Coronavirus (COVID-19): Children and Families Collective Leadership Group minutes - 28 January 2021

Minutes for the meeting of the group on 28 January 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Michael Chalmers


  • Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES) - apologies from Douglas Hutchison, apologies from Jennifer King
  • Care Inspectorate - Peter Macleod, Catherine Agnew, apologies from Helen Happer
  • CELCIS, University of Strathclyde - Claire Burns
  • Children’s Hearings Scotland (CHS) - apologies from 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, Jillian Ingram
  • Disabled Children and Young People Advisory Group (DCYPAG) - Jim Carle 
  • Education Scotland - Laura-Ann Currie
  • The Promise - Janine Hunt, apologies from Fiona Duncan, Thomas Carlton, Fi McFarlane
  • Inspiring Children’s Futures, University of Strathclyde - apologies from Jennifer Davidson
  • NHS Chief Executives - Angela Wallace
  • Police Scotland - Martin Maclean, 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
  • Scottish Government apologies - Ann Holmes, Carolyn Younie, Alison Cumming, Angela Davidson 
  • SOLACE - Margo Williamson, Grace Vickers, apologies from Karen Reid
  • Social Work Scotland - Alison Gordon
  • Scottish Social Services Council - Laura Lamb

Additional meeting participants:

  • Craig Kellock, Children and Families Analysis team
  • Nicola Hughes, Children’s Rights Unit, C and F Directorate
  • Clare Simpson, Chair of the CYPF Advisory Group
  • Bill Scott-Watson, SG Interim Deputy Director - Strategy, GIRFEC and The Promise
  • Mairi Macpherson, SG Deputy Director – Improving Health and Wellbeing, C and F Directorate
  • Sara Hampson, SG Supporting Disabled Children and Young People, C and F Directorate
  • Bryony Revell, SG C and F Directorate

Leadership Group secretariat:

  • Peter Donachie
  • Claire Scott
  • Chris Lindores

Items and actions

Note and actions from last meeting (21 January 2021 - paper 21/01)

Michael Chalmers welcomed members to the 21st meeting of the Leadership Group and provided an update on the pandemic. There had been a peak in infections on 7 January but, although there were early signs that numbers were now beginning to level off, the situation remained precarious. This reinforced the need for the Leadership Group to deliver a clear, strong action plan.

There were no amendments to the note of the last meeting. Members were reminded to send links to helpline information on their websites to the Secretariat.


  • Members to send links to helpline information on their websites to the Secretariat

Data trends update

Debby Wason and Craig Kellock gave a presentation on data trends including hospital admissions and other medical contacts; health visitor reviews; child protection activity and inter-agency referrals. The presentation also provided information on the impact of the pandemic on family incomes and contacts with childcare providers and schools.

Among the main points made were that:

  • average number of child protection registrations since April 2020 has been 68 per week, compared to 82 per week in 2018/19
  • although not all children aged 2-4 would be expected to have had contact with a health visitor, during the first lockdown, parents of 85% of 2-4-year-olds in CEYRIS had no direct contact with health visitors (virtual or face-to-face). By November/December 2020, parents of 81% of 2-4-year-olds in CEYRIS had no direct contact with health visitors (virtual or face-to-face)

Debby also noted that Scottish Government, Public Health Scotland and the Improvement Service will be holding workshops over the next two months to develop indicators and datasets on the wellbeing of children during the pandemic and invited the Leadership Group to assist this work.

Issues raised in discussion were that:

  • it is crucial to look more broadly at the data and other evidence. Children and Family services are reporting a steady flow of child protection concerns but these have not yet reached registration levels. There is also an increase in IRDs (Initial Referral Discussions)
  • de-registration data should be presented alongside the information on child protection registrations. Craig noted that de-registrations are being monitored and numbers have been lower than in previous years. 80% per week in previous years and 75% during the pandemic
  • the reduction in health visitor contacts is concerning. The Leadership Group should receive for its next meeting more information on this issue and how it can be resolved. The risk of significant numbers of health visitors being redeployed to assist vaccination work is a further cause for concern. Feedback from Health Boards suggests this is not currently taking place but could be considered in future. Michael Chalmers and the Chief Nursing Officer will be writing to health boards on maintaining health visitor services
  • the presentation provided national level data and there will be variations at local level which will need to be taken into account in considering the actions to be taken
  • further data on deaths will be published on 3 February. Overall, this is consistent with previous years but there was a rise in the summer which nearly reached the national warning level.
  • Police Scotland indicated that child death numbers had remained stable in the context of their wider data sets on police reportable deaths
  • further work should be undertaken on the links between child protection and adult addiction and mental health services. Debby confirmed that an analysis could be undertaken of the different data sets to identify trends and correlations. In addition, Chief Social Workers Group would undertake a deep-dive on the links between services
  • health boards also held further information that could support this work including from ante-natal services and child protection

Additional points from MS Teams chat:

Children's Services Planning Partnerships (on which health board and local authorities sit) are key here, in making sure Adult Services are at that table, ensuring robust Named Person Service Provision to pick up emergent needs, and collective responsibility locally for making sure multi-agency GIRFEC pathways are working so the right support is in place for families.

