Coronavirus (COVID-19): Children and Families Collective Leadership Group minutes - 26 November 2020

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 26 November 2020.

Attendees and apologies

Chair: Iona Colvin

Meeting participants


  • Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES) - Douglas Hutchison, apologies from Jennifer King
  • Care Inspectorate - Peter Macleod, apologies from Helen Happer
  • 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 Follant, Jillian Ingram
  • Disabled Children and Young People Advisory Group (DCYPAG) - Jim Carle 
  • Education Scotland - Laura-Ann Currie
  • The Promise - Scott Bell, Fi McFarlane, apologies from Fiona Duncan
  • Inspiring Children’s Futures, University of Strathclyde - apologies from Jennifer Davidson
  • NHS Chief Executives - Angela Wallace
  • Police Scotland - Martin McLean, apologies from Sam McCluskey
  • Public Health Scotland - Debby Wason
  • Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) - Neil Hunter
  • Scottish Government - Iona Colvin, Wendy Mitchell, Kate Smith, Maggie Fallon (deputy for Angela Davidson)
  • Scottish Government: apologies from Michael Chalmers, Carolyn Younie, Ann Holmes
  • SOLACE - Grace Vickers, apologies from Karen Reid
  • Scottish Social Services Council - Jess Alexander (deputy for Phillip Gillespie)
  • Social Work Scotland - Alison Gordon

Additional meeting participants:

  • Susan Galloway, Senior Policy Researcher, NSPCC Scotland
  • Joanna Barrett, Policy and Public Affairs Manager, NSPCC Scotland
  • Maureen McAteer, Assistant Director: Attainment, Barnardo’s Scotland
  • Clare Simpson, Parenting Across Scotland Manager, Children in Scotland and Chair of Advisory Group
  • Amy Woodhouse, Head of Policy, Projects and Participation, Children in Scotland
  • Ann-Marie O'Neill, SG Children’s Rights Unit
  • Ceri Hunter, SG Children’s Rights Unit
  • Chantelle Lalli, SG Children’s Rights Unit
  • Bill Scott-Watson, SG Interim Deputy Director, Strategy, GIRFEC and The Promise, Children and Families Directorate
  • Laura Holton/Elspeth Hough, SG Head of Family Unit, Children and Families Directorate
  • Leadership Group Secretariat: Anne-Marie Conlong and Claire Scott

Items and actions

Update on actions from 29 October and 12 November 2020 meetings

Eddie Follan and Alison Gordon are going to have a joint meeting, as planned. 

On the Child Health Data: Debby Wason has two meetings in w/b 30th November - one about the weekly data collection and another between CELCIS, PHS and the Improvement Service on the minimum data collection for vulnerable children.


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

Child poverty – Barnardo’s and NSPCC ‘Challenges from the Frontline - Revisited’ report

Susan Galloway from NSPCC Scotland spoke to her presentation, which is attached, on Barnardo’s and NSPCC’s ‘Challenges from the Frontline – Revisited’ report. The report is a follow- up to the earlier report published six years ago and was launched with the Children’s Commissioner last month. 

Susan posed three questions to the group:

  • what are your initial reaction/reflections on the findings?
  • based on this evidence, which things could we do now to make an immediate difference for families? 
  • longer term, what bolder changes could we implement to reduce or eliminate the experiences of the families articulated in this report?

The group noted how powerful the presentation had been. Key points made in discussion were as follows:

Was there any engagement with universal service providers- e.g. Health Visitors? This would really have enhanced the work. There have been significant changes in policy, e.g. 500 new Health Visitors who have more capacity to work with vulnerable families at home and to ensure family support is brought in. 

Susan explained that by necessity, to keep the research do-able within their own limited budget and resources, the research had to be narrow so intensive Family Support was used as a lens. Aware of the limitations of the research. But it is an important point about the whole range of other ways families can be supported. Interviews with schools provided some insight into how it can work with services being based in schools. 

Unless we get Directors of Finance and Commissioning on board along with Social Work, Education and Health leaders, we will be limited in what front line staff can do. We are still missing what our theory of change is, we need a really big debate on this. We talk about what families need but we are missing on what we are doing to support change. 

Susan’s presentation hit the nail on the head by talking about a ‘wellbeing economy’. Difficult conversations need to be had. Is there work we can do in this group? 

It was noted that Katherine Trebeck is undertaking work on the wellbeing economy and that this could be useful. 

The report sets out the stark challenges for us all in both local and national government. We need to work together. We know that discussions around budgets can be fraught. We are facing a perfect storm in terms of the pressures on our Social Work services. What would you do with the next iteration of Education money – the ring fenced money - the PEF money and attainment challenge money? Aware of the inequities across councils.

Susan highlighted that, on the ringfenced money point, Head Teachers said that if this money had been removed they would have been unable to continue.

