Coronavirus (COVID-19): Children and Families Collective Leadership Group minutes - 7 October 2021

Minutes for the meeting of the group on 7 October 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Joint Delivery Board
  • SOLACE - Grace Vickers (Co-Chair), Margo Williamson, Angela Scott
  • ADES - Jennifer King
  • Care Inspectorate - Peter Macleod, Helen Happer
  • CELCIS - Claire Burns
  • CoSLA - Eddie Follan, Jillian Gibson
  • Children’s Hearings Scotland - Christine Mullen
  • Children in Scotland - Jude Turbyne
  • Child Protection Committees Scotland - Alan Small
  • CCPS - Sheila Gordon
  • DCYAG - Jim Carle
  • Education Scotland - Laura-Anne Currie
  • Improvement Service - Sarah Gadsden
  • Inspiring Children’s Futures - Jennifer Davidson
  • NHS NES - Clare McGuire
  • NHS SAS - Jayne Scaife
  • The Promise - Thomas Carlton, Steph Crisp
  • SCRA - Neil Hunter
  • Social Work Scotland - Alison Gordon

Scottish Government:

  • Michael Chalmers (Co-Chair)
  • Gavin Henderson (Facilitator)
  • Iona Colvin
  • Joanna MacDonald
  • Jane Moffat
  • Laura Holton
  • Wendy Mitchell
  • Shona MacPherson
  • Phillip Gillespie
  • Bryony Revell
  • Sheree McAlpine
  • Carolyn Younie


  • Peter Donachie 
  • Lorraine Henderson

Items and actions

Welcome and introduction

Grace Vickers welcomed members and introduced Gavin Henderson as facilitator for CLG’s deep dive session on the implications of the National Care Service. Grace noted that the session had been developed in response to issues raised by members at CLG’s last meeting on 9 September. Members had requested that the session should not focus on the specific consultation questions but take a broader approach including considering a vision for Children’s Services; delivery of family support and workforce development; child protection; and links with education and health services.

The session is not designed to produce a formal CLG response to the consultation but an additional engagement opportunity to assist members in considering their own organisations’ responses. The outcomes of the session will also feed into future decision making.

Gavin Henderson noted that the session would focus on how to achieve the best outcomes for children and families with the intention of gathering a broad range of perspectives, expertise and advice.

Introduction to the aims of the session

Joanna MacDonald summarised the specific aims of the session as being to:

  • take a closer look at the NCS
  • help create a shared vision for Children and Families Services
  • explore options which could help further strengthen and improve the delivery of Children and Families Services in a post-pandemic world

Joanna provided for discussion a draft vision for Children and Families Services which drew together and built upon existing commitments and ambitions:

  • Scotland has a clear ambition to be the best place for children and young people to grow up
  • we want all children to grow up loved, safe and respected so that they realise their full potential
  • we want all children and families to live in an equal society which empowers them, in which they are treated with kindness, dignity and respect at all times, and have their rights upheld

The following principles can be developed from the vision:

  • we will all work collectively to uphold the child's right to a family life and we will listen and respond to what children and families tell us they need
  • children’s services in Scotland will take a rights-respecting, strengths-based, inclusive approach which contributes to improving outcomes in early years learning and education through to adult learning for every child
  • families are able to access the support when they need it and how they need it and progress in assessing impact of care and support will be reviewed with delivery decisions based on evidence, including learning from children and families

Joanna noted the need to improve outcomes and reduce the current complexity of the system for “Isla” as part of work in Keeping The Promise. It is crucial to take account of the links between adult services and children and family services in addressing child protection and broader public protection issues including the impact of adult substance abuse; domestic abuse; adult mental health and other issues.

General questions and issues

Members noted that the implications of the proposals for children and family services in the NCS consultation differed greatly depending on the current configuration of services. There were concerns over the impact on children’s and family services not currently included within Health and Social Care Partnerships. The importance of the close links with Education Services in terms of organisational structures and working relationships, including through GIRFEC, was emphasised. (It was noted for clarity that the context for “Isla” was early years services.)        

Discussion sessions

The main themes and issues resulting from the sessions were as follow:

Aims and outcomes

Keeping The Promise; embedding GIRFEC; and UNCRC incorporation are all key aims for children and family services. It is essential to establish whether the inclusion of children and family services will enhance or detract from the efforts to achieve these aims. It is also crucial to consider whether or not inclusion would help to improve child protection and meet broader aims such as tackling child poverty and closing the education attainment gap. These considerations also need to be applied to other options such as children and family services remaining outwith the NCS.  

Evidence base

There were queries over the case for change and other aspects of the evidence base for including children and family within the NCS. The Independent Care Review and other evidence work for The Promise shows areas for improvement in the current arrangements. National and local organisations and Children’s Services Planning Partnerships are however already undertaking a change programme to Keep the Promise, and the potential implications of the NCS for the change programme is unclear.   

Systemic issues

The options need to be evaluated in terms of how they can help to resolve systemic issues such as shifting greater resource towards prevention and early intervention work; reducing complexity and streamlining services. It is also essential to evaluate the implications for child protection and broader public protection issues.  


Providing a clearer definition of which specific children and family services are being considered and any associated risks/opportunities can help to clarify issues and options for any future structures related to the NCS. Scoping out future links with community learning and development, health, housing and other services should also be undertaken. Members noted that each option contained different risks in relation to the links with wider services and these need to be evaluated carefully. For example, there are risks of lessening links with education services if children and family services were included within the NCS and lessening links with adult services if children and family services remained outwith the NCS.   


The implications of the proposals for creating and maintaining a strong multi-disciplinary team across services and putting GIRFEC principles consistently into practice need to be considered at both the strategic and practice level. This is particularly important for good children’s service planning and improving transitions from early years into school education and from school into vocational and other post-school destinations.   


Greater clarity is required over the proposals in the consultation as they relate to the workforce. The extent to which the proposals will provide better, more consistent opportunities for workforce training, development and career progression needs to be more clearly demonstrated. The scope for empowerment of front-line staff also needs to be considered. The workforce has been under significant pressure as a result of the pandemic and there were concerns over potential additional pressures arising from structural change as a result of the proposals. 


The potential impact of the proposals for leadership and accountability at local and national levels need to be scoped out more clearly. For example, issues were raised in relation to accountability arrangements for child protection.    


Funding and resource issues need to be further examined. There is a potential risk that the costs of setting up the NCS would reduce resources for other areas. There are also opportunities to improve the support capacity and infrastructure for services particularly in relation to data management, digital and administration and this should be considered in relation to all the options.   

Innovation and improvement

CLG and the Strategic Leads Network have been identifying and promoting examples of good practice during the pandemic. There is however significant scope for improvement activity on Children’s Services Planning, and to better identify, assess and scale-up innovations and improvement. One potential option, if children and family services remain outwith the NCS, is to develop greater national and regional support for local services through the development of centres of excellence and other initiatives.   

Other issues

It was suggested that, given the range and complexity of the issues involved, further time should be provided to develop options for children and family services.

Next steps and close

The next steps would be to develop scenario planning for the options and issues that members had discussed in advance of CLG’s next meeting on 4 November. Members were reminded that the consultation on the NCS closes on 2 November.  


  • Secretariat and Co-Chairs to review agenda for 4 November to enable further discussion on NCS
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