Coronavirus (COVID-19): Children and Families Collective Leadership Group minutes - 3 November 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the group, held on 3 November 2022.

Attendees and apologies

​​​Attendees and apologies

  • Des Murray (co-chair), SOLANCE 

  • Gill Prichard, Care Inspectorate 

  • Joanne McMeeking , CELCIS 

  • Fiona Dyer, Children and Young People's Centre for Justice 

  • Jude Turbyne, Children in Scotland 

  • Stephen Bermingham, Children's Hearing Scotland 

  • Alan Small, Children Protection Committees Scotland 

  • Sheila Gordon, Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland 

  • Laura Caven, COSLA 

  • Sarah Gadsden, Improvement Service 

  • Martin Maclean, Police Scotland 

  • Debby Wason, Public Health Scotland 

  • Claire McGuire, NHS NES 

  • Jayne Scaife, Scottish Ambulance Service 

  • Alison Gordon, Social Work Scotland 

  • Fraser McKinlay, The Promise 

  •  Michael Chalmers (co-chair), Scottish Government

  • Jane Moffat, Scottish Government

  • Laura Holton, Scottish Government

  • Gavin Henderson, Scottish Government

  • Iona Colvin, Scottish Government

  • Joanna MacDonald, Scottish Government

  • Bryony Revell, Scottish Government

  • Nicola Hughes, Additional Attendees

  • Peter Donachie, Secretariat -

  • Emily Aitchison, Secretariat

Items and actions

Welcome and note of last meeting (6 October 2022) 

Des Murray welcomed attendees to the meeting. This will be the last meeting of CLG and Des thanked members for all their work in supporting children and families through the pandemic and on a range of other issues. A new Children and Families National Leadership Group will be set up with a smaller number of key priorities including UNCRC implementation and keeping the promise. Membership of the new group will be on a more strategic sectoral basis.

There were no amendments to the note of the last meeting on 6 October. The actions have been completed as follows:

Clare McCrum to share with the group an update on action in relation to debt. CELCIS to circulate evaluation report on North Lanarkshire’s direct support payments. These were circulated with the meeting papers on 1 November.

CLG members to provide nominations to secretariat to assist work on developing cost of living support for care experienced children and young people – Representatives from The Promise, CoSLA, social work Scotland, CCPS, care inspectorate, CELCIS and disabled children and young people’s advisory group have been invited to participate.

UNCRC incorporation  

Nicola Hughes discussed the latest developments on UNCRC incorporation to fulfil the vision of creating an inclusive Scotland that protects, respects and fulfils internationally recognised human rights.

The National Performance Framework (NPF) drives this vision forward, with two national outcomes of particular relevance:

  • that children grow up loved, safe and respected so that they can realise their full potential
  • that we respect, protect and fulfil human rights and live free from discrimination

However, the rights and obligations within each of the 42 articles in the UNCRC can be mapped across all of the national outcomes in the NPF

The UNCRC bill was referred to the supreme court as a result of a challenge by the UK law officers and the court in its judgment, found some provisions to be outwith the law making powers of Scottish Parliament. Since that judgment, Ministers have made it clear that they remain committed to the incorporation of the UNCRC to the maximum extent possible. The Scottish Government is currently preparing for the reconsideration stage of the bill, which will include lodging amendments to address the issues the supreme court raised in respect of legislative competence. It is hoped that the revised bill will be passed by early next year, although the exact timing will depend on how the relevant committees want to be engaged in reconsideration stage. The provisions in the bill mean that the duties would commence no later than six months from royal assent

The bill, once passed and commenced, will require all of Scotland’s public authorities, including Scottish Government, to ensure the protection of children’s rights in their decision-making and service delivery. Children, young people and their representatives will have a new ability to use the courts to enforce their rights. The bill will apply to all public functions within legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament, including functions of a public nature which are ‘contracted out’ to other providers. It requires that, so far as possible, legislation is interpreted and given effect to in a way compatible with UNCRC requirements. The Bill also includes powers to allow the courts to strike down incompatible legislation. Specific measures aim to remove barriers that children and young people may face in exercising their rights under the legislation and in accessing justice. This includes giving the Children and Young People’s Commissioner in Scotland and the Scottish Human Rights Commission the power to raise claims in the public interest.

Ministers will be required to publish a Children’s Rights Scheme, setting out the arrangements the Scottish Government is putting in place to fulfil its duties under the UNCRC and to secure or further strengthen children’s rights. Preparation and publication of a CRWIA will became mandatory for Scottish Ministers for all new bills, some SSIs, all decisions of a strategic nature which impact children’s rights and wellbeing, and on any COVID-19 related measure which leads to the closure of schools. The Scottish Government and listed authorities will also be required to report on steps they have taken to ensure compatibility with the incorporated UNCRC rights and obligations and to secure better or further effect of children’s rights.

Between March 2021 and March 2024 the Scottish Government is investing £4m per year to support UNCRC implementation. The Implementation Programme has four strands of work: Children’s Rights Resolution; Scottish Government leadership for children’s rights; empowered children who can claim their rights; and embedding children’s rights in public services. A range of guidance and support materials are being produced. This will include a children’s rights skills and lnowledge framework and examples of good practice. The support materials can be applied broadly to promote capacity building across public services. 

