Coronavirus (COVID-19): Children and Families Collective Leadership Group minutes - 3 September 2020

Minutes for the meeting of the group on 3 September 2020.

Attendees and apologies

Chair: Michael Chalmers

Meeting participants


  • Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES) - apologies from Douglas Hutchison
  • Care Inspectorate - Peter Macleod, Andrew Gillies (deputy for 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 - Tam Baillie (deputy for Alan Small)
  • Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland (CCPS) - Annie Gunner Logan
  • COSLA - apologies from Eddie Folan
  • Disabled Children and Young People Advisory Group (DCYPAG) - Jim Carle
  • Education Scotland - Janine McCullough (deputy for Laura-Ann Currie)
  • The Promise - Fi McFarlane, Thomas Carlton, apologies from Fiona Duncan
  • Inspiring Children’s Futures, University of Strathclyde - Jennifer Davidson
  • NHS Chief Executives - Angela Wallace
  • Police Scotland - Sam McCluskey
  • Public Health Scotland - Debby Wason
  • Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) - Neil Hunter
  • Scottish Government - Iona Colvin, Ann Holmes, Marie McQuade (deputy for Kate Smith), apologies from Laura Meikle and Hugh McAloon
  • SOLACE - Karen Reid, apologies from Grace Vickers
  • Scottish Social Services Council - Phillip Gillespie
  • Social Work Scotland - Alison Gordon

Additional meeting participants:

  • Ronnie Hill, Associate Director, The ALLIANCE, and Vice-Chair DCYPAG
  • Jenny Miller, Chief Executive, Promoting A More Inclusive Society (PAMIS)
  • Salena Begley MBE, Partnership Development Manager (Scotland), Family Fund
  • Sara Hampson, SG GIRFEC Disability Team Leader
  • Kayleigh Miller-Lambie, SG GIRFEC Team and DCYPAG Secretariat
  • Bill Alexander, SG Deputy Chief Social Work Adviser
  • David Hannigan, SG Looked After Children Team Leader
  • Hazel Crawford, SG Looked After Children Team Head
  • Dave Caesar, SG Leadership and Talent Management Head
  • Leadership Group secretariat: Sara Dodds, Anne-Marie Conlong, Claire Scott and Chris Lindores
  • Innes Fyfe, SG Interim Deputy Director for Improving Health and Wellbeing, C&F Directorate
  • Bill Scott-Watson, SG Acting Deputy Director, Care, Protection and Justice Division, C and F Directorate
  • Mairi Macpherson, SG Deputy Director, Creating Positive Futures, C and F Directorate

Items and actions

Note of the last meeting and updates on actions [paper 13/01]

Members agreed the note.

Impact of Covid-19 on disabled children and young people [paper 13/02]

Sara Hampson introduced herself and Kayleigh Miller-Lambie as members of the SG GIRFEC team and Disabled Children and Young People Advisory Group (DCYPAG) Secretariat. DCYPAG currently has 37 members from 30 organisations. They usually meet every three months but have met in May, June and August during lockdown. See Annex A for actions from this item.

Jim Carle, independent Chair of DCYPAG, talked through slides 2 to 4, highlighting the asks of the Leadership Group (LG) and the offer from DCYPAG.

Ronnie Hill talked through slides 5 to 8. He reported that families have felt that GIRFEC is no longer operating. He suggested that as part of the GIRFEC refresh, the wellbeing indicators need to be revised to reflect today’s needs, such as digital inclusion, and to develop an approach and training which ensures partnership with families and involves co-production. Ronnie noted that the Deputy First Minister committed to releasing new resources and training as part of the GIRFEC refresh and asked that these are prioritised.

Jenny Miller talked through slides 9 to 12, highlighting the impact on families of a lack of access to essential support services, particularly during lockdown when families with disabled children and young people needed more support. An example was given of how changes to AHP services at the start of lockdown had an impact on families and the potential further impact was raised in the event that these services shut down during a second wave/lockdown. It was noted that there has been helpful guidance, particularly from Education Scotland, but there is a need to look at how guidance is being implemented across Scotland. Jenny reported that the guidance has not always been implemented, but families don’t have time to hunt down guidance on what should be happening. Jenny emphasised the importance of planning for disabled children’s needs and related guidance in advance of any further lockdown. 

