Coronavirus (COVID-19): Children and Families Collective Leadership Group minutes - 28 May 2020

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 28 May 2020.

Attendees and apologies

Chair: Karen Reid

Meeting participants: 

  • Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES) - Michael Wood (deputising for Douglas Hutchison)
  • Care Inspectorate - Peter Macleod, Helen Happer
  • CELSIS, 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 (deputising for Eddie Folan)
  • Inspiring Children’s Futures, University of Strathclyde - Jennifer Davidson
  • Police Scotland - DCS Sam McCluskey
  • Public Health Scotland - Debby Wason (deputising for Diane Stockton)
  • Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) - Neil Hunter
  • Scottish Government-  Iona Colvin, Children and Families Directorate, Bill Alexander, Children and Families Directorate, Laura Meikle, Learning Directorate,  Wendy Mitchell (deputising for Ann Holmes), Chief Nursing Officer Directorate, Joanna MacKenzie (deputising for Kate Smith), Early Learning and Childcare Directorate
  • SOLACE - Grace Vickers
  • Social Work Scotland - Alison Gordon

Additional meeting participants from the SG:

  • Russell Cockburn, SG Learning Directorate
  • Felicity Sung, SG Children and Families Directorate 
  • Laura Holton and Elspeth Hough, SG Children and Families Directorate 
  • Sara Dodds, C-19 Children and Families Collective Leadership Group Co-ordination 


  • Gayle Gorman, Education Scotland
  • Fiona Duncan, Care Review
  • Amanda Croft, NHS Chief Executives
  • Phillip Gillespie, SSSC

Items and actions

Update on digital inclusion

Russell Cockburn spoke about the announcement last week of £30 million fund to support digital inclusion. To date, 25,000 orders for devices, Wi-Fi units and data packages have been placed to the amount of £9 million. This forms the first tranche of spending of the total fund. This will not meet the full demand across the country and the SG is working with SOLACE, COSLA and ADES to understand the need so further orders can be placed. Felicity Sung noted that in addition to this funding package, there is additional related work underway across the SG, including: the Connecting Scotland Programme and guidance on using Pupil Equity Funding to address digital exclusion. Additionally, the Communities Fund has provided support to Third Sector organisations for families which includes supporting digital inclusion. There is work underway to ensure join-up across these initiatives and to understand need. 

The initiative was welcomed by members and some questions raised: 

  • whether support is available for parents/carers of children with Additional Support Needs (ASN) who, in some cases, lack confidence to use digital resources? It was noted that as part of the wider Connecting Scotland Programme there are ‘Digital Champions’ providing support for digital confidence for all parents/carers who need it. These issues are being considered by LAs as they develop their plans
  • if digital devices will be repaired if they stopped working? In response, Russell stated that it’s likely (but yet to be confirmed) that the digital devices will become part of LA estate and therefore part of their support services
  • what’s the criteria for allocating equipment? Russell advised that criteria are being developed and a questionnaire will be going out to LAs on that this week

Additional ‘zoom chat’ comments: targeting support around the blended learning offer/requirement will be helpful – even a necessity. It was acknowledged that some LAs have already used PEF funding to support digital learning and accessibility for vulnerable children and families.    


  • all - email any further comments or queries re. the digital inclusion work to: 
  • Russell - to provide further update to the Leadership Group (LG) once plans are further developed

Actions from 21 May meeting - paper 04/01    

It was noted that updates on the actions from the 21 May meeting are detailed in paper 04/01, including the latest definition of ‘vulnerable’ children and young people. This definition has been approved by the Deputy First Minister and will be discussed by COSLA leaders on 29 May.  No further updates were provided or queries raised about the actions.    

Improving family support - paper 04/02    

Laura thanked all members and their colleagues for their contribution to the work. She reported that it’s clear that there’s overwhelming recognition of the need to do more for families, but that there’s a need to do this in a way which enables local responses and builds on community and family assets, rather than imposing a ‘top-down’ model. The paper sets out proposed principles to be embedded in local decision-making and actions to support these. The key focus now is on ensuring that the proposed principles and actions are the right ones to make a difference to families. This paper will be further developed following comments and will inform recommendations and proposals provided to Ministers and COSLA leaders. 

Members welcomed the engagement in the work to date, the linkages made across policy boundaries, and the medium and short-term objectives set out in the paper. There was consensus that this is a valuable piece of work and there was broad agreement to the principles set out. There were some suggestions for further development of the work/paper: 

  • to have measurable outcomes upfront and to set out tangibles to be achieved by milestones, to maintain momentum and build on the trust/responsiveness to date. (In response, it was noted that the plan is to develop a series of actions and workstreams, and to continue and expand on the engagement to date)
  • to more strongly reflect the linkages with poverty, children’s rights, addressing stigma, and that families/communities best know what they need
  • recognise the importance of youth work for families with older children (feedback from COSLA CYP Board) 
  • root the family support work in integrated children’s services planning processes and suggested that link it to children’s planning guidance
  • secure existing good family support practice and learn from innovations in practice developed over the past few months of the pandemic
  • address the required system change, as called for in the Independent Care Review (ICR), and don’t risk trying to ‘overlay’ on the existing system
  • emphasise the transformational role of commissioning
  • develop commissioning skills to move to a collaborative and outcomes based approach, and reflect the role of commissioning within a whole system process (e.g. in the Realigning Children’s Services programme LAs benefited from the analysis of need and linkages to investment and outcomes)
  • further expand on the how (as well as the what) and examine issues such as workforce capacity, levels of proposed investment, and plans for measurement (i.e. how will we know what’s working well or not?)

