Coronavirus (COVID-19): Children and Families Collective Leadership Group minutes - 23 July 2020

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 23 July 2020.

Attendees and apologies

Chair: Iona Colvin

Meeting participants 


  • Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES) - apologies from Douglas Hutchison
  • Care Inspectorate - Chris Lumb (deputy for Helen Happer), apologies from Peter Macleod
  • CELCIS, University of Strathclyde - Claire Burns
  • Children’s Hearings Scotland (CHS) - Lynne Harrison (deputy for 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
  • Disabled Children and Young People Advisory Group (DCYPAG) - Jim Carle
  • Education Scotland - apologies from Gayle Gorman
  • ‘The Promise’ Implementation - Fiona Duncan, Fi McFarlane, Thomas Carlton, Claire Stuart
  • 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 - Wendy Mitchell, Jan Beattie (deputising for Hugh McAloon), apologies from Bill Alexander, apologies from Laura Meikle, apologies from Ann Holmes, apologies from Kate Smith
  • SOLACE - apologies from Karen Reid and Grace Vickers
  • Scottish Social Services Council - Laura Lamb (deputy for Phillip Gillespie)
  • Social Work Scotland - Alison Gordon

Additional meeting participants:

  • Hazel Crawford, Fiona Howe, Fiona Clements, SG Looked After Children Team
  • Elspeth Hough, Laura Holton, Maria Gray, SG Improving Health and Wellbeing, Family Team
  • Bill Scott-Watson, SG Deputy Director, Care, Protection and Justice Division
  • Michael Chalmers, Director for Shielding/SG Director for Children and Families
  • Cat Macaulay, SG Chief Design Officer
  • Scott Bell, SG Deputy Director for The Promise response
  • Leadership Group secretariat: Chris Lindores, Anne-Marie Conlong and Claire Scott

Items and actions

Note of last meeting on 9 July 2020 [paper 10/01] 

Members agreed the note and actions.

The Promise [paper 10/02]

Fiona Duncan introduced The Promise team – Fi McFarlane, Claire Stuart, Thomas Carlton – as well as Scott Bell as The Promise Deputy Director from 17 August, and Cat Macaulay, SG Chief Design Officer who is seconded 50% to The Promise team. She highlighted that The Promise team is already open for business and encouraged LG members to contact the team directly.

Fiona introduced the paper and talked through slides (Appendix A), focusing on three key areas:

Care Review closedown and transition to The Promise

Closedown of Care Review was delayed by COVID-19 but is now complete.

Host organisation for The Promise team could not be found due to COVID-19. Currently being hosted by Scottish Government, but Fiona stressed that they are operating independently.

There will be an open recruitment process for The Promise team – organogram in Appendix A shows posts to be filled. Team should be at full capacity by September.

Paper and the asks of the Leadership Group

The aim of the paper is to share the process to develop a 10-year (max) implementation strategy to fulfil The Promise. The strategy will be consulted on and LG members views will be part of that.

The aim is to publish an implementation strategy in November, in line with The Plan (one of the suite of The Care Review’s conclusion launched on 5 February 2020). However, COVID-19 restrictions have limited certain practical activities such as getting people round a table.

We must continue to see this work as urgent as we’re dealing with children’s lives and timeframes reflect children’s childhoods.

Acknowledged that the team will be ‘swimming against the tide’ so they will need to have some difficult conversations.

The key is to anchor the realities of people’s lives, as well as working within the context of the UNCRC implementation and SG National Performance Framework.

There are significant bridges and barriers to change - such as money: the human and economic cost modelling unpicks much of that and will be rolled out across Scotland as a tool. 

The Promise team want to hear from the LG on the work members are doing and how this can be aligned with the work of The Promise, at both national and local levels. What short term activities should be put in place? What are members’ thoughts on the process – for example, do LG members want to see papers as they go through iterations and develop? The team is seeking input and help with Process, Content and Alignment and the aim is pull these strands together by end of August.

The Promise Fund, priorities and alignment

Long term, there is investment in the actions that need to happen to deliver the strategy. The Fund has to align with the implementation of The Promise. It will not look or feel like a standard grant programme.

Short term, there is a need to build evidence on the return to school and ELC.

