Coronavirus (COVID-19): Children and Families Collective Leadership Group minutes - 4 June 2020

Minutes for the meeting of the group on 4 June 2020.

Attendees and apologies

Chair: Iona Colvin

Meeting participants: 

  • Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES) - Douglas Hutchison
  • Care Inspectorate - 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
  • Education Scotland - Gayle Gorman
  • Independent Care Review - Fiona Duncan, Fiona McFarlane
  • Inspiring Children’s Futures, University of Strathclyde - Jennifer Davidson
  • NHS Chief Executives - Angela Wallace (deputy for Cathie Cowan)
  • Police Scotland - DCS Sam McCluskey
  • Public Health Scotland - Diane Stockton
  • Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) - Neil Hunter
  • Scottish Government - Bill Alexander, Children and Families Directorate, Ann Holmes, Chief Nursing Officer Directorate, Kate Smith, Early Learning and Childcare Directorate
  • SOLACE - Karen Reid
  • Scottish Social Services Council - Ann McSorley (deputy for Phillip Gillespie)
  • Social Work Scotland - Alison Gordon

Additional meeting participants:

  • Mairi Macpherson, SG Deputy Director, Creating Positive Futures
  • Nicola Hughes, Ann-Marie O’Neill, Gita Sharkey, SG Children’s Rights Unit 
  • Sara Hampson, Mandy Gordon, SG GIRFEC Unit 
  • Carolyn Wilson, SG Maternal and Child Wellbeing
  • Daniel Boyle, SG Children and Families Analysis
  • Bill Scott-Watson, SG Deputy Director, Care, Protection and Justice Division
  • Susan Bolt, SG GIRFEC Unit (dialling in to listen for info)
  • Sara Dodds, C-19 Children and Families Collective Leadership Group Coordination
  • Anne-Marie Conlong, data and narrative reporting


  • Eddie Folan, COSLA
  • Peter Macleod, Care Inspectorate
  • Laura Meikle, SG Learning Directorate 
  • Grace Vickers, SOLACE

Items and actions

Updates on actions from 28 May meeting (paper 05/01)

In addition to the updates noted in the paper, Iona advised that she has arranged to speak to SG local government colleagues to discuss join-up; and she has had an initial discussion with Fiona Duncan re. family support work, but further discussion will be needed. The paper on family support work will be circulated for comment. Regarding the Health and Social Care Mobilisation Plans, Annie noted that she is enquiring about access to these plans via the Chief Officers’ Group. There were no requested amendments to the note or further updates to the actions.      


  • all – Please provide comments on the family support paper to Elspeth Hough and Laura Holton by noon on Wednesday 10 June

Proposed advisory group and participation of children, young people and parents/carers (paper 05/02)

Mairi Macpherson introduced the paper which sets out three proposals regarding: survey evidence, direct engagement with CYP and parents/carers to hear the voice of lived experience, and establishing an Advisory group (initial discussions have taken place and a further meeting is planned on 9 June). It was stated that this is work in progress for members’ comments, and it was recognised that before engaging with CYP it’s important to have effective plans for providing feedback, building on existing evidence and engagement, and to avoid ‘tokenism’. Key discussion points were:

  • surveys are a limited tool since they do not reach all those you need to reach and do not provide opportunities for meaningful engagement/ participation
  • learning from the Independent Care Review (ICR) highlighted that CYP need to be put front and centre, they do not always want to engage with and have their views mediated by intermediary organisations, and we need to be mindful that one or a few people cannot be asked to represent all CYP
  • there is an eagerness to build on the learning from the ICR and be more innovative and inclusive in our approaches, but at the same time a recognition that this is not straightforward and requires time / resources. Whilst there are limitations of the proposed Advisory Group, it was suggested the LG could help progress the plans in the right direction and begin to think about what additional engagement and actions need to be undertaken. The question is what do we need to ‘hone in’ on? 
  • it was also suggested that plans and approaches might need to be different for specific issues being considered and/or geographical location
  • it was also advised that we need to be clear with CYP and families about what we want to do, why, and how we’re going to do it

It was agreed that Mairi and colleagues will review the comments, continue dialogue, and further develop plans. Iona stated, however, that the SG does not need to lead this work and LG members and their colleagues were invited to take a lead role in developing and progressing plans (supported by the SG).     