Nicola highlighted that members of the UNCRC strategic implementation board and other stakeholders were keen to work with Scottish Government on identifying and addressing potential areas of incompatibility. While it is important to note that any potential issue cannot be viewed as absolute incompatibilities as this will be for courts to decide, this work will help public services prepare for commencement. Nicola invited CLG to assist this work.

Members made the following points in response:

  • there had been a loss of momentum and focus due to delays and other issues following the referral to the Supreme Court. This creates a risk of some public services being unprepared to fully incorporate UNCRC within their decision making and delivery processes
  • there are however good examples of collaborative action taking place including the Improvement Service’s work with local authorities and Public Health Scotland with Health Boards. CoSLA’s Children and Young People Board is also considering the implications of UNCRC incorporation
  • the Children’s Rights Group of the Youth Justice Improvement Board is currently considering potential compatibility issues with legislation relating to children and young people in conflict with the law. This information can be circulated on completion
  • it is essential to ensure that UNCRC incorporation is not perceived as an additional layer of activity. Promoting and embedding children’s rights is integral to GIRFEC and Keeping The Promise. The implementation of UNCRC therefore needs to be clearly aligned with these and other existing policies and support for children and families
  • the Scottish Government’s UNCRC team is receiving many requests for sector-specific guidance and examples of compatibility or incompatibility with the legislation. The team does not have the capacity to provide detailed guidance for each sector especially as it is for the courts to rule on incompatibility issues. However, the team is working with a range of organisations to enhance understanding of children’s rights and what it means to take a rights-based approach in their work
  • members highlighted the risk of financial constraints and other pressures on children’s services impacting on UNCRC implementation. This increases the need to maximise the use of existing workstreams; funding provision; and planning processes, including children’s services planning and community planning, to embed UNCRC. The emphasis needs to be on streamlining activities to achieve common goals rather than on creating additional workstreams

The co-chairs agreed that UNCRC implementation will be an important priority for the new children and families national leadership group.

Additional points from MS Teams chat:

Education Scotland has been doing work to link the Promise, the Morgan review and UNCRC together to try and avoid duplication when there are synergies across these three areas. It has been well received by those participating.

Greater emphasis on the important role of adult and community based services in terms of their impact on children and young people's wellbeing/rights came through in the recent analysis and review of Children's Services Plans and highlighting the contribution of the wider Third Sector as key within this.

CLG achievements and lessons learned for current and future crisis responses

Des Murray thanked members for their contribution to CLG’s work over the last two and a half years. Immense efforts have been made to support vulnerable children and families throughout the pandemic especially through the lockdown restrictions and different waves of the virus including last winter’s omicron variant. The impact of the pandemic is continuing through its effects on the cost of living and child poverty. The new children and families national leadership group will build on the knowledge base, work and achievements of CLG with the aim of being a leading collective voice for children and families.

Michael Chalmers also thanked members with particular appreciation for Iona Colvin’s work in setting up the group and other members who had been part of CLG from the outset. Michael noted the group’s work on winter payments and other emergency support for families; and helping to address the impact of the pandemic on conditions for children and young people in prison and reducing the number of under-18s in custody as particular achievements.

Members highlighted CLG’s success in aligning a broad range of organisations to co-ordinate and deliver support for children and families. There had been a risk in the early stages of the pandemic that this would be mainly seen as an emergency affecting older people. CLG had sought from the beginning to identify and address the risks to vulnerable children and families. The group’s work in relation to domestic abuse and child protection were examples of this approach. There is a need to continue this work: data and evidence shows the long term impact of the pandemic including through excess deaths from drug and alcohol abuse.

In terms of lessons learned, members agreed that the new group needed to focus on a smaller number of priorities set out in a clear workplan for the next two years. Relationships between different groups need to be clarified with a stronger drive to streamline work and avoid overlaps and duplication. There needs to be better, more strategic, use of data and intelligence; avoiding multiple requests for reporting wherever possible. Better prioritisation; collaboration; and streamlining is all the more important given the staffing and resourcing constraints on children’s services. 

Additional points from MS Teams chat:

The new group should have a common purpose, a focus on priorities, a focus on delivery and an ongoing approach to risk management across the sector.

There should be sense of mutuality in terms of our local and national planning resource allocation and expectations on delivery.

The gains we have made over the last two and a half years in relation to data and intelligence has been most impressive. Need for the leadership group to rapidly consolidate these gains and establish a timeline for system wide data improvements in line with the commitments of the Promise.

Christie should continue to be our guiding light - a financial framework, resource planning and key priorities should be added to the CLG focus.

Support for Ukrainian refugees

Iona Colvin noted that there continue to be significant numbers of new arrivals. The Scottish Government Super Sponsor Scheme remains on pause while longer term options for support are developed. Iona thanked North Lanarkshire and other local authorities for their hard work in identifying and bringing into use accommodation for refugees. Iona also thanked Aberlour as its support service for young people is now operational.

Refreshed safeguarding guidance will be issued next week. Work continues to safeguard unaccompanied minors and other vulnerable groups of children and young people. A review is being undertaken of arrangements for the Safeguarding Group and other groups supporting Ukrainian refugees to better meet their ongoing needs.


Iona Colvin will discuss with Alison Gordon broader support issues for refugees including young people arriving in Scotland through asylum seeker resettlement programmes.   

Any other business and close

There was no other business raised.

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