Members made a range of comments:

  • Annie Gunner Logan asked if the recruitment for the Oversight Board is for individuals rather than representatives from organisations. Fiona confirmed the team is looking to recruit as openly as possible but it may be necessary to go to organisations where there is a need for very specific expertise/experience. As with the Care Review, Fiona is undertaking work to ensure those with care experience can participate without having to disclose their personal trauma to ‘validate’ their place at the table, while ensuring there will be support mechanisms in place if they are triggered
  • Alison Gordon asked if there a sense about how the local/national balance would work through this phase and noted that having connections at a local level worked well during the Journey phase of the Care Review. Fi noted that Cat is leading a small design team – see left-hand branch of organogram on slides. The implementation and participation team will help those with statutory responsibility to close the gap between what is being done and what should be done. Participation and talking to children and young people will become the norm and part of business as usual, so less support will eventually be needed from The Promise team and SG
  • Claire Burns offered help from CELCIS and noted that they already have good tools which can be used to assess who is most ready, where there is capability and capacity. She also agreed that local partnerships need dedicated support locally – this cannot be added to someone’s existing role
  • Jackie Brock asked how The Promise aligns with the LG Family Support paper, which impressed Forum members in process and content - expectations have been raised by this. Fiona said the SG team worked collaboratively with The Promise team when developing the paper, and The Promise principles were included from the start
  • Jennifer Davidson noted she was pleased with the continuity of The Promise despite COVID-19 disruption, as well as transparency. Noting the remit of the LG to help support the most vulnerable CYP and families, she asked how the LG could help with the alignment sought by The Promise team – for example, on poverty and other issues we can anticipate. Fiona noted she was already pulling together available info and research on this, but the return to schools will reveal a lot more, including currently unknown issues. Corra is currently looking at what funding (including SG funding) was spent on and any trends. Listening to children and young people will help us to understand this
  • Chris Lumb noted that the Care Inspectorate will need to adapt and change and asked when it was best to have a conversation with The Promise team about regulatory bodies. Fiona noted that Care Inspectorate worked well alongside the Care Review and invited them to connect with The Promise team
  • Michael Chalmers welcomed the progress that has been made and the work done between SG officials and Care Review. He noted the non-COVID related priorities that had been by highlighted and continued by FM and DFM – redress, incorporation of UNCRC and The Promise
  • Fiona noted that the governance structure is to be finalised, but the Oversight Board will hold the accountability for implementation, ensuring it is delivered to quality, at pace and on time. Following COVID-19 disruption, there is currently no plan for a Promise Leadership Group, although this was considered before with some potential members identified. Fiona noted that Leadership Groups involve a huge amount of work and that this can get in the way of delivery. One-to-one consultation will likely be more useful than setting up a Group

Comments from Zoom chat:
‘The PHS survey of Under 8s shows how important the universal services for families under strain and some of the issues they had when they felt they couldn't access those services. Need to think how the universal services could be better maintained under covid conditions.’
‘there is also commissioning redesign to take into account, and we're looking at that’
‘So good to see the focus and commitment maintained and not derailed by Covid19’
‘really like your emphasis on building on existing work and working collaboratively’


  • LG members are encouraged to contact The Promise team with connections, queries, offers of help, etc - 
  • the Promise team to connect with ADES and others to help build a full picture on return to school and ELC. Iona offered to connect them with SG Education colleagues
  • Lynne Harrison and Fi McFarlane to discuss recruitment and governance, particularly with respect to lived experience
  • LG Secretariat to note further discussion of The Promise at a future LG meeting. Added to list of future of LG agenda items

Update on Children’s Hearings System [paper 10/03]

Neil Hunter started by noting that SCRA will work with Fiona’s team to deliver The Promise. A number of key areas in support of the promise were underway – some on a planned basis such as bringing 16/17 year olds within the orbit of the welfare based hearing system, the re-launch of Early and Effective Intervention to reduce criminalisation of young people whilst others were happening as a by-product of COVID – such as the streamlining and relevance of reports and information coming to Hearings. Neil then introduced the paper, highlighting some key points on Children’s Hearings during lockdown:

