people subgroup/short-life working group reporting to the LG – DCYPAG would be willing to lead and support this group. Membership of this subgroup would be key – we would need colleagues from COSLA, education, Allied Health Professionals, etc. and support from the LG.  For action three (Financial and Digital Poverty), Jim noted that the LG would benefit from an update on the different funds and strategies to support families to get online as there seems to be a lack of coordination in this area.

Karen noted that the return to school guidance is being revised – it is currently out for comment and then going to CERG in the next few weeks for sign off. Karen suggested that Jim’s asks could be reflected in the revised guidance. On contingency planning, Public Health Scotland and COSLA have issued outbreak management guidance and most local resilience partnerships are developing their own contingency planning, which will differ depending on local area and local need. 

Laura Meikle noted that, as part of reviewing the education recovery guidance, they have sought advice from the children and education subgroup on children’s matters, particularly in relation to access to therapeutic support as there are currently some restrictions there. In the following iteration of the guidance, there will be visible differences, showing how the guidance is developing following review.

Iona Colvin noted that there is ongoing work on planning and the work that Sara Hampson is leading on, which will pick up on some of the issues raised by Jim.

It was asked if, around Jim’s points on contingency planning, this could be linked to point 5 of Bill’s paper (role of education hubs) and lessons learned/best practice could be shared as there will likely be some crossover between vulnerable children and disabled children in terms of need.

  • Karen noted that it may be most valuable to feed that into HSCP chief officer network and Social Work Scotland


  • LG Co-Chairs to discuss the asks set out in the disabled CYP paper (Annex A), as well as the additional actions raised by Jim: for action 2, a disabled CYP LG subgroup led by DCYPAG; for action 3, an update to LG on the different funds and strategies to support families to get online
  • on NearMe Digital Development, Iona and Jim to discuss the IRISS-run NearMe in Social Services project
  • Alison Gordon to arrange for Jim Carle and Sara Hampson to attend the Social Work Scotland Children and Families Standing Committee next Friday (23 October), as support for disabled CYP support is on the agenda

On point 11 - impact of covid-19 on children and young people in contact with youth justice (Annex D)

Claire Lightowler talked through key points from her paper, adding that there were 23 children in prison and Young Offenders’ Institutions last week. There are issues with lack of family contact, lack of privacy and lack of access to justice - this has implications for suicide and self-harm. 78% of those 23 children are held on remand (not tried or sentenced). It appears that their status as children wasn’t taken into account in during formal decision making - while on remand, they are ineligible for early release.

Three key asks – Claire noted that the Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice (CYCJ) can produce materials and provide training but they still need help from system leaders on the following:

  • raising awareness of these children and their needs, especially the fact that they are still children, regardless of their circumstances or actions. In terms of emergency planning, Community Planning Partnerships needs to consider children in conflict with the law
  • raising awareness of the issues around remand (in lieu of being able to amend primary legislation or discuss directly with Ministers)
  • courts need to prioritise children and take their status and circumstances into account

Sam McCluskey noted that Police Scotland had seen an increase in child criminal exploitation and that digital inclusion can create more risks in that respect. 

Comments from Teams chat:
‘The Promise Team is keen to work with Claire on this.’
 ‘Social Work Scotland are hosting two sessions on Contextual Safeguarding next month - which would also be helpful to hook into in relation response to increase in exploitation.’
’What Claire is calling for aligns with international children's rights COVID-related guidance, especially the call to reduce numbers of children in detention especially those on remand‘
 ‘A reminder that this links closely to the recently launched secure care standards and the momentum gathering there.’


  • Karen Reid to take Claire’s paper to the SOLACE Local Authority Chief Executives’ network to spread the message through Community Planning Partnerships and Chief Officer Groups
  • Claire Lightowler will send Sam McCluskey more information on the targeting of children already known to police for Sam to consider and pick up on
  • Eddie Follan will ask the COSLA Children and Young People Sounding Board to consider these issues
  • Eddie Follan and Claire Lightowler to set up a further COSLA meeting in November to discuss
  • Maggie Fallon to discuss mental health-specific issues with Claire Lightowler
  • Liz Murdoch to raise issues with SG Justice Board – especially on remand – and follow up with Claire
  • Jim Carle to contact Claire Lightowler on his offer of support, as it’s likely some of these young people will be affected by learning difficulties or disabilities
  • Helen Happer to contact Claire Lightowler to discuss the rise of young people on remand, in order take this into the discussions between the Care Inspectorate, other inspectorates and other bodies as part of the National Preventive Mechanism

On point 9 – digital inclusion (annex B)

Bill introduced the paper and invited comment.

It was noted that although digital inclusion is important, non-verbal clues are crucial and there is a risk because these clues may not be as visible on a screen/phone.  Practice issues with mitigating risks around this.


  • LG Secretariat to schedule an update on digital inclusion at a future meeting

Family support – update and next steps

Bill Scott-Watson introduced the paper on behalf of Laura Holton and Elspeth Hough and asked for LG members views on the three recommendations in point 15 of the paper, especially the membership and remit of the Delivery Group. Bill noted that the asks in Annex A of the paper are for all LG members to help deliver collectively.

It was noted that we need to continue to separate support to families from holistic support for families as these are different. On Delivery Group membership, along with having the right membership, we need to develop capacity around the ‘how’ as well as the ‘what’, which colleagues such as the Children and Young People’s Improvement Collaborative (CYPIC) could help with. We also need the right measurements from the beginning of the Group to ensure our actions are having the intended effect for families.

