Coronavirus (COVID-19): Children and Families Collective Leadership Group minutes - 18 June 2020
Minutes from the meeting of the group on 18 June 2020.
Attendees and apologies
Chair: Iona Colvin
- Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES) - Douglas Hutchison
- 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 - Laura Caven, apologies from Eddie Folan
- Education Scotland - apologies from Gayle Gorman
- Independent Care Review - Fiona McFarlane, Thomas Carlton, apologies from Fiona Duncan
- Inspiring Children’s Futures, University of Strathclyde - Jennifer Davidson
- NHS Chief Executives - Angela Wallace
- Police Scotland - apologies from Sam McCluskey
- Public Health Scotland - Diane Stockton
- Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) - Neil Hunter
- Scottish Government - Bill Alexander, Laura Meikle, Ann Holmes, Joanna Mackenzie (deputising for Kate Smith)
- SOLACE - Karen Reid, apologies from Grace Vickers
- Scottish Social Services Council - Phillip Gillespie
- Social Work Scotland - Alison Gordon
Additional meeting participants:
- Fiona Howe and Fiona Clements, SG Looked After Children Unit
- Bill Scott-Watson, SG Deputy Director Care Protection and Justice Division
- Wendy Mitchell, Professional Adviser, Health
- Sara Dodds, Leadership Group Co-ordination
Items and actions
Note of last meeting on 11 June [paper 07/01]
There were no requested amendments to the note. Actions related to the session on domestic abuse and children and young people were covered under the item below.
Domestic abuse and children and young people (CYP) ‘deep dive’ [paper 07/02]’
Sara Dodds stated that paper 07/02 aimed to summarise the key issues and actions arising from the LG meeting on domestic abuse and CYP on 11 June. She noted that further advice and information provided by SG colleagues was added as ‘post-meeting notes’ and further information would be added following wider engagement. Sara advised that she had contacted the guest contributors to thank them for their rich presentations and to invite their comments on the paper and involvement in the next steps. The actions (if agreed) are now to be assigned leads and to be reviewed at a future LG meeting to assess progress on the immediate priorities, as well as longer term change.
Members agreed that the issues and actions were accurately captured in the paper, and it set out a joined-up approach with clear next steps which can be implemented. Alison stated that, in addition to these actions, there is a need to ensure connections continue to be made across government and partners (in particular, with the justice system) on primary prevention and on responses to domestic abuse; to ensure we have a long-term and holistic approach. Iona, noted that she had been in contact with justice colleagues following the LG discussion last week and that she had received a positive response and will be following-up.
There were updates on some of the actions following the session last week:
- Sam McCluskey confirmed (via email prior to the meeting) that she had contacted Police Scotland’s National Domestic Abuse Co-ordination Team, and that there is a lot of work underway across Police Scotland which will be captured and shared with the LG
- Karen advised that she had taken two issues to the SOLACE Network and asked Chief Executive to ensure: 1) Violence Against Women Partnerships are linking in and maximising their relationship with their local Women’s Aid organisations; and 2) CYP have access to ELC and Education Hubs under the new ‘vulnerable’ definition. Chief Executives agreed to take both of these issues forward with their Chief Officer Groups for discussion and assurance.
- all - email any further comments on the paper by close 24 June to: Covid19CandF@gov.scot
- LG secretariat – to set a date for follow-up session to discuss progress on the actions & next steps (involving contributors to the 11 June session)
- Iona – to share paper 07/02 with justice colleagues and meet to discuss join-up of work on the route map and issues relating to domestic abuse
- Sam – to share report of work underway by Police Scotland on domestic abuse at the LG follow-up session
Support for kinship families [paper 07/03]
Fiona Howe and Fiona Clements introduced paper 07/03 and set out the ways in which the COVID-19 circumstances has both created new challenges for kinship families, as well as exacerbating existing underlying issues. At the outset of lockdown the Kinship Forum was established and the learning and evidence from that Forum has informed this paper. The proposed Kinship Care Collaborative is to bring people together to develop approaches to improve practice and improve the lives of the CYP.
Claire Burns reported that CELCIS are working with the SG to develop plans for supporting the Collaborative, which is a key part of the delivery of the Independent Care Review (ICR). Claire emphasised this not just about sharing good practice and networking, rather about working with staff to support and promote change in practice in a local area (building on the work on PACE). She reported that a recent survey about permanence planning highlighted that there has been flexible and responsive work across local areas to continue kinship care assessments.
