Coronavirus (COVID-19): Children and Families Collective Leadership Group minutes - 22 April 2021

Minutes for the meeting of the group on 22 April 2021.

Attendees and apologies

Chair: Grace Vickers


  • Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES) - Jennifer King
  • Care Inspectorate - Peter Macleod, Helen Happer
  • CELCIS, University of Strathclyde - Claire Burns
  • Children’s Hearings Scotland (CHS) - Elliot Jackson 
  • Child Protection Committees Scotland - Alan Small
  • Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland (CCPS) - Sheila Gordon 
  • COSLA - Jillian Gibson, Eddie Follan, Jillian Ingram
  • Disabled Children and Young People Advisory Group (DCYPAG) - apologies from Jim Carle 
  • Education Scotland - Laura-Ann Currie
  • The Promise - Thomas Carlton, Jackie Brock, apologies from Fiona McFarlane
  • Inspiring Children’s Futures, University of Strathclyde - Jennifer Davidson 
  • NHS Chief Executives - Angela Wallace 
  • NHS NES - Karen Wilson
  • Scottish Ambulance Service - Jayne Scaife
  • Police Scotland - Sam McCluskey
  • Public Health Scotland - Debby Wason
  • Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) - Neil Hunter
  • SOLACE - apologies from Margo Williamson
  • Social Work Scotland - Alison Gordon 
  • Scottish Social Services Council - Laura Lamb
  • Scottish Youth Parliament - apologies from Liam Fowley
  • Improvement Service - Sarah Gadsden

Scottish Government:

  • Michael Chalmers
  • Iona Colvin
  • Joanna MacDonald
  • Bill Scott-Watson
  • Mairi Macpherson
  • Ann Holmes
  • Bryony Revell
  • Phillip Gillespie
  • Carolyn Younie
  • Lesley Sheppard, Deputy Director Care, Protection and Justice, Directorate for Children and Families
  • Ellen Birt, Children’s Rights Unit, Directorate for Children and Families

Leadership Group Secretariat:

  • Peter Donachie
  • Claire Scott
  • Chris Lindores

Items and actions

Welcome and note of last meeting (8 April 2021)

Grace Vickers welcomed members to the meeting and introduced Sarah Gadsden of the Improvement Service as a new member.

There were no amendments to the note of the last meeting on 8 April.

Angela Davidson of the Improving Mental Health and Wellbeing team in Scottish Government had sent her apologies for the meeting but provided the following update on the Mental Health Recovery and Renewal Fund:

“We are working to determine Health Board allocations for the pre-announced sums to assist the implementation of the CAMHS specification and to address waiting time backlogs for CAMHS and Psychological Therapies. We have also issued letters to all local authorities for their work in taking forward the new community wellbeing services for children and young people. £15 million is being made available for this purpose in 21/22, effectively helping us to address mental health needs ‘upstream’.”

UNCRC incorporation

Lesley Sheppard and Ellen Birt gave a presentation on UNHRC Incorporation. The Bill aims to deliver the highest level of protection for children’s rights possible within the powers of the Scottish Parliament. Lesley highlighted the strong, consistent cross-party support for promoting children’s rights that has been shown throughout the passage of the Bill in the Scottish Parliament. The referral to the Supreme Court was limited to certain sections of the Bill (sections 6 and 19-21) and related to issues on the margins of the devolution settlement. The Bill cannot be presented for Royal Assent until the Supreme Court case is resolved. The case is at an early stage but further documentation is expected before the end of May. Although the Bill contains the provision to commence automatically six months after Royal Assent, the power to commence earlier is available and this provides options on how best to proceed as events develop.

Lesley emphasised that the Scottish Parliament’s power to implement children’s rights in devolved areas is not in doubt and, given the cross-party support, the majority of work to implement the UNCRC is continuing. 

Ellen summarised early priorities under the 3 year implementation programme. The UNCRC Strategic Implementation Board is being established and invitations sent for the first meeting in May. Working groups will also be formed. Participation of children and young people will be an important element in the decision-making process. Guidance will be prepared to assist public authorities in embedding children’s rights across their areas of responsibility. Producing the guidance will be a shared process between Scottish Government and a range of public authorities and draw upon previous experience in embedding the European Convention on Human Rights and other legislation. The aim is to issue initial guidance before the Summer with more detailed advice later in the year. A skills and training framework will also be developed. Delivering the Children’s Rights Scheme requiring Ministers to report annually on how they are complying with children’s rights is another important element in the early stages of the implementation programme. Details of the Scheme will be published later this year.

Members made the following points in discussion:

  • there was a query on timescales for aligning UNCRC Incorporation with legislation on raising the age of criminal responsibility. Lesley responded that there is no change to the October timeframe to delivering work on raising the age of criminal responsibility although this will be difficult to achieve.
  • assessing the impact of UNCRC Incorporation will be crucial. Evaluation work is at an early stage but development of CRWIAs (Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment) is being intensified. The experience of public authorities in undertaking equality impact assessment and embedding equalities legislation will greatly assist in evaluating the effectiveness of UNCRC Incorporation. The Children’s Rights Scheme will add a further level of evaluation.  
  • it will be important to map out the wider legislative landscape to identify incompatibilities or gaps with UNCRC and the mechanisms for resolving these. This is likely to be difficult. The pandemic has demonstrated the tensions and decisions involved in weighing up different rights, needs and safety considerations.  
  • consideration also needs to be given to demonstrating how UNCRC can succeed in “changing the conversation” in relation to the principles and processes used in decision-making and ways of working.