  • all  - to provide any further comments on the paper and/or volunteer to contribute to or lead the work, by emailing the mailbox:
  • Mairi and team – to proceed with meeting of the proposed Advisory Group on 9 June and to liaise with the ICR team about their learning

Improving support for disabled children and young people (Paper 05/03)

Sara Hampson noted the clear need to improve support for disabled CYP and to recognise that each family has unique needs. She invited comments about the best ways to collectively progress this work and on the three priorities outlined in the paper: 1) engagement and participation, 2) co-ordination across policy areas/sectors, and 3) social care. Key discussion points were:

  • there are significant issues here which have been in need of collective action at a national and local level since before COVID-19, so the paper and work outlined were very much welcomed. There was also recognition that many of the challenges outlined are also a significant issue for adults
  • it was stated that the links with ELC and Learning should not be underplayed and there’s strength in the holistic approach of GIRFEC which we should build on, in particular for additional support for learning when children and young people return to school to a blended learning approach. It was noted that these issues are being considered with Learning Directorate colleagues and plans developed as part of the work of the COVID-19 Education Recovery Group (CERG), including resources to be published later today and next week
  • it was reported that there have been difficulties providing practical support to CYP with disabilities and their families in a safe way during the pandemic, due to challenges with capacity and facilities at a time when the CYP have not been at school
  • other implications of the COVID-19 context were also discussed, including reduced family income, the implications of Test and Protect for the workforce and CYP with disabilities and their families, and the linkages with the work on the ‘route map’ (following agenda item)

[Comment on ‘zoom chat’: suggest there needs to be specific reference to lone parents and the greater impacts that are generally seen for them and can be expected in relation to COVID-19]    


  • all  - to provide any further comments on the paper and/or volunteer to contribute to the work, by emailing the mailbox:
  • Sara H – to share details of who is on the Disabled Children and Young People Advisory Group
  • Sara H – to follow up on offers of support for the work from Social Work Scotland (liaising with Alison), Education Scotland (linking with Laura Ann Currie), and Third Sector colleagues (liaising with Annie and Jackie)

‘Route map’ and services supporting children and young people (slides)

Iona advised that moving between the Phases in the ‘route map’ depends on meeting the criteria as set out in the Framework publication, so we cannot assume that we will automatically move out of Phase 1 at the next review point on the 18th June. Bill talked through the detail in the slides to prompt discussion and help the LG reach consensus on the direction of travel. He noted this is not about planning for a ‘recovery’, rather about working with families and establishing a new hybrid involving a level of direct contact and remote working. Sara Hampson also outlined issues relating to access to respite/day care to support unpaid carers and for families with a disabled family member; and Ann Holmes discussed plans for health services following the lockdown period, during which time there has been either full or adapted service provision. Bill outlined the key challenges and stated the aim is to establish an approach of moving forward in a measured and cautionary way with join-up across different parts of the ‘system’. Key discussion points were: 

  • the principles and the proposed co-ordination across the ‘system’ set out in the slides were welcomed. There was confidence that existing, strong partnership working will support this co-ordination, but we need to be careful not to be shunting responsibility between different parts of the system
  • it was suggested we need to plan for the fact that it may not be a linear path along the ‘route map’ and we may move back and forth between Phases and to think what that might mean for engagement with families
  • it was advised that we should build on learning from the lockdown period, including the ways in which some families have coped well and that some service adaptations have been helpful for families. E.g. in Perth and Kinross it has been found that families have benefited from having a single point of contact rather than a mix of professionals
  • the importance of relationships for CYP was emphasised and there was a question about the extent which staff working in the Hubs will be able to maintain positive relationships developed with CYP as attendance at Hubs is reduced
  • it was stated that volunteers play an important role and that they should be able to reconnect with families they were supporting or build new relationships with families. In response, it was clarified that volunteers can work with existing families in Phase 1 but with guidance and supervision, and that engagement with new families should be part of Phase 2
  • there was some caution about being able to repurpose existing funding streams, but it was noted that CERG has a workstream looking at funding issues
  • it was questioned whether a child’s plan should be used as a basis for prioritisation, since there are children without a child’s plan who would still be a priority for support (including CYP who are subject to a supervision order)
  • it was questioned whether we do need to plan for an increase in care placements or whether that can be mitigated by an enhanced family support offer and by anti-poverty measures; as well as potentially looking at approaches that offer temporary placements or other support measures to avoid ‘locking’ CYP into care. In response, it was noted that all these support measures are important and does link to the family support work being progressed with the LG, but we need to plan for the fact there will still be some CYP who need to go into care and will need to safe places to go

There was also a discussion about Test and Protect and the potential impacts on service planning and delivery. Iona noted that she and colleagues are working with officials across the SG and in public health to address concerns about the implications, including the operation of residential children’s homes. A short-term group is to be established and a further update will be provided to the LG. It was noted that there is learning from contingency planning undertaken for health and social care services we can build on and it was also suggested we could look at what is being done in other countries.