Members welcomed the paper and provided a range of comments:
- the issues are long-standing and action welcomed, especially as more children are entering kindship care
- co-ordination is needed across different systems and structures to ensure the underlying and long-standing issues are addressed. This will require collaboration with a range of partners (including ICR, Social Work Scotland (SWS), Chief Social Work Officers, and COSLA) and strong links with the family support work being led by the LG
- a key challenge is to find an approach which balances the needs of kinship carers, CYP, and birth parents, and crucially, keeps children at the centre. In response, Fiona Clements confirmed the central focus is on children and to ensure the best outcomes for children, carers and the family as a whole have to be supported (including relationships with birth parents). She highlighted that from the engagement to date there is a clear and immediate need to enable carers to understand and respond to the trauma the CYP have experienced in their lives (which has been exacerbated in current COVID-19 context)
- it was noted that the health needs of CYP in kinship care can often be overlooked and health practitioners (in particular, maternity and health visiting services) are critical to prioritising their health needs and improving health outcomes (e.g. oral health, immunisations, bonding and attachment, and emotional wellbeing)
- suggestions for future considerations included: expanding kinship care beyond grandparents and considering the role of other family members (such as aunts and uncles); and providing support to birth parents (as ICR testimonies from kinship carers reported that the support they were offered was not extended to birth parents to enable them to work towards a rehabilitation plan)
It was questioned whether the role and remit of the LG extended, beyond the immediate COVID-19 issues, to some of the bigger issues set out in the paper. In response, Iona noted that many other structures have temporarily been suspended and the role of the LG is to address the impacts of COVID-19 on children and families; to ensure the best outcomes as lockdown restrictions are eased and we move through the ‘route map’. She stated that kinship carers have undoubtedly been affected in the current circumstances and will be living with the impacts for quite some time; so the focus is on how we get work underway now and progress these as part of the ICR implementation to enable lasting change.
- all - email any further comments on the paper by close 24 June to: Covid19CandF@gov.scotCovid19CandF@gov.scot
- Fiona Howe and Fiona Clements - to follow up with ICR, COSLA, SWS and other partners to further develop the work, make connections with other work underway and report back to the LG on next steps at a future date
‘Route map’ updates
Immediately prior to the meeting Iona shared a slide which summarises the changes related to the move to Phase 2 of the ‘route map’ announced by the First Minister earlier today. The following updates were provided:
Services for children and families (Bill Alexander)
Proposed that general support (i.e. not restricted to children with plans) within social work services fits with the Phase 2 terms of up to three households gathering (up to a maximum of eight people). Therefore this general support will need to comply with these terms, unless there is a plan of intervention with families.
Updated that SWS have published advice on contact with children, families and other significant people.
Up until Phase 2 the focus of contact has largely been on managing risk, and as we now move through Phase 2 to Phase 4 of the ‘route map’, contact will be broadened to support a wider range of CYP (e.g. including issues related to disability, transitions, permanence planning, adverse experiences/stress). Fortnightly meetings are in place with SWS to work on the implementation of the ‘route map’. Chief Social Work Officers are concerned about the pressure on budgets and capacity to respond.
There will be continued review of COVID-19 professional guidance. The residential childcare guidance was updated this week, in particular to take account of Test and Protect. Further work will be undertaken on that, as well as guidance on direct contact, home visits, and the supplementary child protection guidance.
Further work will also be undertaken on respite across children’s and adults’ services, and the issue of group respite.
Children’s Hearings System (Neil Hunter and Elliot Jackson)
Offices in Glasgow and Stirling have reopened and further offices will be opened next week, they will begin to work on rota and notification of hearings (with an aspiration for these to commence mid-July, depending on a wide range of variables).
Due to physical distancing measures opening up hearings centres will not significantly increase capacity, so virtual hearings will continue and options to use physical spaces to hold face-to-face hearings are being considered (with the focus on quality of engagement and participation, rather than volume).
There is also a range of issues related to the current backlog in courts and work is being continued on this.
There is activity with panel members to assure them on a safe return to face-to-face hearings. A survey with panel members established that a high majority are keen to return to face-to-face hearings and willing to adopt measures required. However, there has been a lot of learning from the virtual hearings which will inform the longer term reform work. It’s likely that a hybrid model will emerge.
Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) (Joanna Mackenzie)
SG ELC Directorate widened its scope at the start of the pandemic to whole market, not just the statutory provision of ELC. As a consequence the expansion to 1140 hours has had to be paused and there is an ongoing conversation with local authorities and the sector about the capacity there is to deliver that commitment.
