Coronavirus (COVID-19): Children and Families Collective Leadership Group minutes - 6 May 2021

Minutes for the meeting of the group on 6 May 2021.

Attendees and apologies

Chair: Michael Chalmers


  • Care Inspectorate - Peter Macleod, Christopher Lumb
  • CELCIS - Claire Burns, Alex McTier, Ruth Sills
  • Child Protection Committees Scotland - Alan Small
  • Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland (CCPS) - Sheila Gordon 
  • COSLA - Eddie Follan
  • Disabled Children and Young People Advisory Group (DCYPAG) - James Carle 
  • The Promise - Thomas Carlton
  • NHS NES - Karen Wilson
  • Scottish Ambulance Service - Jayne Scaife
  • Police Scotland - Samantha McCluskey
  • Public Health Scotland - Debby Wason
  • Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) - Neil Hunter
  • Social Work Scotland - Alison Gordon 
  • Scottish Social Services Council - Laura Lamb
  • Improvement Service - Sarah Gadsden
  • Children in Scotland - Amy Woodhouse

Scottish Government    

  • Michael Chalmers
  • Iona Colvin 
  • Joanna MacDonald 
  • Bill Scott-Watson 
  • Mairi Macpherson 
  • Wendy Mitchell 
  • Lindsay MacDougall 
  • Laura Holton 
  • Bryony Revell 
  • Phillip Gillespie  
  • James Cox 
  • Neil McKenzie  
  • Angela Davidson
  • Carolyn Wilson  
  • Carolyn Younie 
  • Diana Beveridge 

Leadership Group Secretariat:

  • Peter Donachie
  • Holly Ferguson
  • Clare McFadden

Items and actions

Welcome and note of last meeting (22 April 2021)

Michael Chalmers welcomed members to the meeting and noted apologies from the co-chair Grace Vickers due to the election. There were no amendments to the note of the last meeting on 22 April.

Update on family support

Mairi Macpherson and Laura Holton gave a presentation on the Family Support Delivery Group’s work in translating the themes and recommendations in the Leadership Group’s ‘Vision and Blueprint for Holistic Family Support’ into a ‘route map’ for delivering urgent practical actions to improve services.  

The Group identified four main drivers for change:

  • children and families at the centre including rights based planning and participation
  • availability and access to services with investment and innovation to deliver support where and when suits families
  • joined up support and services with shared accountability and improvements to commissioning and funding
  • workforce and culture including greater multi-agency working; skills development; and sharing of good practice

The Group’s work is underpinned and supported by the Promise, GIRFEC and Children’s Strategic Planning Partnerships. There is a strong emphasis on collective leadership at all levels. As part of this, Mairi co-chairs the Group with Jacquie Pepper. The Group is considering what success will look like as a basis for developing performance indicators and ensuring work is evidence based and data led.  This will closely link to the production of progress measures for the Promise and Outcomes Framework.   

Eddie Follan noted that work on commissioning within local government is being taken forward by a group involving CoSLA, SOLACE and Scotland Excel which will report to the Family Support Delivery Group.

Members made the following points in discussion:

  • it is crucial to be clear about the level of ambition of the Group’s work. In particular, the Group needs to connect with and help drive forward wider efforts to tackle child poverty and promote economic wellbeing
  • it will be important to take account of the Feeley Review of Adult Social Care given the strong parallels between commissioning of adult services and those for children and families
  • the Realigning Children’s Services Programme provides a good example of using data and evidence to assess the impact of changes to services
  • there is a need to reduce the current complexity in providing services including multiple sources of funding and policy drivers

Additional points from MS Teams chat:

These issues are at least as acute for children and young people with disabilities but inclusion, services, access to data has a number of challenges. It would be great if DCYPAG could have an input. 

Improvement Service was involved in the delivery of GIRFEC collective leadership support in Argyll & Bute and Fife.  There were definitely some signs of early progress in the work that we did, and we would be happy to be involved in the work you have highlighted in terms of widening this approach beyond local authorities. 

Presentation aligns to the work of the Promise and the Plan 21-24. The points on poverty ensured that the "fundamentals" underpinning Plan 21-24 continue to be considered.

Agree with workforce issue through a skills and learning framework aligned to GIRFEC, UNCRC and the Promise.

Mairi and Laura undertook to provide further updates to Leadership Group as work progresses.


  • Mairi Macpherson/Laura Holton to have follow up discussions with Jim Carle (DCYAG) and Sarah Gadsden (Improvement Service)
  • Mairi Macpherson/Laura Holton will ensure that issues raised on alignment with child poverty will be reflected in the route map

Update on deep dive work with local authorities on hidden harms (paper 28/1)

Alex McTier and Ruth Sills provided a presentation on the deep dive work on hidden harms that national partners have been undertaking with seven volunteer local authorities (Aberdeenshire, Argyll and Bute, Dumfries and Galloway, Dundee City, Glasgow City, North Ayrshire, and Western Isles.)  This provided a mix of urban and rural areas.

The rationale for the work was to investigate why the apparent increase in need and demand during the pandemic – as shown by increases in child protection referrals and inter-agency referral discussions (IRDs) – is not reflected in increased activity in later child protection stages or in children becoming looked after. 

Local areas recognised the increase in the number of concerns and IRDs. The main concerns were the same as pre-pandemic but appear to be more complex and more acute. This includes children, young people and adult mental health, domestic abuse and parental alcohol or substance misuse. As Leadership Group discussed in relation to family support, increased pressures due to poverty are also being reported.  

