Coronavirus (COVID-19): Children and Families Collective Leadership Group minutes - 21 May 2020

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 21 May 2020.

Attendees and apologies

Chair: Iona Colvin

Meeting participants: 

  • Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES) - Douglas Hutchison
  • Care Inspectorate - Helen Happer (deputising for Peter Macleod)
  • CELSIS, University of Strathclyde - Claire Burns
  • Children’s Hearings Scotland (CHS) - Elliot Jackson
  • Children in Scotland - Jackie Brock
  • Child Protection Committees Scotland - Alan Small
  • COSLA - Laura Caven (deputising for Eddie Folan)
  • Education Scotland - Gayle Gorman
  • Independent Care Review - Fiona Duncan, Fiona McFarlane
  • Inspiring Children’s Futures, University of Strathclyde - Jennifer Davidson
  • Police Scotland - DCS Sam McCluskey
  • Public Health Scotland - Debby Wason (deputising for Diane Stockton)
  • SCRA - Neil Hunter
  • Scottish Government - Iona Colvin, Children and Families Directorate, Bill Alexander, Children and Families Directorate, Laura Meikle, Learning Directorate, Ann Holmes, Chief Nursing Officer Directorate, Wendy Mitchell, Chief Nursing Officer Directorate, Kate Smith, ELC Directorate
  • SOLACE - Grace Vickers
  • Scottish Social Services Council - Phillip Gillespie
  • Social Work Scotland - Alison Gordon

Additional meeting participants from the SG:

  • Ann McKenzie, SG Social Justice Unit 
  • Laura Holton and Elspeth Hough, SG Heads of Family Unit 
  • Lindsay MacDougall, SG Child Protection 


  • Karen Reid, SOLACE
  • Amanda Croft, NHS Chief Executives Group
  • Annie Gunner Logan, CCPS

Items and actions

Update on SG child poverty actions - paper 03/01    

Ann McKenzie provided an update on SG actions to provide financial support for families. To date over £228 million of the total £350 million communities funding has been committed and all the work being undertaken is through the lens of the Fairer Scotland Action Plan and the Child Poverty Delivery Plan. During the discussion: 

  • it was emphasised that the actions to tackle poverty are fundamental and the actions being taken by services, need to be understood in this broader context
  • there was concern about losing the ground gained in tackling child poverty prior to the pandemic, and a questioned raised about the expected timings for delivery of the Scottish Child Payment. Ann stated that colleagues are working to a schedule of delivery of payments for under 6s, and that she would provide further information
  • there was interest in whether we know if investments are meeting need, reaching the right families, and who is being left behind/how we reach them. Ann outlined a number of strands of work underway to gain this deeper understanding, including: digital mapping exercise of where funding going; analytical work to gain feedback on whether reaching the right people and if the support is enough; and engagement with people working ‘on the ground’ supporting people worst affected by the current crisis
  • there was concern about families who will struggle when the furlough scheme ends and/or parents whose ability to work will be impacted by the impacts on ELC provision and schools


  • all – to contact Ann McKenzie if they’d like further information and/or to provide examples of cases where families are having difficulties:
  • Jackie – to share Paper 03/01 with Children in Scotland Strategic Forum members and invite Ann to provide update at their meeting on 26/05. 
  • Ann – to report back to LG on timescales for the Scottish Child Payment and share any other updates in relation to the queries raised.
  • Ann – to speak to SG colleagues re. preparations for the end of the furlough scheme and communicate the offer from Grace Vickers (SOLACE) to help investigate these issues. 

Action update - paper 03/02    

Iona advised that updates on the actions from the last meeting on 14/05 are noted in paper 03/02 or are included as agenda items for this meeting. There were no queries or further updates from members.

Children’s Hearing System - paper 03/03    

Neil updated LG members on the situation since all Hearings Centres closed on 23rd March. The focus has been on increasing the quality of and satisfaction with the hearing experience, and minimising the challenges (e.g. poor connectivity, software, security, digital access for families). A full virtual model has been operating since 4th May, but cannot operate at the same capacity, so a significant backlog has built-up. SCRA, CHS, LAs and stakeholders have worked together on criteria for prioritising cases (Section 1.8 in the paper), sought feedback on the virtual hearing experience, and linked families to support. Elliot noted the resilience and flexibility families and panel members have demonstrated in adapting to new technology and virtual settings. He reported that in some cases children reported feeling more comfortable joining a hearing from the comfort of their own home.  