It was noted that in point 7 of the paper, the focus on commissioning is very welcome but that any new commissioning system must be fully collaborative, rather than the third sector prescribing their own model. A connection between all types of commissioning would be welcome, such as The Promise and adult social care review. On the delivery group, senior hands-on expertise from local government would be helpful. The £4m allocated for family support must be used wisely.

Because commissioning is a Promise recommendation, this will encourage all LG members to look at this further. On the Delivery Group, a read-across to ADES and education would be useful.

It is crucial to have one approach to family support across health and policy to ensure we reach as many families as possible. 

  • Michael noted that the Directors Group in SG covers all aspects of children issues, including health, and asked members to feedback on any models from SG which may have good intentions but potentially duplicate or run parallel to other, similar models

There should be a more explicit link to Programme for Government commitment on The Promise which talks about a coordinated approach from SG and agencies.

  • Michael agreed and noted he was happy to do more work through the Directors Group in SG

Comments from Teams chat:
‘Agree with the need to work across different policy domains - specifically health. The Rights, Respect, Recovery national alcohol and drugs strategy proposes investment in the whole family approach (WFA) and family inclusive practice. There is a likely investment to be steered through Alcohol and Drug Partnerships – this could add to the totality of impact locally and ensure that families affected by substance use are well covered, that existing services improved and aligned, made more integrated and holistic.’ Neil Hunter is happy to discuss as he is Chairing the WFA group.
‘Flagging up the cross government working group that Bill's paper outlines on domestic abuse; this is a critical area needing aligned with Family Support.’


  • Eddie Follan to contact Karen Reid regarding Annie Gunner Logan’s suggestion on the need for hands-on local government expertise.
  • Iona Colvin to speak to social care review delivery group on coordination on commissioning approaches.
  • Further liaison and coordination agreed.
  • members to send any further comments via the LG Secretariat:

Launch of The Promise Engagement Strategy, #KeepThePromise

Fiona outlined the previous Care Review/Promise elements that have been brought to LG meetings and noted that many vacancies on The Promise team are currently unfilled due to recruitment delays. Fiona introduced her paper and talked through the  slides.

Karen Reid noted that at 16 October Perth & Kinross Council Executive Team meeting, they will be discussing The Promise (and family support services), and also that they will be running briefing sessions for elected members.
Has there been interest across Scotland from each local authority area and how are conversations are going with the children’s services planning partnerships?

  • Fiona advised that Zoom sessions that were initially set up to discuss these were oversubscribed, hence the change to pre-recorded webinar format. They have analysed attendees of Zoom calls and webinars and seen widespread coverage across sectors and areas, with Fiona chasing up the missing sectors/areas
  • have all children’s services within a local authority area been involved (as opposed to local authorities themselves)?

The Promise team is well connected with a mix of national and local and a mix of service and system. Most organisations are collaborating with one another and that will likely be a condition of the Promise Partnership Fund to ensure the necessary collaboration happens.

We also need engagement with adult services and adult care services as we won't get systems change if people see this as something relevant only for children. This is challenging especially at present when all adult services are so focused on getting through Covid.

  • the Promise have been engaging with adult services and vice-versa, including substance abuse, domestic abuse and justice, as children can end up in care as a consequence of these. The Promise is also in contact with the adult social care review, as there are shared stakeholders and common themes, like transition

Comments from Teams chat:
‘Many lessons from Joint Investigative Interviewing (JII) on working across local authorities we will look to share widely.’
 ‘Agree - JII is a good model for understanding the barriers and bridges of wider implementation.’



The Chair informed members that:

As part of strengthening the links between the Leadership Group and the Children, Young People and Families Advisory Group, the Chair asked if members have any themes they would like the Advisory Group to consider in advance of the next Leadership Group meeting.

  • Iona attends the Advisory Group and stated she ask members to explore the impact of Covid. The Group is currently doing work on consultation with children and young people, and Young Scot are about to run Lockdown Lowdown again – the Advisory Group is discussing this with them and how it will fit with the next steps for the LG, which will link into other groups such as DCYPAG

The next meeting is two weeks from now, Thursday 29 October, 14.00-16.00. The prospective agenda includes an item on child health data and an opportunity for the Cross-Cutting Delivery Circle – which is a workstream under the Social Renewal Advisory Board – to present emerging proposals relevant to DCAF, the Promise team and wider policy interests and to seek the Leadership Group’s input and feedback on these.     


Attendees and apologies

Chair: Karen Reid

Meeting participants


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

Additional meeting participants:

  • Bill Scott-Watson, SG Interim Deputy Director for Strategy, GIRFEC and the Promise, C and F Directorate
  • Claire Lightowler, Director of the Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice (CYCJ)
  • Liz Murdoch, SG Youth Justice Team Leader
  • Mairi Macpherson, SG Deputy Director, Improving Health and Wellbeing, C and F Directorate
  • Sarah Hampson, SG Support to Disabled Children and Young People Team Leader
  • Tara Clark, SG Promise Policy Hub
  • David Hannigan, SG Promise Policy Hub
  • Leadership Group secretariat: Sara Dodds, Anne-Marie Conlong and Chris Lindores
  • apologies from Laura Holton and Elspeth Hough
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