  • rights, participation and representation are still the core tenets of Children’s Hearings, even though the process has changed
  • SCRA are operating at significantly reduced capacity but trying to keep CYP protected. A whole host of organisations working well together to keep things going, including lots of work around both single- and inter-agency guidance with COSLA and Social Work Scotland
  • SCRA and CHS are constrained by statutory timescales which has made things especially challenging and have had to use the emergency legislation to reduce risk of protective orders lapsing.
  • a lot of work has been going on since Neil’s last update to the LG on 21 May to improve the volume and quality of Virtual Hearings
  • virtual Hearings have proved challenging at times – some mixed experiences, for example, due to limitations of the technology being deployed and security concerns on the use of alternative digital platforms. CHS and SCRA are implementing a new, shared digital platform in the next few months which will allow a strategic change in direction on what technology is deployed. Virtual Hearings, in some form, will remain with us for some time
  • SCRA’s national Virtual Hearing team are working to connect CYP and their families to professionals, providing support around access, connectivity and devices
  • evaluation of Virtual Hearings shows just over 50% felt that Virtual Hearings have maintained or improved their experience of the Hearings system – some noted that they are better able to participate virtually than face-to-face. Just under 50% felt they had been inadequate – generally around connectivity and devices – and work is being done to address that. Positive feedback from reporters is that they have been able to have earlier, more intense discussions with CYP and their families about how hearings should be scheduled
  • there have been some positive changes which have come out of necessity, such as stripping back material coming to Hearings which helps improve focus and relevance of information. These positives as a result of COVID should not be lost when face-to-face Hearings resume
  • hearings’ offices have now been open for a few weeks, with limited staff and remodelled Hearings rooms to ensure physical distancing, although this has been challenging given that, over many years, they have moved to being smaller, more intimate settings
  • 30% extra capacity required in the next 6-9 months to address the backlog, so other facilities being looked at to ensure Hearings can be conducted safely, such as buildings in FE sector

Lynne Harrison noted that local and national partnership working has been essential in putting the necessary measures in place. Feedback on return to face-to-face Hearings has been good so far, but CYP and their families should have a choice on which they prefer post-lockdown. Around 1000 panel members have been trained in Virtual Hearings.

Members made a range of comments:

  • Alison noted concern at the 30% extra capacity needed and asked what activity will be required nationally and locally. Neil emphasised the need to work at a very local level on this, and for service managers and others to discuss this and focus on the individual children most in need of protection and support. Need to understand how significant the degree of unmet need is. At a national level, SCRA and others can help deploy resources to increase capacity at a local level
  • Sam McCluskey was appreciative of the fact that CHS and SCRA have managed to get to their current position despite the many challenges posed by lockdown
  • Michael asked about the differences between the planned rollout of the CHS-SCRA digital platform and the necessary actions taken due to lockdown. Neil said they were planning to move to the new platform as lockdown started, so this has been delayed, although unintegrated components have been brought in by necessity which has been challenging. They will transition to the platform in August-September, with the aim to ramp up capacity October-March as part of a fully-fledged recovery plan
  • Cat noted that in her SG role on the Connecting Scotland programme, she was responsible for rollout of devices and support to CYP in need during lockdown - collaboration with local government was essential to ensure this happened smoothly. Lack of adequate devices – not data – was the main issue. In the Zoom chat, Lynne noted CHS ‘have been liaising with the Scottish tech army to support our volunteer training which has been hugely helpful’
  • Fi asked if there was a framework for deciding which Hearings should be virtual and which face-to-face? Neil said there isn’t a fully-fledged framework yet but local feedback is that cases which were more complex and/or had a significant impact on a person’s rights may be best handled face-to-face. Fi offered the support of The Promise team in developing a potential framework.
  • Cat asked if there has been any research done on Virtual Hearings, particularly gathering the views of CYP and their families. Neil said a SCRA survey was less successful than hoped at engaging CYP but other work being led by CELCIS, using mixed methods, have been more successful. Claire B noted the finding of one of these is being published in August
  • Alison noted that we need to consider how we are transferring the learning from the Hearings experience into other decision-making processes for CYP, such as case conferences and reviews. We need to learn so that we are not disenfranchising CYP and families from these other processes. The Promise team and Claire Burns offered their help on this if required


  • Neil Hunter to contact Cat Macaulay to discuss rollout of devices and associated support
  • LG Secretariat to note further update on Children’s Hearings at a future LG meeting. Added to list of future of LG agenda items


No further business from members.

Iona informed members about future meetings:

  • 6 August – half of the meeting will focus on follow up around Domestic Abuse. Iona invited suggestions for one further item for that meeting
  • 20 August – Public Health Scotland colleagues deliver a presentation and Jason Leitch will come and speak to the LG, following his presentations to Directors around planning and preparing for a second wave of COVID and implications. Crucial for the LG to be considering this
  • there will be a focus at a future meeting (exact date TBC) on children with disabilities and the Secretariat will be in touch with Jim on this.    


  • members to send suggested agenda items to be emailed to:
  • LG Secretariat to consider Jackie Brock’s suggestion in Zoom chat for ‘a verbal/written update on return to school experience - from cyp perspective’
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