As part of the First Ministers statement, given prior to the meeting, it was announced that children’s hearings will be one of the first aspects to return to physical normality. Work will be taking place to get that up and running as soon as possible, but a mixed method approach will be required for some time to come and plans will be subject to clinical advice. 

Key issues discussed were: 

  • interest in the criteria being used to prioritise the cases being heard and the human rights assessment as part of this process. Neil noted that the criteria is provisional for the current circumstances, and based on significant assessment of risk of harm and legal necessity. It was also noted there has been consultation with CYP affected and work with LAs to enable action where there is time urgency and/or concern about significant harm for a child or young person
  • the importance of the role of health visitors (HVs) was noted, given the depth of knowledge they have about families and a child’s development. It was noted that HVs are still undertaking the Universal HV Pathway, including face-to-face meetings, so can play a crucial role as part of hearings
  • HVs face-to-face contact with families is reassuring for other professionals, such as Police Scotland, who are managing risks within the community, including domestic abuse, but do not have direct engagement with children. It was noted that domestic abuse concerns have not decreased during the lockdown period, and in some areas have increased


  • all – any further comments on the paper and operation of CHS to be emailed to:
  • Neil – to speak to Wendy to further discuss role of HVs in hearings and to advise reporters of HVs contact with families
  • Neil/Elliot – to provide an update in a few weeks once plans are underway for returning to physical hearings
  • LG secretariat – to consider agenda item on domestic abuse for a future meeting and update members

Update on family support work    

Elspeth Hough reported that SG officials have been engaging with a broad range of stakeholders on the development of family support actions, and thanked LG members and colleagues for their input to this work. Elspeth advised that a paper will be shared with LG members early next week. The focus of the paper will be on tangible proposals for making a difference by taking a holistic approach and working with families. The paper will build on the starting point of GIRFEC and universal services to set out short-term actions to address the immediate acute needs of families, as well as actions to prevent acute needs arising longer term. Key important principles will be reflected in the paper, including: importance of voice and getting alongside families; partnership and multi-disciplinary working; and join-up across Government portfolios. Elspeth also noted that the current crisis had raised the ‘societal profile’ of the needs of CYP and families, and reflected on whether we need to further build on this to create a societal/cultural shift, as well as a system shift.  Key discussion points were: 

  • the opportunities to be involved in the development of the family support work and the plans set out to date were welcomed
  • stated important that the work does not only focus on families known to services and protected CYP, rather it takes a broad lens including the important role of maternity services in supporting pregnant women and preventing future protection concerns (e.g. routine enquiry of Violence Against Women)
  • important not to ‘outsource’ the participation of children and young people, and ways need to be found to embed participation in all that we do nationally and locally

[Comments also noted in the ‘Zoom Chat’: Thanks passed to Elspeth/Laura for their inclusive approach and engagement with the third sector. Also a suggestion that helpful to consider next week the ‘how’ we do it, as much as ‘what’ we do. Readiness work for leaders is critical to this and the capacity required.] 


  • Elspeth/Laura – to share a paper with LG members wc 25 May for discussion at the LG meeting on 28 May
  • Elspeth/Laura - to review the C-19 framework for decision-making published 21/05 and the implications for actions related to family support
  • Debby Wason – to send Elspeth/Laura a paper Public Health Scotland have prepared on family support        

Child protection comms update - paper 03/04    

Lindsay MacDougall provided an update on plans for a communications campaign following initial discussion at the meeting last week. Lindsay confirmed that Ministers have been informed of plans for the campaign and work is underway to develop a campaign to be launched by 12 June. The timescale and getting the right messaging (e.g. avoiding portrayal of extreme cases) will be challenging. Partnership working with LG member organisations and others will be key to developing an effective campaign, which helps direct people to sources of support. The campaign was welcomed by Child Protection Committees Scotland and other LG members. Key issues raised were: 

