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

Minutes from the meeting held on 6 August 2020.

Attendees and apologies

  • Douglas Hutchison, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)
  • Peter Macleod, Care Inspectorate
  • Helen Happer, Care Inspectorate
  • Aileen Nicol, CELCIS, University of Strathclyde 
  • Elliot Jackson, Children's Hearings Scotland (CHS) 
  • Alan Small, Child Protection Committees Scotland 
  • Annie Gunner Logan, Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland (CCPS) 
  • Eddie Follan, COSLA 
  • Jim Carle, Disabled Children and Yound People Advisory Group (DCYPAG) 
  • Laura-Ann Currie, Eduation Scotland 
  • Fi McFarlane, The Promise 
  • Thomas Carlton, The Promise
  • Sam McCluskey, Police Scotland 
  • Debby Wason, Public Health Scotland
  • Neil Hunter, Scottish  Children's Reporter Administration (SCRA) 
  • Bill Alexander, Scottish Government
  • Laura Meikle, Scottish Government
  • Wendy Mitchell, Scottish Government
  • Joanna Mackenzie, Scottish Government
  • Grace Vickers, SOLACE 
  • Phillip Gillespie, Scottish Social Services Council 
  • Alison Gordon, Social Work Scotland

Additional participants

  • Marsha Scott, Scottish Woman's Aid 
  • Fiona McMullen, ASSIST
  • Anna Mitchell, Safe & Together Institute
  • Katie Brown, COSLA 
  • Joanna McLaughlin, Improvement Service 
  • Trevor Owan, SG Equality Unit 
  • Lynsday Ross, SG Violence Against Woman & Girls Unit 
  • Linsday MacDougall, SG Child Protection Unit 
  • Kieran McQuaid, SG Creating Positivie Futures Unit 

Items and actions

Note of last minute on 23 July 2020 

Members agreed the note and action.

Domestic abuse and CYP – follow up to 11 June meeting [paper 11/02]

Sara Dodds gave her thanks to all who contributed to the ‘deep dive’ meeting on 11 June, with particular thanks to Marsha Scott, Fiona McMullen, Anna Mitchell, Jackie Irvine and Sarah Taylor for the expertise and challenge they provided at that meeting.

Sara noted that since that meeting, child protection colleagues within the Scottish Government are in the process of setting up an internal working group to further co-ordinate and drive activity relating to domestic abuse and children and young people.

Sara outlined the paper which provides updates on the actions agreed following the 11 June meeting and gave her thanks to the many people attending this meeting, and others, for progressing the work and providing contributions to the paper.

Sara noted apologies from Jackie Irvine and Sarah Taylor for today’s meeting and introduced Marsha, Fiona and Anna who provided their reflections on the progress of the actions to date, current situation/challenges and further steps to be taken. 

The points raised by Marsha, Fiona and Anna and the subsequent discussion will inform further development of the paper – this revised paper will be shared with leadership group members for their input.


  • leadership group Secretariat to take forward revision of domestic abuse paper with relevant SG colleagues.

Reducing homelessness for care leavers [paper 11/03]

David Hannigan introduced himself and Ruth Whatling, and talked through the paper, highlighting the ongoing work implementing the recommendations from the care leaver homelessness prevention pathway as well as the specific issues relating to COVID-19 and the easing of lockdown for care leavers. He set out the asks of the leadership group on this topic, as detailed in point 26 of the paper.

Members made a range of comments:

  • Helen Happer welcomed the paper. She noted that joint inspections have a specific question to answer on how partnerships work together to support YP into transitions and welcomed recommendation 5 of the care leaver homelessness prevention pathway (these recommendations are set out in annex b of the paper). She offer to assist with this work as the care inspectorate currently have some spare capacity due to COVID-19 postponing some of their ongoing work
  • Fi McFarlane noted that the content of the paper was both encouraging and worrying at points and raised a question about whether there has been auditing done on capacity so that we can have a clearer understanding of that
  • Aileen Nicol noted that Kenny McGhee from CELCIS worked with David and Ruth on the paper and that they are keen to carry on contributing to this work. She noted her surprise at the positive impact on care leavers, but that we still need to prepare for coming out of lockdown. In the zoom text chat, Thomas Carlton asked if the positive anecdotal evidence was ratified by those with lived experience and Aileen said she would ask Kenny McGhee to get in touch with Thomas on this
  • Alison Gordon noted she was less immediately concerned about placement capacity and more about transition planning capacity, especially the need to a joined-up response to address housing, health, employment and all other needs for young people facing challenges. Alison offered to contribute to this work to ensure focus isn’t lost on getting planning and support right
  • Iona noted a rise in reported deaths of young people who are or have been looked after this year. 13 deaths have been reported, and there is also information about a possible three deaths of young adults who may be outwith the criteria for reporting. It’s unclear at this stage how much this is related to COVID-19. There is concern amongst ministers and the data is being looked at. Iona will report back to the LG on this. Helen noted concern with the often short windows between moving on from an establishment and completing suicide, which further highlights the importance of support for transitions
  • Thomas Carlton noted that there has been more human choice during lockdown which is a positive that the leadership group should focus. As corporate parents, we need to change our perspective to look at what we have failed to provide young people with despite our responsibility to them, rather than thinking about what they lack.  Thomas asked what SG is doing to prevent care leavers becoming homeless, given they were identified pre-COVID as an at-risk group. In response, Iona noted several actions to address this 
  • Peter MacLeod noted the care inspectorate will be developing new recommendations in relation to care review recommendations - this already looks at transitions but they can do this further in relation to development of new methodologies and the role of association of local authority chief housing officers.