The work had identified the following groups who need further support:

  • children and young people in the “unmet needs” middle tier i.e. those who do not meet the high tariff thresholds required for Child Protection Registrations but require greater support than those provided through universal services
  • ‘new’ families that had not previously been involved with their services and may not actively approach services
  • young carers not receiving the support they need
  • children, young people and families affected by bereavement
  • increased child sexual exploitation as lockdown has resulted in much greater use of social media and mobile devices
  • care leavers who risk being particularly disadvantaged in adverse economic circumstances

Alex highlighted the following “asks” of national partners:

  • continued and reinvigorated focus on GIRFEC
  • increased funding to Children’s and Families Social Work to deliver preventative, family-centred services
  • greater recognition of the relationship-based practice demonstrated by local authority social work
  • provide a more conducive operating environment for Third Sector organisations
  • increased capacity and greater investment within mental health services
  • building on NHS Education for Scotland’s National Trauma Training Programme, continue to build a trauma-informed and trauma-enhanced workforce
  • (re) emphasise the importance of and need for Throughcare and Aftercare services for care leavers (including employability and housing supports) and transition planning for young people progressing into adult services
  • support in meeting current and anticipated recruitment and retention needs across children’s services workforces
  • balance priorities within Scotland’s schools and education system so that the emphasis is not solely placed on academic ‘catching up’ but also includes attention to children and young people’s wellbeing and socialisation
  • facilitate the bringing together and analysis of multi-agency data and intelligence

Ruth suggested that Leadership Group consider the following questions:

  • does the national picture presented resonate with you?
  • are there any unexpected findings or features?
  • what does this mean in your role as leaders?
  • should we focus attention on specific areas / concerns? a) mental health (child, young people and parental); b) family support (e.g. problematic drug and alcohol use; impacts of poverty) – particularly among new parents; c) transitions from children’s to adult services (including throughcare and continuing care; housing; employability); d) others?

What might be the next steps?

Members made the following points in response:

  • localities are using the Seasons for Growth programme to assist children and young people affected by bereavement
  • there are opportunities to build on outreach and youth work including building workforce capacity
  • transitioning from Children’s Services should be a focus of concern and requires greater collective responsibility and support beyond social work departments
  • it is important to take account of variations in experiences and practices across different areas of the country, as the local picture in some areas has differed from the national picture presented. This could be due, for example, to restrictions impacting on different areas in different ways. Further work could be undertaken on this issue including discussions with Children’s Services Planning Partnerships
  • more work needs to be undertaken to identify the specific needs of children and young people in the “unmet needs” middle tier and this could also be usefully discussed with Partnerships
  • the evidence base could be developed further by including additional health data and connecting with Family Nurse Partnerships
  • next steps should include strengthening links with adult services; identifying further support for those aged 0-5; and for care leavers


  • deep dive work will be discussed with Strategic Leads at learning event. This will help to consider variation of practices and other issues
  • follow-up discussions to take place with Wendy Mitchell (on health data and supporting under-fives) and Carolyn Wilson (on health visitors/FNPs)

The Deep Dive sub-group will meet to discuss and scope out further exploratory work that better understands the needs of, COVID impact on and service response to under 5s (and their families), children and young people in the ‘middle tier’ of the triangle, and young people leaving care.

Additional points from MS Teams chat:

To what extent are 'unmet needs' actually to this point genuinely 'unknown needs' in this context? flowing from that - what existing services are best placed to work alongside families to help identify needs and subsequent responses and (critically) how confident are we that we can deliver on the asks?

Good questions - I think it is new need not meeting the traditional social work threshold and two things happening- some areas trying to work under that threshold and families being diverted to other agencies - which will put particular pressure on health visiting and schools and how we align the family support and financial advice.

The group that are missing are children with a family member in prison as well as children who are in prison. We are looking at this separately, just don't want them missed.

Interested in the findings relating to girls’ mental health. We've known for years that girls wellbeing drops in teenage years. Does the data describe an existing gap or have things got even worse? Should we be calling more strongly for a gender competent approach to mental health services and support? 

Outcomes of the action plan (paper 28/2)

Iona Colvin presented the final report on the outcomes of the Leadership Group’s action plan which ran from February to April and delivered short-term support across a range of priority areas including access to services and child protection awareness.

In addition, the report highlights key issues to be taken forward over the medium and longer term. Some workstreams, including the Domestic Abuse sub-group, are developing specific proposals for Leadership Group. This will feed into discussions on the future direction of the Leadership Group. Medium and longer term issues will also be progressed through wider work to recover and renew from the pandemic; improve outcomes for children, young people and families; and deliver on the Promise. Those relating to funding will need to be considered within the context of the new Government’s priorities.

Publication of CLG papers

Michael Chalmers invited members’ views on publishing publicly notes of meetings and other information from Leadership Group meetings. This would help to demonstrate transparency of decision making whenever possible and reflect arrangements for other groups established during the pandemic. For example, further information would be provided on CERG’s processes. This would be discussed further at Leadership Group’s meeting on 3 June.      

AOB and close

There was no AOB.  The next meeting on 20 May will be a dedicated Learning Event with the Strategic Leads Network running from 13.30 – 16.30 (including breaks). The event will focus on lessons learned and good practice examples from the CLG Action Plan, Winter Support Package and Deep Dive Work with Local Authorities on hidden harms.

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