Comments on ‘zoom chat’:

  • excellent opportunity to accelerate access to outdoor learning/play for children affected by disability but also more generally. Workforce will need support in this but there is lots of expertise (e.g. The Yard, Play Scotland, Kate Smith/ELC team
  • can we receive at next LG meeting a more explicit explanation of how the local children’s services partnership will prioritise its work? Is it too simplistic to say that the local partnerships will check and review/update/plan next phase on its interactions with (a) all children with a plan; (b) all children attending a hub; (c) all children who have become known to the system? What is the sequencing and precise steps?
  • would like to see increase and focus on family support as early as possible


  • all - to send any further comments on the slides and ‘route map’ preparations to the mailbox:
  • Bill – to review discussion on the ‘route map’ planning and to draft a summary document on behalf of the LG for Scottish Government, SOLACE, COSLA and other partners. A draft will be shared for comment

Update on process and timing for the narrative report (paper 05/04)

Anne-Marie Conlong advised that she is now leading on the co-ordination of the weekly reporting of the vulnerable children data and the periodical narrative report, and she thanked Bill Alexander for his help and support in the handover of the process. She advised that the next narrative report will be issued on the 10 June for comment. Anne-Marie and Karen noted that the final version of the narrative will be published early July, following clearance by the Deputy First Minister and COSLA leaders. Karen also advised that the child and adult data will now be combined into one weekly report and confirmed that all the data is reviewed by the Chief Officers’ Groups (including Chief Executives of Health Boards). 


  • all - send contributions to the next narrative to:
  • all – provide comments on the draft narrative (once circulated) by 19 June and discuss the implications of the findings at a LG meeting on 25 June
  • Diane - to look at data on CYP who come into contact with A&E for emergency mental health support and look at ambulance service data which can be added to the narrative report

Update on health visiting data (paper 05/05)

Ann Holmes discussed the paper on the health visiting data and noted that virtually all health boards are able to continue to deliver the entire pathway. She stated that it is a reassuring picture that universal services are being provided.

[Comment on zoom chat:  Figures published by Public Health Scotland on immunisations yesterday showing that good levels of immunisation has been maintained over last 10 weeks.] 

Child protection communications campaign update

Following previous discussions at the LG about the planned communications campaign on child protection, Iona advised that Lindsay MacDougall has been working with colleagues across the sector on the development on of the campaign. There has been significant feedback about the nature of the campaign. There is a strong view that we need to have a campaign which is less punitive in its approach and has a stronger emphasis on support for families; but at the same time there has been feedback that we need to make sure children are protected. Iona noted that there is a balance to be struck and there is more work to do to ensure that we get this right. Lindsay is leading on further development of the campaign in the context of the ‘route map’, supported by Fiona Duncan and members of the LG, and will report back in a fortnight on developments. Comments provided: 

  • Police Scotland is aware that the campaign focus is potentially shifting from the original proposal and recognises the need to strike the right balance with the campaign. However, Police Scotland continues to have concerns about ‘hidden harm’ and the lack of child concern referrals, which have still not picked up to normal levels pre-lockdown
  • Alan noted that child protection concerns are down and there has been a decrease in CYP attending health services and being picked up by the ambulance service, and stated this means we expect to see hidden harm eventually come to the surface. Alan stated he looked forward to a campaign focused on enabling families to come forward for support. He noted that Child Protection Committees Scotland have an existing ‘eyes and ears open’ campaign which they are likely to reinvigorate, and stated that the two campaigns can work side-by-side
  • Annie advised that the resulting campaign developed needs to be consistent with everything we’re saying on family support

[Comment on zoom chat:  In relation to the campaign, our concern was about competing narratives]

Next meeting

Next meeting on 11 June at 14.00-16.00 via Zoom – this meeting will focus on domestic abuse.  


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