Is it possible to link the Health Visitor activity at 6 weeks, etc, with child protection activity – i.e. can we be confident that children needing a children's plan are receiving a multi-disciplinary service? It might be that we need to trade off a drop off in universal activity, IF we can be confident that children who are looked after at home, on child protection register and otherwise known to services, are getting appropriate contact - this should often be led by Health Visitor.

In response to some discussions between CELCIS and CYCJ , ongoing concerns about the number of young people on remand - small number but significant implications of this and something not to lose sight of. Can we keep this in the frame around date and come back to it.


  • presentation slides circulated to LG Group only at this stage as some of the data has not yet been finalised
  • Mairi Macpherson and Angela Wallace to provide input to LG meeting on 11 February
  • Iona Colvin, Alison Gordon, Alan Small, Debby Wason and Police Scotland to consider follow-up work with Chief Social Workers and other partners 

Focus groups with children and young people – paper 21/02

Nicola Hughes gave an update on the focus groups with vulnerable children, young people and parents/carers being held from the end of January until March to obtain direct feedback on their lived experience of the pandemic.  

Nichola invited nominations from individual members to attend the focus groups either as observers or, subject to confirmation with those involved, participants in the discussions. This will help to demonstrate to the children, young people and parents/carers involved that their views and experiences are being understood and valued.  

The focus groups were aimed at those who lacked opportunities to provide their views and experiences through existing groups and other communications work. Members were invited to highlight those who were not included and organisations which could help to facilitate contacts.  

Members welcomed the focus groups and discussed how they could help to shape future action. Nichola said that a series of policy workshops will consider key themes emerging from the focus groups; propose actions for Leadership Group to consider; and provide feedback to those involved in the focus groups.        

Additional points from MS Teams chat:

CELSIS - Claire Lightowler would appreciate a conversation about representation of children and young people in conflict with the law if that’s a gap.

CCPS - Some of our members would be keen to get involved here so please contact and she'll connect you

CYPAG will respond with comments after the meeting.

Information on the focus groups provided to yesterday’s DCYPAG meeting and details of groups and contacts sent to Scottish Government.


  • Alison Gordon will contact Nicola Hughes with suggestion of stakeholder organisation to help facilitate links with children and young people experiencing mental health/emotional difficulties
  • Nichola Hughes to contact Martin Maclean regarding police participation 

Action plan update – paper 21/03

Iona Colvin provided an update on the action plan. Since the last meeting on 21 January, members had provided further nominations for the sub-groups and these had been included in the latest version of the plan circulated to members. In addition, SWS would be added to the respite workstream. COSLA and Public Health Scotland would be added to the Early Years sub-group.

There are important links to CERG and, as part of this, Michael Chalmers and Grace Vickers will discuss the action plan at next week’s CERG meeting.    

The workstream on commissioning has been removed from the action plan as agreed at the Leadership Group’s last meeting. Following further consultation with CCPS and COSLA, a small group including SG, COSLA and third sector colleagues will meet on a regular basis to address any short-term commissioning issues. The longer-term commissioning issues will be dealt with through the Family Support Delivery Group commissioning work. There are also links to the Strategic Leads Group.

Three cross-cutting themes have been added to the action plan to assist in creating a holistic approach – mental health and wellbeing; poverty policy initiatives; and family support. 

On mental health, a deep-dive session is being arranged for Leadership Group’s meeting on 25 February. COSLA and Education Scotland asked to be involved in the development of this session.

On poverty policy, an update will be provided to Leadership Group on 11 February. There will also be an update on family support at this meeting. 

A short introduction/narrative will be added to the action plan to explain the aims and context of the work taking place.

Additional points from MS Teams chat:

Links need to be made between current commissioning challenges and how additional monies to support pandemic response are dispersed by govt and the parameters of spend - whilst CSP do try to take a collaborative and co-ordinated approach locally they are not always sighted on funds allocated from government to orgs direct or through other programmes e.g. Financial Sustainability Fund. Short term nature of some funding also creates challenges to planning collaboratively.

Adult services have a pot of money allocated for sustainability specifically, we may need something similar for children's services.


  • members to provide any final nominations to Secretariat early next week


Catherine Agnew highlighted that there are differences between Residential Children’s Home guidance and Scottish Government guidance. Iona Colvin replied that Rod Finan and colleagues in Chief Social Work Officer’s office are working on this issue. 

Mairi McPherson informed members that Jacquie Pepper has joined Mairi as co-chair of the Family Support Delivery Group. 

Michael Chalmers noted that the date of the next Leadership Group meeting is on 11 February. Although this is during the school holidays, the meeting has been retained given the need to maintain momentum on the Group’s work.  Members were requested to nominate deputies if they were unable to attend this meeting.  


  • Iona to contact Catherine to discuss further
  • LG members to email LG Secretariat inbox with suggested agenda items for future meetings
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