  • importance of having a clear, central message, to connect to support and to know who targeting (e.g. parents/carers, broader public or directly to CYP)
  • it is important not to reinforce misperceptions of CYP
  • it was suggested that a broad approach of child wellbeing would be beneficial for the campaign messages, rather than a negative, more punitive child protection message
  • important to consider who are the children we are currently missing from referrals. Social Work Scotland know that missing out on referrals at earlier stages which previously came from the community, housing and education

[Comments also noted in the ‘Zoom chat’: Helpful lessons on messaging as well from ‘Reframing work’]    


  • all – email any further comments on the paper and campaign suggestions to:
  • Alan – to share details (via LG secretariat) of Child Protection Committees Scotland new website and Facebook presence
  • Lindsay – to speak to Fiona McFarlane to build on learning from ICR and to engage with LG members and organisations in the development of the campaign 

Updated LG proposal paper - paper 03/05  

Iona noted that she had incorporated as many comments as possible in the updated LG proposal paper and she hoped the LG could now sign-off the paper. She asked Bill Alexander to update regarding the proposed definition of ‘vulnerable’ children and young people, included in the paper. Bill noted that he had reviewed members’ comments and endeavoured to balance these in the latest draft definition, which had to retain aspects of the existing agreement with partners, and provide the basis for local decision making and consistent data collection during the COVID-19 outbreak. This meant needed to be based around multi-agency plans, not denying that children could also be vulnerable and requiring additional support within a single service. The following points were discussed by members regarding the definition:

  • the need to reflect broader health and wellbeing aspects of vulnerability and include pregnant women in the definition
  • need further thought about where poverty/ disadvantage is incorporated into the definition, as there may be children living in poverty who do not have multi-service support
  • the current wording refers to transitions in a service orientated way, rather than reflecting that the issue of transitions is about the lives of CYP
  • in response it was noted that the new definition attempts to balance the need to broaden it from the original (developed in the context of school closures) to make it more inclusive, but also to ensure it can be used for the purpose of ascertaining which CYP should be accessing the education hubs (where numbers need to be limited for virus control purposes) and other support
  • the potential of having more than one definition was discussed, but there were also concerns about this causing potential confusion/difficulties. It was suggested that the definition text could make it clearer it was primarily about the response to the COVID-19 outbreak

It was agreed that the LG proposal paper is signed off and that the comments should be taken into account regarding finalising the definition.      


  • all – email further comments on the definition by 10am Tuesday 26 May to:
  • Bill A/Laura M – to liasie with the C-19 Education Recovery Group on the definition and plan next steps for providing advice on the definition to the Deputy First Minister
  • Laura C – to raise issue of definition at the meeting of the COSLA CYP Board on 22 May and liaise with SG re. taking latest definition to COSLA leaders
  • Iona – to liaise with health colleagues re. definition and LG membership


Iona congratulated Fiona Duncan on her appointment as the Chair of the Promise Oversight Board. 

SG and Education Scotland colleagues provided an update on the phased return of ELC and schools following the First Minister’s announcement prior to the LG meeting. Key points noted were: 

  • schools opening on 11th August for children and young people for a blended model of home and school-based learning
  • schools will reopen for teachers in June, and depending on clinical advice plans will be put in place for children transitioning into P1 and S1 (maybe physical visits or on-line communication)
  • LAs will be developing their own plans to reflect the decisions and needs of their own communities
  • ELC settings will have a different timescale as much ELC provision operates outside of school terms, and there will be a potential return of childminding services and outdoor nurseries over the summer
  • the C-19 Education Recovery Group (CERG) has 10 workstreams. Workstream 5 is focused on support for children and families, looking at wellbeing and vulnerability, and will link to the work of the LG. Workstreams 9 & 10 are looking the needs of families and the continued provision of critical childcare

Next meeting on 28 May at 14.00-16.00 via Zoom. Family support will be discussed in detail at the next meeting, and additional potential agenda items for the next or future meetings include: 

  • development of plans for ELC, schools, CHS, health care etc. following the publication of the framework for decision-making. 
  • domestic abuse 
  • digital inclusion  


  • Laura M, Bill A and Alison – to have further discussion re. transitional arrangements and follow-up on offer from Wendy Mitchell to discuss support role HVs and school nurses can play
  • all – to note the new publication of new guidance on VAW
  • all – email any comments and suggestions re. agenda items to:
  • SG – agenda to be finalised and issued
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