There is an issue around thresholds and policy changes. There has been a reduction of flexibility and capacity in the system. There is money around but it comes with set parameters. How can we use Self- Directed Support models more positively?

The points being made about funding are interesting. PEF is a bit of a blunt instrument. Weighting should be flipped towards the attainment challenge. 

In terms of immediate things, Housing is a massive issue. There are quite clearly catastrophic impacts for families. How can we draw housing colleagues into discussions?

National policy makers need to grasp the distance we need to travel. We need a theory of change around Family Support - what do we actually mean by this? The Care Review talks about scaffolding. 

Marketization is an issue here. When Local Authorities are under pressure, they accelerate marketization in the third sector, by pitting tender- pitching providers against each other. How might we commission differently (as we have discussed in LG around family support)? 

There is a big gap between aspirations and where we are. The ongoing delays to the Families and Communities Fund are not insignificant here. Can we speed this up? And can we have a strategic look at funding across the board?

The gap between aspiration and the reality is really stark and a powerful message should be presented to our elected politicians. How do we actually land a message with politicians around that dissonance?

We need to coalesce around what we know now and so we really need to do something different.

Jackie proposed that it would be useful to have a presentation from Katherine Trebeck on the wellbeing economy work being undertaken by the Carnegie Trust and Children in Scotland. This could maybe a joint presentation with the Promise Team.

Grace proposed that the LG should undertake work to grapple with the idea of a ‘wellbeing economy’.

Iona summed up and agreed that the presentation would be helpful and that it would be good to hear from the Promise Team on progress around family support as part of this.

When considering all of this, we would want to include eligibility criteria and would want to encompass the work around adults. We also need to cover both pre-school and school aged children. 

Iona highlighted the importance of picking up on the marketization point. Our Minister will be keen for this to be picked up. Also agreed with the need to bring in Housing colleagues and committed the SG to doing that. 

Additional points from MS Teams chat:

We know that because of the 9 month grace period that families accessing Universal Credit because of C-19 will only become subject to benefit cap in Jan 21 at which point we'll see families who have lost work during the pandemic facing the benefit cap

Agree with Grace’s proposal that it would be good for this group to grapple with the idea of a ‘wellbeing economy’ as a foundational piece. What are the key elements/components of a wellbeing economy?

For CYP arguably at the most acute end of need and risk, i.e. those subject to supervision orders - whist we have seen a moderate reduction of orders over the last 6-8 years - the range, depth and complexity of need of each family is where the difference and challenge is - at the same time as a diminution of service availability - the combination of these elements will certainly be contributing to the sense of families feeling overwhelmed as Susan described.

A national wellbeing strategy for CYP is needed with shared ambitions & outcomes. We need to recognise and understand measurable improvement.

While legislation alone won’t bring about change - neither does increased funding alone. It’s essential but not sufficient if not supported to be focused where most needed, most impact and the change process supported. 

Should we be thinking differently about poverty and benefits and consider something like Citizens Basic Income?

Important messages about housing - insecurity and costs increasingly big issues for families

From a policy making perspective, agree how useful it is to see evidence of where there is a gap between aspiration and reality. The Family Support Discovery Group will be challenging on this as it looks at how to press forward on this LG's recommendations on Family Support.
COSLA is still committed to working on the commissioning and procurement issue. Report on emerging principles from work in local authorities will go to the Children and Young People Board at next meeting.

Angela Wallace- offer of support along with Ann Holmes to work with colleagues on anything needed around health visiting and universal services. 


  • Jackie to liaise with the Secretariat for this presentation to take place at the first meeting of LG in the new year, which will be at the end of the January. Give further consideration to Grace’s proposal following on from that
  • Iona and the Secretariat to make links with relevant SG Housing colleagues and consider how best to draw them in

Update on Children, Young People and Families Advisory Group

Clare Simpson and Amy Woodhouse delivered their presentation, which is attached. 

The slide on key learning raised the following points: 

  • CYP are asking how their views and the questions they have asked of Jason Leitch and the Minister have helped influence decisions? How do we go from sharing their views, to actual change and then feeding that back to CYP? 
  • digital engagement- CYP disengaging and Who Cares? are particularly concerned. How do we mitigate risk of disengagement over time?
  • a lot of concerns around lack of access to support- CAMHS. This continues to be huge and live issue
  • we are told by CYP to remind people that their lives, concerns and issues are not all about the pandemic. Don’t want other huge issues that affect their lives and futures to be forgotten, still very live issues

Amy put the following questions to the LG:

  • what are the best mechanisms for ensuring CYP have a say in decision making?
  • how can we ensure these are engaging so that CYP will want to give their valuable time to respond?
  • how will they know what they have told you will make a difference?
  • thinking about the excellent evidence from CYP that you have been presented with in the months since March, how has it affected your decisions? 
  • how can you feed this back to CYP?