Work is underway on the provision of critical childcare and the provision over the summer. Announcements are due to be made on this. Other childcare centres, beyond critical childcare, are not due to open until Phase 3. Guidance on informal childcare is currently under development and being informed by health protection advice.
Updates are being provided to families through the Parentclub website and communication with organisations across the sector.
Schools update (Laura Meikle)
Guidance has been published on reopening of schools, the curriculum and on continuity of learning, which have a strong focus on wellbeing as children move to the blended learning model. There is work underway to develop plans for assessing how CYP are coping with the move to a blended learning model.
Local authorities are currently developing their local plans and there has been significant media coverage of the issues.
Transitions have been previously discussed at the LG. The guidance on continuity of learning has a specific section on transitions. In addition, an enabling power has been provided to local authorities through the continuity direction to allow some physical transitional visits to take place where particularly beneficial (with the majority taking place virtually).
Education Scotland are providing significant support to parents/carers and practitioners. Guidance has been published for school staff on supporting the mental health and wellbeing of CYP and staff.
There has been announcement stating that there is funding available to provide free school meals through the summer holidays, with work underway with COSLA on putting that in place.
Work also underway to look at issues of attendance management in the context of a blended learning model.
Karen added that whilst significant progress has been made across all the workstreams of the COVID-19 Education Recovery Group (CERG), there is a considerable amount more to be done (including on ELC, definitions in the context of critical childcare, maximising educational learning). She highlighted the significant amount of work which is being undertaken by ADES colleagues across all local authorities in relation to their statutory responsibility for education. Douglas noted that the new expectation of 50% attendance in schools had presented significant challenges and a lot of work is being undertaken in the lead up to the end of the school year (next week).
Health services (Ann Holmes)
Health services in maternity and early years have continued in an adapted form during lockdown to date, and there is work underway in line with the ‘route map’ to make plans for a complete return to face-to-face services.
Ann suggested that the health guidance as a result of that work is integrated with the other guidance relating to CYP and links made with health and wellbeing work being undertaken in the context of schools. Angela and Helen agreed that the integration of guidance would be a good opportunity for supporting coherence and partnership working.
In the ‘Zoom Chat’ it was noted COSLA members have concerns about school nursing provision in terms of the return to school – this to be followed up as an action.
Children in Scotland feedback
Jackie stated that she had received significant comments and feedback from the organisations Children in Scotland (CiS) represent, the additional support needs helpline, and wider parental representative groups. Whilst there is admiration for the significant national and local work underway in this challenging context, there are a range of issues which the organisations and individuals represented believe should be addressed:
- an apparent lack of clarity about what blended learning means and the need to consider potential impacts on parents/carers (especially those under greatest stress). There could be improved communication with parents/carers about blended learning to avoid confusion and to get them on side with this national effort
- there is a need to reflect on the role of Children’s Services Planning Partnerships. To what extent have they been involved in planning and working alongside in the efforts to date?
- it appears that there is a missed opportunity to provide a better summer experience for CYP. Summer holidays start in less than a fortnight, how many CYP know what they are going to be doing? There are workers (e.g. youth workers on furlough) and volunteers who could be utilised as part of a better offer for excellent summer holidays and successful blended learning
there has been a lot of good work on guidance, but there is an apparent need for greater transparency about finance and more thinking about the bigger picture.
There appears to be a resources dispute between national and local government that is perceived to be resulting in a lack of trust in the system (which, from international evidence of pandemics, has been found to be very important for recovery).
In response to the feedback communicated by Jackie:
- Douglas stated that the issues are complex and are not as simple as has sometimes been portrayed in the media. There are not only questions about resources, but a range of complexities related to 2m physical distancing and the limitations of school buildings and other spaces, teacher numbers, transport options, class sizes, school timetabling etc
- Karen reflected that it was clear that we’ve not got it right for CYP and families, and there is a need to improve communication. Karen stated that in the work being taken forward, the focus on CYP and families is the key driver. She noted that most local authorities have not yet finalised and communicated their plans for blended learning, and a lot of the media and social media reaction has focused on only one local authority plan
- Fiona McFarlane stated that what we know from ICR that relationships keep CYP safe. With a blended learning model ELC and education professionals will have much lower levels of contact with CYP (potentially only 1 day a week), this is concerning and the implications for safety need to be considered
- Joanna Mackenzie advised that the ELC Directorate has undertaken significant work on summer plans led by Kate Smith (who was unable to attend today’s meeting due to illness). The plans are routed in local communities and draw on a wide workforce. Further information will be shared with the LG on this
- Bill noted that a paper on a whole system approach to summer holidays had been planned for this meeting, but it was it decided to take it off the agenda as plans were still under development. However, it would have been good for the LG to see that in the context of this discussion, so he will bring a paper on that to LG and CERG
- in the ‘Zoom chat’ Annie stated that she strongly agrees with the points communicated by Jackie and that the same issues are being raised by CCPS members
Iona welcomed the broad remit of LG to look across all services impacting on CYP and families, and the offer of integrated guidance across these services. Whilst this does not resolve the issue of financial resources, it ensures we’re maximising the value of our existing investment in our workforce. The role of LG is to consider how we all work together to find collective responses to the significant challenges being presented, this inevitably includes financial challenges. Iona stated that the CERG funding workstream group are considering funding for ELC, education and also CYP services in the wider context (this process is still underway). Iona reported that she is still working with colleagues on financial resourcing in relation to children’s services. She stated that the focus of the LG is on CYP who are most disadvantaged and ensuring that inequalities are not exacerbated by the circumstances which have arisen as a result of COVID-19.