Salena Begley talked through slides 13 to 19, highlighting how families with disabled CYP are impacted by poverty and the additional cost of raising a disabled child. The importance of digital inclusion was also emphasised. It was noted that significant efforts have been made but more needs to be done to overcome barriers and meet the important needs of families.

LG members discussed the following points:

  • regarding AHP concerns, is AHP involvement limited to provision of equipment? Jenny confirmed that AHPs are much more widely involved than this
  • regarding school learning resources for learning at home, Salena stated that the key is ensuring that parent carers know what resources are there, how to access them and have the ability to do so. She also added that in the second Family Fund survey, the primary areas parents felt the offer could be improved focussed around more contact, access to digital devices (e.g. laptops, tablets) and making work and activities accessible and appropriate for disabled or seriously ill children
  • on transitions, what’s the current situation with ensuring robust transitions planning, is there any data on bottlenecks? Sara H noted that Association for Real Change (ARC) and Scottish Transitions Forum recently undertook a survey on transitions and the impact of Covid and the SG GIRFEC team have been working with them to develop the Principles into Practice Trial Program. The Morgan review of additional support for learning implementation has just concluded and links will also be made with this
  • on the review of social care announced in Programme for Government, it was asked if a potential new social care system be would confined only to adult social care, as this could create difficulties for transitions if disabled CYP are not considered. It was also asked if any qualified social workers would be members of the review panel. Iona confirmed that the remit of the review is for adult social care but it does include transitions, as well as reaching across areas such as mental health and drug and alcohol use. Iona noted she recently raised the issue of transitions with Derek Feeley, the Review Chair, and will be keeping in touch with the review on the issue of transitions. Iona also advised that none of the panel members are social workers but a meeting has been arranged with the Chief Social Work Officers Group. Some LG members noted the important need for social care expertise to be part of the panel
  • on digital inclusion, DCYPAG member Children in Scotland highlighted concerns encountered through their Enquire service that, even pre-Covid, many disabled CYP didn’t have access to home learning resources (such as devices) which would have assisted with blended learning. There are examples of good practice but these are inconsistent between local authorities. As well as providing a device, digital support needs to be integrated and holistic, in line with recent Programme for Government commitments on Connecting Scotland
  • Peter Macleod noted that he chairs the Technology Enabled Care Programme Board and offered to take forward an action (see Annex A). Peter also proposed that transitions could be included in upcoming Care Inspectorate scrutiny work and considered if there should be a guidance note to local authorities to give direction on expected minimum practice and standards around multi-agency transition planning. It was noted that ADES have a key role in this
  • the GIRFEC refresh is an opportunity for multi-sector working, not just in-sector working, and the importance of including health broadly in that
  • the challenge is to be inclusive in all of our decision making and the need for forward planning, which will improve the emotional health and wellbeing of disabled CYP and their families.
  • Salena noted that the data coming in from Family Fund 2nd survey shows 94% of parent carers said lockdown has had negative impacts on their disabled child’s health and wellbeing. This does concern services but also how CYP and families can be equipped to manage if there is a second lockdown. Clarity of guidance and access to spaces and play equipment important and social connectedness are crucial. We also need to think about how to equip families to be ready for another situation in which they become the sole carers/educators, potentially continue their own jobs and how to manage their own mental wellbeing

Participants made the following comments in Zoom chat:

‘Really important point Salena about link between poverty and digital divide - and how it can be a vicious circle’

Jenny Miller: ‘There are great intentions but families feel that they are not being communicated or included in any decisions and discussions. Be useful for us to all explore how we do get it right - PAMIS would be keen to work with you Sara H’

‘health transitions may well be a key issue just now for those young people with complex health needs as they move into adult services’

Andrew Gillies: ‘Just following up from Peter, the Care Inspectorate is looking at the possibilities around some thematic scrutiny work on children affected by a disability.’ 