The following key points were made in discussion:

Public Health Scotland have just done research with College and University students on self- isolation and views about getting home and back for Christmas safely. They were very thoughtful and thought very big, which was great. But when taken back to decision makers, the appetite was not really there for doing something radical. So sometimes it is about how willing the establishment is to take views on board and change.

We have to be very aware of digital inclusion. If we are using this as a means of engagement, we have to be aware of limitations and only reaching certain groups. Mindful of the 5,000 voices that have spoken to the Care Review and that we don’t forget about the voices that have already spoken. 

The point about not losing sight of other issues aside from the pandemic is important. 

We have to be mindful of the impact that ongoing consultation can have. We have to consider how going to use it. Need a shared understanding of what we will do with that information and also not impede on actions already in motion. 

Could the AG give the LG feedback – is the relationship working well? Are these the right arrangements? Are there any other ways for LG to support the work you’re doing?

Iona proposed that at next LG meeting we have a ‘you said, we did’ and challenge ourselves on whether we have been listening to what we have been hearing from CYP and what we have been doing, have a bit of a stocktake.

Iona reflected that we have discussed the digital inclusion agenda on several occasions – how effective has that been? Maybe we could ask Cat Macaulay to speak about this again at a future meeting. 

Iona also proposed that we should invite colleagues in mental health to come and speak to LG as there is a lot of really good work going on around peri- natal and infant mental health, and also on CAMHS on the team around the child. Money has been made available to look at how CYP are being involved in the design of services at the local level.

Both Amy and Clare reflected on the importance of closing the feedback loop with CYP. Even if it’s ‘we would really like to have done, but here is why we haven’t/ couldn’t’ it is helpful for CYP to hear that. 

Additional points from MS Teams chat:

The COVID Early Years Survey Round 2 is currently live if you could encourage parents of children aged 2-7 to complete it we'd be very grateful. 

Concerns around digital inclusion for CYP in or leaving care. Around 5,000 care leavers have applied to Connecting Scotland. This is Indicative of the number of those supported to transition out of care without access to what most would see as a common utility now.

There may be some connections we could make with the Digital Citizen board who have worked with Young Scot in the past on CYP and digital care, support and inclusion.

Secretariat- There will be update on digital inclusion at the next LG meeting on 10th December. 


  • LG members are to think through the questions from the presentation and send thoughts to the Secretariat mailbox:
  • Amy and Clare to ask AG to consider and send thoughts to the Secretariat mailbox:
  • Secretariat to liaise with Iona on this and put on agenda for January meeting
  • Iona and Secretariat to identify and liaise with relevant mental health colleagues in SG

Update on Children’s Hearings Joint Recovery Plan

A paper had been circulated in advance and Elliot Jackson and Neil Hunter summarised key points as follows:

Continue to work with a mixed model of virtual, face to face and blended hearings. This continues to work well. 

A challenge is the need for panel members- currently operating at 60% to 70% of number required.  May have to ask LG at the beginning next year to reach out to their members to support recruitment. 

The National Advocacy Network was launched on Monday- this will be a game changer. 

The Recovery Plan was posted today on the Children’s Hearings Improvement Partnership (CHIP) website. 

Since May, there have been 6,000 hearings with tens of thousands of participants. These have been a mix of face to face, virtual and blended. Sitting at just under 500 hearings a week at the moment, and the figure was just over 600 a week at this point in 2019, so real progress has been made from April. 

Now focussing on getting recovery plan kick started at the beginning of next year. Scheduling is well under way. Working on implementation and monitoring Framework, Covid Emergency Legislation Reviews and annual reviews. 

Challenges - Reporter decisions waiting for hearings slots. This is reviewed on a weekly basis to ensure prioritisations. Work coming out of court so that they can go can into hearings slots where appropriate. 

Not one bit of the system looks the same as what it was in February this year. It is a hugely complex task but have growing confidence we will be in a place of stability by Autumn next year. 
Comments were made in discussion as follows:

Alison reflected that there are challenges capacity wise as the backlog is worked through, but that things are definitely in a better place. 

Jackie and Thomas both emphasised the importance of the recovery work as part of the much wider system that The Promise is looking at and expressed sincere thanks to Neil and Elliot for all the positive work and discussions. 

Additional points from MS Teams chat:

Neil thanked Jackie and Thomas and reflected that the work ahead in relation to The Promise will need a lot of width and breadth and thinking and coordination with the myriad of agencies who have duties in children’s hearings.


Iona informed members that the next meeting is two weeks from now, Thursday 10 December, 14.00-16.00. The prospective agenda includes items on digital inclusion, GIRFEC refresh and National Trauma Training Programme.  This will be the final meeting of the year and the Secretariat will be contact members in due course to advise when meetings will begin again in 2021.    


LG members to email LG Secretariat inbox with suggested agenda items for future meetings

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