Specific issues related to investment were discussed and Bill highlighted examples of LAs that have shifted money to effectively support families ‘upstream’ and prevent more intensive packages being required further down the line. Iona reported that active conversations are underway on funding with Ministers and a range of SG Directorates to secure a small budget to give the work on family support momentum. Members also suggested approaching independent funders and considering the potential of a change fund model.

Additional ‘zoom chat’ comments: 

  • we need a good analysis of the system as is and where money is spent currently, in order to know what the next steps are and where there might be flex
  • Children in Scotland Forum have asked for no pilots and highlighted hypothecated funding as one of the reasons for failure in developing a sustainable family support service


  • all – contact Laura and Elspeth with any further contributions to the work 
  • Annie – to share the more detailed comments from CCPS members with Elspeth and Laura
  • Iona/Bill – to link with SG local government officials on the family support work and connections to the local government review
  • Iona – to discuss the family support work with Fiona Duncan and linkages to the ICR implementation
  • Elspeth/Laura – to prepare recommendations for Ministers and COSLA (a condensed version of the paper) on behalf of the LG and to share with the LG for comment

Route map and children’s services - paper 04/03    

Iona reported that the First Minister has confirmed that we’re now moving into Phase 1 of the ‘route map’. The paper sets out the activities detailed within the ‘route map’ which are of direct concern to the LG or related to our interests. We need to think about how this work is taken forward in line with GIRFEC, ensuring the right support is available at the right time across all stages of a child’s life from maternity services through to adolescence. There are linkages to the work of the Education Recovery Group and health service recovery (including recent health and social care mobilisation plans), and the work underway to tackle poverty. There are immediate challenges to be addressed (including the expected increase in referrals and provision for children over the summer period), and longer term challenges. The role of the workforce is key and there may be capacity concerns, especially from Test and Protect, and opportunities to build on work to date to support the training and development for staff. There will need to be flexibility in how we respond as we move through the phases of the ‘route map’ and ensure children’s rights are fulfilled.

Members commented: 

  • paper is helpful as it approaches the issues from the perspective of children and families, rather than different parts of the system  
  • there needs to be a co-ordinated offer for families and we need to move quickly to maximise opportunities to support the workforce and make best use of resources.
  • this might not be a linear process as easing of lockdown may not be smooth, also the needs of families that experienced abuse in lockdown may be different and may require a different kind of approach
  • important to plan the how (e.g. making information very accessible, with good signposting), as well as the what
  • we may have increase in referrals but less staff to respond to the concerns, need to think about contingency plans in the same way the NHS did at the outset of pandemic planning (e.g. were calls to return to frontline health service). There is guidance by SSSC we can build on
  • what are the issues we need to focus on (e.g. transitions, children’s permanence planning) and the people who need priority support (e.g. children affected by disability, children who have experienced domestic abuse, children with ASN)
  • CAMHS may not be able to cope with the additional referrals coming through, so key issue is to think about how we can support the workforce across all services to better support CYP immediately
  • important to support the critical role of ELC and education. Links were made to the work of the Education Recovery Group. It was noted that there may be potential to explore the use of school counsellors to support CYP as issues arising during Covid become known and as part of the  family support work

There was some discussion of what can be learned from England which is slightly ahead in the stage of the C-19 virus, however, there was recognition that they have not been collecting data as we have in Scotland and are there are key differences about the context. 

Additional ‘zoom chat’ comments: 

  • CCPS have huge concerns about impact of Test and Protect on the workforce, especially in residential services.
  • we don’t make referrals in Scotland, we notify statutory agencies of concerns and we don’t differentiate between welfare and protection concerns (need to caution against an artificial divide between these).
  • agree teachers and ELC are critical. CELCIS have undertaken work, in some LA areas with third sector agencies, about supporting teaching staff to identify and respond to children experiencing neglect.      


  • all - email any further comments or suggestions on paper 04/04 and the route map work by Tuesday 2nd June to: 
  • Iona – to establish if third sector colleagues are able to have access to the health and social care mobilisation plans
  • Claire – to share CELCIS work on how to support teachers in named person role and team around child meetings
  • Debby – to share Public Health Scotland work, when available, collating the findings of surveys undertaken following the C-19 crisis
  • Laura M/Joanna – to provide a further update on the plans and guidance being developed to help and enable the ELC and education workforce to support the wellbeing of CYP
  • Iona/Wendy – to discuss health service guidance and integration into the work on children’s services and the route map

Update on data and narrative reporting    

Bill advised that the second narrative report was published on 27 May. Work will continue to be produce a narrative report, in addition to the weekly data report. Bill noted he is handing over the production of the narratives to Sara Dodds’ team and the work will be led by Anne-Marie Conlong.     



A concern was raised about the NSPCC campaign and potential confusion about messaging re. referral routes. Bill confirmed that there had been a UK wide campaign in place for a few weeks, but it emerged that a Scotland specific campaign was needed. This is currently being developed (as per the update at the last LG meeting) and is involving work with a wide range of partners, including NSPCC. It was noted that in Scotland referrals should continue to be made directly via Police and Social Work not through NSPCC as is happening in England.    

Next meeting    

Next meeting on 4 June at 14.00-16.00 via Zoom. 

The following meeting on 11 June will focus on domestic abuse.    


Back to top