‘[multi-sector working] is really important and would use GIRFEC as a uniting force, removing boundaries’

‘Getting out is also about access to changing places, toilets and our approach is about shared risk assessments - families have lots to offer in terms of experts in protecting their child - their plea is to be involved in risks assessments and included in decision making’

Latest ‘vulnerable children’ data report [paper 13/03]

Bill Alexander introduced the paper, noting that the most recent data report (28 August 2020) follows the first 2 weeks of school return and relaxation of lockdown so now is a good time to reflect on the impact on CYP and families. Bill also noted that the weekly data report will now come out on Mondays, not Fridays.

Bill highlighted three key points from paper:

  • there has been increased child protection planning activity since early June, and a higher number of Inter-agency Referral Discussions in the last two weeks (charts 1 and 6). There were twice as many de-registrations of child protection plans as the previous week, which in itself was a significant increase
  • there are continuing low numbers of children becoming looked after, especially at home (Table 1 and Chart 2). In the last twelve weeks, the average of 33 per week is low – we would expect numbers to be 2-3 times this. The number of children becoming looked after at home is also low. In part, this will be linked to the backlog of Children’s Hearings discussed at previous LG meetings
  • there is continuing variable contact with care leavers across the 32 authorities (Table 2). This may be higher overall than it was pre-lockdown which is positive but there are significant local variations

LG members discussed the following points:

  • on point 1, these increases were anticipated but seem to be happening earlier than expected, which is welcome
  • on point 3, LG members should look at strength and limitations of the data again, particularly given previous discussion about the risk of homelessness for care leavers and the deaths of care experienced young people. It would be beneficial to strengthen contact more consistently across Scotland
  • on point 3, organisations should be linking in with SG homelessness work and LG members were urged to make contact with initiatives on homelessness, given that care leavers are at higher risk of homelessness
  • on point 3, there is a need to be cautious because in some local authorities, a child’s lead officer may not be a social worker but an education or health professional instead which means they are not always included in the relevant stats. Chief Social Work Officers should be aware of this issue and be willing to give their assurance on this. We need a narrative around the data as it only shows one side, which can vary depending on local authority and their data collation practices
  • on point 3, the lack of transitions due to lockdown has largely been a positive but these will have to happen soon and quickly as new children move into the system
  • there are issues with local data collection regarding contact with children with a multi-agency plan. There will be some narrative that we can draw on from across the country. In the Zoom chat, Karen noted that this has been raised with all COGs to get the levels of assurance necessary
  • there are concerns where young people have lost contact with services and are now trying to re-engage. Some care leavers may not be aware of their rights due to lack of contact with Citizen’s Advice. Karen noted in the chat that SOLACE has been asked to support this and the Children’s Hearings system more effectively
  • to what extent is this data driving our work around early family support work? How are we using that money? There are leverage points in system that we need to focus in on
  • Peter Macleod noted that although it’s not solely the Care Inspectorate’s role to triangulate data on this, they could help to look at the data with partners. It was also noted there could be learning on how to understand what the data is telling us from the Care Inspectorate’s current work on self-evaluation as part of the enquiry model on care at home

Participants made the following comments in Zoom chat:

‘It would be useful to see health data alongside [care leaver aftercare data in point 3] and also narrative across sectors to enable a rounded understanding of what key issues may be and to inform any national work required.’

‘I suggest we ought to be deeply concerned about the funding cuts/closures to several Citizen Advice Bureaux at a time when their services will needed more than ever.’


  • Bill Alexander to reflect on discussion and pick up on offer made by Peter Macleod on looking at data again
  • Alison Gordon to raise awareness of these issues with the Social Work Scotland Children and Families Committee and will also speak to Chief Social Work Officers on this topic prior to the SOLACE data group meeting in early October

Consultation on new child protection guidance

Bill Alexander noted that since this topic was last raised with the LG on 9 July, feedback from LG members has been taken on board and a formal consultation will be launched soon. Legal checks and formatting are underway and the steering group is finalising the consultation wording at the end of September 2020. The consultation should open in early October 2020 and close in early January 2021, with a steering group meeting in February 2021, and publication of the guidance in April/May 2021.