Lesley and Ellen undertook to provide a further update to Leadership Group as work progresses.           

Access to services summary report (paper 27/1)

Bill Scott-Watson and Bryony Revell provided an update on the improving access to services workstream in the Leadership Group’s action plan. Bill said that work had focused on addressing three main concerns: there sometimes seemed to be a disconnect between national and local provision of information about support for parents, carers or families; some parents, carers or families were uncertain whether universal services were still available during the pandemic or did not wish to burden them; and better sign-posting was needed to the national helplines and other services available.  

Extensive information gathering and other work had been undertaken with the 30 Children’s Services Planning (CSP) Partnerships to investigate these concerns. This resulted in a wealth of information on local monitoring and engagement mechanisms. CSP partnerships have put in place robust arrangements for continued delivery of named person support through universal services of health and education including assistance from health visitors and school nurses. They have also promoted proactive ‘check-ins’ with children and families.

Bryony described the additional support developed as a result of this work. This includes developing key messages for national helplines to ensure consistency in awareness and understanding across the country; a regional directory shared with national helplines and Children’s Services Planning Partnerships; and examples of good practice. The Learning Event for Leadership Group and the CSP Partnerships Strategic Leads Network on 20 May will provide an opportunity to discuss some of the good practice examples. The information obtained from CSP Partnerships will also benefit the GIRFEC Policy and Practice Refresh as well as the Family Support Delivery Group Routemap and collaborative workshops.

Members welcomed this work. It showed how whole system working had improved during the pandemic. There were queries over what had worked well in removing barriers and silo-working and how this can be sustained post-pandemic. Bill responded that the Learning Event will provide an opportunity for Leadership Group to reflect on this with CSP Partnerships Strategic Leads and help ensure sustainability.

Additional points from MS Teams chat:

On daily FM briefings we added messages for CMO, CNO and NCD to deliver for women, children and families at intervals and that is a wide reach route.

Scottish Ambulance Service – Public Protection Review and support for action plan

Jayne Scaife presented an update on the Scottish Ambulance Service’s (SAS) Public Protection Review. 

There has been a marked increase in ambulance crews reporting domestic abuse, drug and alcohol issues and breakdowns in the caring system. New instances of neglect and poverty are evident as a consequence of job losses and businesses closing. 

To help address this, SAS is providing additional funding and resources to enhance its public protection role. This includes linking to regional hubs and local authority social work teams to increase collaboration to support hard to reach families that social workers might not be able to reach otherwise.

SAS is raising awareness of child protection issues amongst its own staff. The pandemic has given SAS “permission” to try new service delivery methods and integrate more rapidly at local levels. A new staffing structure has been created to embed public protection issues more deeply within SAS and this is now being made permanent. SAS has experienced less barriers, less criteria and a quicker, more positive response in working with other organisations. SAS has also benefitted from closer involvement with national committees working on child and adult protection issues. 

Members offered strong support and encouragement for SAS’s work. SAS is a key service at points of crisis and part of the pathway for recovery for many people. SAS’s also provides helpful support in early intervention work with families. Child Protection Committees Scotland has seen a significant increase in engagement with SAS and are pleased with the steps being taken. Police Scotland would welcome further discussion on strengthening pathways to tackle domestic abuse and other issues. The Care Inspectorate has been linking with SAS on data sharing and intelligence and will engage further on falls programmes and other work to support care homes.


  • Sam McCluskey and Jayne Scaife to discuss further
  • Peter Macleod and Jayne Scaife to discuss further

There were queries over whether repeat calls out are reducing as a result of SAS’s public protection review. Jayne said that work to better understand, assess and support high intensity/frequent callers and locations is beginning and will increase after 10 May when new staff are in post.     

Review of progress on action plan (papers 27/2 and 27/3)

Iona Colvin provided an update on the action plan. As the plan is scheduled to run until the end of April, this is the final Highlight Report that will be provided. Leadership Group will receive a paper for its next meeting on 6 May summing up the outcomes of the action plan. Leadership Group will also receive proposals for a workforce planning and resilience group.  

The Learning Event on 20 May will provide an opportunity for members to reflect on the learning, good practice and innovations developed in response to the pandemic through the action plan, winter support package and deep dive work with local authorities; consider how best to lock in the gains; and scale up and spread improvements that have been made.

On individual workstreams, Iona highlighted significant increases in site visits and social media traffic as a result of the child protection awareness campaigns. On the recovery work for the Children’s Hearing System, Leadership Group will receive monthly updates. The latest update described the work taking place on virtual hearings. It also noted concerns over some local authorities not implementing the measures in orders made by a children’s hearing. SWS is to enquire about this and engage in further discussion as necessary.

Leadership Group had also been provided with a high level report for information on the outcomes of the focus groups with vulnerable children, young people and parents/carers. A full report of the focus groups will be provided at a future meeting.  

AOB and close

There was no AOB. The main agenda items for the next meeting on 6 May will include updates on family support and the deep dive work with local authorities on hidden harms.

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