*Further points discussed in the ‘zoom chat’ in relation to the ‘route map’ and role of the LG are detailed at the end of this note.
- Ann and colleagues – to integrate health and wider children’s services guidance relating to the ‘route map’
- Laura C and Wendy Mitchell - to discuss role of school nursing, as raised by COSLA members
- Joanna Mackenzie – to provide further information regarding ELC Directorate plans for the summer
- Bill – to prepare a paper on whole system approach to the summer holidays for LG and CERG consideration
- Iona – to report back on resourcing work and bring to LG for consideration
Leadership Group operation [paper 07/04]
The LG was invited to comment on the frequency of meetings over the summer period, the processes for papers and meetings, and future agenda items. Following the discussion it was agreed that:
- the LG would move to fortnightly meetings to alternate with CERG which has now also moved to fortnightly meetings. The LG will meet next week on 25 June and fortnightly thereafter
- the SG will aim to plan agenda items earlier in advance and issue papers earlier as far as possible
Suggestions regarding agenda items included:
- revisiting the issues set out by Jackie today and the LG response.
- whole system approach to summer (as noted above)
- more in-depth look at issues (similar to the domestic abuse session) and a focus on driving forward key deliverables.
- all - email any further comments and suggestions relating to the LG operation to: Covid19CandF@gov.scot
Iona provided an update on the next steps for the family support work:
- members were thanked for taking time to read and comment on the papers to date
- Elspeth Hough and Laura Holton are currently collating comments from the LG and others and drafting recommendations for consideration by the Deputy First Minister. This paper will be shared with LG for comment next week
- Iona is currently working on funding issues
- work is also planned on engaging with families on the development of this work and these plans will be progressed with the Advisory Group (discussed previously with the LG on 4 June)
The LG was reminded that the deadline for comments on the narrative is Friday 19 June and members were invited to provide examples of how services have been addressing the challenges being experienced by children and families. SG - to circulate to LG for comment, the draft paper with family support recommendations for the Deputy First Minister.
- all – to send comments on the evidence narrative and examples of service adaptations by 19 June to: CandFVulnerabilitiesNarrative@gov.scot
*Additional ‘Zoom Chat’ discussion in relation the ‘route map’ and role of the LG:
Face covering on public transport is applicable to 5yrs plus this and social distancing could be traumatic for them.
Depending on clinical advice, respite services may need to operate on a restricted basis, in particular, fewer children at one time (or even one at a time). There will be some significant resource issues relating to that, so providers would need to understand how costs would be met at less than full occupancy’. It was also noted there are also some challenges around for providers who offer more tailored individual support/respite due to the lack of community facilities/activities/safe space which be accessed.’
It was queried whether free school meal payments could be a cash/bank approach rather than vouchers for specific shops. It was advised that many local authorities are making direct payments to families into a bank account, and that cash based approaches are highlighted within flexible approaches but some authorities need multiple approaches in order to ensure appropriate delivery.
If the education resources group is going to have a broader remit can we call it something different?
Re. summer provision are there lessons we can draw on from the earlier stages of the pandemic, where third sector services, who know their communities, were able to ID those families who were hungry to provide them with food. Is this the kind of moment again, where need to recognise the urgency and act highly flexibly?
The LG needs its own ‘route map’ and clarity about what we need to achieve before we handover to other existing and new delivery structures.
Members of the LG can raise profile of the non-covid harms that need to be weighed up against the covid harms quite vocally. Dianne happy to discuss the work Public Health Scotland are doing on this if helpful.
LG an important forum for ensuring overview of the current landscape and this vital for the implementation of the ICR.
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