Support and wellbeing for children’s services workforce [paper 13/04]

Dave Caesar presented his paper, outlining his questions for LG members set out at the end of the paper.

LG members discussed the following points:

  • a national, rather than territorial, approach is welcome
  • will the Network be open to third sector staff? Dave confirmed it would be
  • regarding the Oversight board, could a feedback loop be created to feed back into the system, given the system is responsible for some of the initial issues? Dave noted that they are actively trying to link into leadership, management, workplace culture and other areas as best they can to feed into preventative space all the time
  • what is going to be done to make sure employers are supporting mental health of their workforce? This approach could be more of a sticking plaster. Dave noted that due to how services are commissioned and run, the Scottish Government naturally has more influence on these issues with health, but less with social care. Dave also noted there is limited scope to resolve granular issues within individual teams, with specific line managers, etc. He welcomed any input on how to understand the conditions in which employees operate and how to improve them
  • the CYP workforce is multi-sectoral and beyond health and social care boundaries. Will the Network be appropriately linked into GIRFEC and the GIRFEC refresh? Will Bill Alexander’s GIRFEC leadership work be renewed? Dave noted that for regulatory reasons, the line is drawn around H and SC staff, and that this was agreed following discussions with COSLA and SG colleagues. Covid has highlighted the complex interdependency between different sectors, employment and family life, etc. and understanding this is key to avoid thinking only within organisational or sectoral boundaries

Participants made the following comments in Zoom chat:

‘Thanks for this Dave - conscious of the overlaps and interdependencies with The Promise.’    



The Chair informed members that the next meeting on 17 September (14.00-16.00) will be a dedicated workshop on lessons learned from first lockdown and forward planning for next phases of COVID.

No further business from members.


  • members to set out their thoughts and experiences in order to make the most of the workshop - see email issued to LG 8 September 2020
  • members to e-mail suggested agenda items for future meetings to:

Annex A - actions from agenda item 3, Impact of Covid-19 on disabled children and young people

Issue: raise awareness of current proposals for improvement of transitions    Consider the need for wider sharing of information and collaboration on transitions proposals.

Action: Begin the trial of Principles Into Practice transitions framework.    

Lead person: Sara Hampson    Jenny Miller, PAMIS

Link in with: Peter McLeod/Care Inspectorate, association for Real Change-SG Officials, SG Officials in Learning Directorate (Morgan Review/ASL)

Issue: Adult Social Care Review consideration of transitions    

Action: link in with the Adult Social Care Review to discuss the scope of transitions consideration, ensure good collaboration and avoid overlap of planned work.    

Lead person: Iona Colvin, Sara Hampson    

Link in with: Derek Feeley, Chair of Adult Social Care Review

Issue: CERG meetings with education to discuss possible future lockdowns    

Action: invitations to be made to GIRFEC disability team leader for any meetings which will impact on disabled children and young people’s social care or transitions.

Lead person: Iona Colvin  

Link in with: Sara Hampson, SG Education colleagues 

Issue: previous Leadership Group discussions    

Action: to share discussion in previous meetings where GIRFEC indicators/transitions were discussed. Examples include the transitions work by the Homelessness Task Force and also wellbeing indicators.

Lead person Chris Lindores    

Link in with: Kayleigh Miller-Lambie/Sara Hampson

Issue: GIRFEC refresh    

Action: LG Secretariat to schedule an update on GIRFEC refresh for a future LG meeting, including how wellbeing indicators might be revised (for example, around digital connectivity).

Lead person: Chris Lindores, Sara Dodds    

Link in with: Sara Hampson

Issue: Near Me Digital Development    

Action: offer to look at current Near Me practice and see what scope there is to build more momentum around disabled children and young people’s needs.

Lead person: Peter McLeod  

Link in with: Technology Enabled Care Programme Board

Issue: raise awareness of disabled CYP with Social Work Scotland    

Action: to take forward discussion and any necessary work with Social Work Scotland.    

Lead person: Alison Gordon

Link in with: Sara Hampson, Social Work Scotland Children and Families Committee

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