David thanked members for their helpful suggestions and things to take forward. Regarding the point on human choice, he noted that, pre-COVID, he had looked at issues with CELCIS and will be picking these up with them to learn about what has worked well during pandemic. He also noted there is a recommendation in the care leaver homelessness prevention pathway about adding care leaver transitions into corporate parenting planning.

From Zoom text chat:

  • it's important that responses acknowledge good practice but not in a way that eclipses the reality of some young people having to put up with the unacceptable. Its important that responses acknowledge good practice but not in a way that eclipses the reality of some young people having to put up with the unacceptable. Scotland has to be restorative in its approach, IMO’


  • David Hannigan to take up offer from Alison Gordon to sit down with Chief Social Work Officers on capacity and choice of CYP – further actions will come out of these discussions

  • LG members to consider what else needs done and what actions need taken regarding the deaths of care experienced young people – email LG Secretariat inbox 

  • LG members to consider what else needs done more generally – email LG Secretariat inbox  Aileen (CELCIS), Helen (Care Inspectorate) and The Promise team have offered to help on this work

  • Wendy Mitchell to raise poor health outcomes of care experienced young people with health boards in relation to corporate parenting

  • Sam McCluskey to follow up with colleagues in Safer Communities on engagement with CYP

  • Eddie Follan will ensure COSLA is joined-up on this issue, especially as part of wider recovery work

Child protection data trends [paper 11/04] and reflections on route map

Iona presented the paper, noting there was a large reduction in child protection referrals during lockdown but these are now returning to the same levels as this time last year. There are concerns that we may see a significant increase in children needing helping over the coming months.

FM confirmed we’re likely to stay in phase three for some time, but we can also go back way as well as forward (as seen in Aberdeen), so we need to do further work on the route map and advice to wider children’s sector beyond opening of schools. We need to think about planning for scenario where we see second wave or local lockdowns, learning lessons from our initial reactions to lockdown. We need to close eye on capacity across services and we also need contributions from LG members.

Members made a range of comments:

  • Alison Gordon noted the need to ensure that the data we use doesn’t skew our response, as the experience of CYP and their families isn’t fully reflected in the data at the moment. We know we’re addressing risk in the system but we don’t know yet about how good we are about addressing vulnerability. We need to broaden the range of info that we’re collecting and looking at
  • Neil noted that we need to be mindful of service provisions with local lockdowns as many parts of the workforce live outside of the areas where they work (as is the case with reporters and panel members in Aberdeen). We need to plan for these situations, learning lessons from our response to the initial reaction to lockdown
  • Alan Small noted that the expected rise in referrals will likely take weeks rather than days after schools return, although he points out that those with child’s plans have had significant contact during lockdown. National data reporting is helpful but local areas will need to examine their own areas, such as Fife reporting the lowest number of domestic abuse incidents which turned out to be a data reporting issue

From Zoom text chat:

  • is the data collation of those looked after through sect 25 as accurate as the data reflecting those entering care through formal forums?
  • in response to Neil, Annie Gunner Logan said 'agree with Neil - would be useful to hear from agencies that have continued to support families throughout the lockdown, what support they themselves would like (or would have liked) in order to maintain support & contact?
  • perhaps the learning from the response to first lockdown might offer opportunities for changes for overall operations of systems, with or without COVID
  • omportant to also observe and record carefully what Aberdeen have had to think about in responding to a 2nd rapid lockdown - to help other areas where this may be needed
  • helpful to involve PHS in the lessons learnt


  • LG member to email LG Secretariat inbox with their input on the following points:

  • how we can get a clearer and wider picture on data

  • evidence-based contributions for a ‘lessons learned’ session
  • guidance for children’s agencies on local lockdowns
  • ADES and Scottish Government to emphasise need for vigilance from those in education upon school returnThis has been addressed by Government with education authorities, and also in continuity of learning guidance, school return guidance and the impact assessments guidance

Any other business 

Members agreed that LG meetings should continue until October school holidays to assess impact of schools returning.

No further business from members.


  • LG Secretariat to send recurring invite for September and October meetings

  • members to send suggested agenda items to be emailed to:

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