Coronavirus (COVID-19): Children and Families Collective Leadership Group minutes - 9 December 2021

Minutes from the meeting held on 9 December 2021.

Attendees and apologies

  • Peter Macleod, Care Inspectorate 
  • Claire Burns, CELCIS 
  • Jennifer Davidson, Inspiring Children's Futures 
  • Alan Small, Child Protection Committees Scotland 
  • Elliot Jackson, Children's Hearings Scotland
  • Neil Hunter, Scottish Children's Reporter Administration (SCRA) 
  • Sheilda Gordon, Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland (CCPS) 
  • Laura Caven, COSLA 
  • Laura-Ann Currie, Education Scotland
  • Jackie Brock, The Promise 
  • Thomas Carlton, The Promise 
  • Jayne Scaife, Scottish Ambulance Service 
  • Jonathan Hinds, Care Inspectorate 
  • Jennifer King, Dundee 
  • Debby Wason, Public Health Scotland 
  • Claire Mcuire, NHS 
  • Alison Gordon, Social Work Scotland
  • Cheryl Glen, Scoish Social Services Council 
  • Jude Turbyne, Children in Scotland 
  • Joanna Macdonald, Scottish Government 
  • Jane Moffat, Scottish Government 
  • Phillip Gillespie, Scottish Government 
  • Ruth Christie, Scottish Government 
  • Craig Kellock, Scottish Government 
  • Mairi Macpherson, Scottish Government 
  • Gavin Henderson, Scottish Government 
  • Dona Martin, Scottish Government 
  • Iona Colvin, Scottish Government 
  • Diana Beveridge, Scottish Government 
  • Laura Holton, Scottish Government 
  • Jenny Hamilton, Scottish Government 
  • Pamela Murray, Scottish Government 
  • Carolyn Wilson, Scottish Government 
  • Robert Scott, Scottish Government 
  • Dawn Abell, Scottish Government

Items and actions

Welcome and note of last meeting (4 November 2021) 

Michael Chalmers welcomed members to the meeting and gave an update on the pandemic. The spread of the Omicron variant is creating a new, more challenging situation for children and families and the workforce that support them. As has been the case throughout the pandemic, the latest data will be shared with members to help identify the action required over the weeks and months ahead.

Neil Hunter highlighted the publication of families affected by drug and alcohol use in Scotland: A framework for holistic whole family approaches and family inclusive practice.’ The framework will ensure that family members receive support in their own right, and collectively as a family, to recover from the harms caused by alcohol and drug use. £16 million is being provided over five years to support the framework with half the funding allocated to alcohol and drug partnerships and half to voluntary organisations. Further information is available on this link: Drug and alcohol services - improving holistic family support

Update on short life group on under 18s in custody 

 Joanna MacDonald provided an update following the first meeting of the short life group on under-18 year olds in custody on 2 December. The Group was taking work forward urgently and focusing on two main areas:

  • addressing the issue of under-18 year olds being isolated in Polmont YOI using information provided by the Scottish Prison Service
  • understanding key decision points and opportunities to provide additional support and alternative approaches to custody. This could include a short guidance note/flow chart to help facilitate better multi-agency working and complement National Child Protection and GIRFEC guidance

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) is urgently reviewing the circumstances of each individual and the general conditions in Polmont YOI under Covid safeguards and restrictions including the length of time individuals are confined to cells. A report has been provided to Scottish Government and as much information as possible will be shared with the group while maintaining the confidentiality of the individuals involved. Chief social work officers are also reviewing individual cases including in relation to access to secure care. Members emphasised the need for SPS to provide reassurances over the amount of time that under-18s were isolated in cells and that this would comply with UNCRC. The group’s work must also help to keep the promise’s requirement that there should be no 16 or 17 year olds in YOIs by 2024. Joanna confirmed there was a strong focus on both these objectives. The group’s next meeting will be in January.

Review of data trends

 Craig Kellock and Debby Wason gave a presentation on the latest data trends for children and families resulting from the pandemic. Craig noted that, over the course of 2021, there has been a slight increase of 9% in the number of child protection concerns. Inter-agency referral discussions (IRDs) have also slightly increased. Despite this, the overall number of children on the child protection register remains at a 20 year low at just over 2,000. The number of children becoming looked after was at a 15 year low at around 13,000.

Debby noted concerns over progress in infant development in speech, language and communication skills at both the 13-15 and 27-30 month review points from health visitor data. At the 13-15 month review, concerns increased from pre-pandemic median of 4.1% to a 2021 median of 5.3%. At the 27-30 month review, there was an increase from the pre-pandemic median of 9.8% to a 2021 median of 12.8%.

Data from the latest round of CEYRIS (Covid-19 early years resilience and impact survey) of parents and carers of 1-11 year olds shows that the pandemic had a greater adverse impact on families from lower income groups whose health, particularly their mental health and well-being, had been more adversely affected than families from higher income groups. The more limited access to outdoor spaces and activities and more limited relationships with extended families and local communities may have contributed to this. 1 in 5 children had experienced bereavement and parents/carers found it difficult to speak to their children about bereavement. There were some improvements in home learning with the gap beginning to close between lower and higher income families. 

Members commented that the data emphasises the importance of universal health services (including health visitors and GP Practices); family nurse partnership; and early learning and childcare in supporting children and families during the pandemic. It was suggested that the presentation be shared with the Covid-19 advisory sub-group on education and children’s issues.  

Family support delivery group

Laura Holton provided an update on work to develop the whole family wellbeing fund (WFWF). The WFWF is being designed to deliver transformational change rather than business as usual services. £500 million will be provided for the WFWF over the current Parliamentary term. Support will be channelled through local areas and the voice of children, young people and families will be key to how the WFWF is designed. There are four main workstreams:

  • alignment with over-arching policy priorities including the child poverty action plan and support for alcohol and drug partnerships
  • testing whole system change by working with groups of local areas to develop good practices and lessons learned for the rest of Scotland. This includes collaborations with social innovation partnerships (SIPs)
  • quality and improvement including production of a “how good is your family support” framework. This will be a key task for the family support delivery group
  • commissioning and procurement. CoSLA, CCPS and third sector representatives are finalising their work programme to help partners better navigate arrangements for commissioning and procuring services

Next steps over the early part of next year include further work on the design of the fund; creating an engagement strategy; and agreeing governance arrangements including the roles of the family support delivery group (FSDG) and the collective leadership group. Although the FSDG has not met as a whole over the last couple of months, work has been progressed with individual members and the Group will meet in the new year. There will be intensified collaboration with the children’s services planning strategic leads network including on identifying and developing good practices and lessons learned. Further work will also take place on links to universal health services; early learning and childcare; and GIRFEC clusters.

Workforce development sub-group

Simon Cameron and Phillip Gillespie provided an update on the workforce development sub-group. There had been four meetings to date and the following priorities have been identified:

  • agree a definition of the children and families workforce including job roles and functions to help better target support and guidance and improve workforce planning
  • promote and support the health and wellbeing of the workforce. This includes identifying transferable resources and best practices
  • complete a policy mapping exercise and implementation timeline for polices that have an impact on the children’s and families workforce. This will be important for better sequencing and co-ordination of resources, support and communications
  • ensure delivery of a trauma informed training programme for the integrated children and families workforce
  • undertake an analysis of the impact of Brexit on the children and families workforce. Indications are that there are significant issues around workforce supply arising from Brexit. The work will take account of any recommendations from the migration advisory committee
  • support the workforce implications of implementing new practice guidance for child protection

Implementation of UNCRC and keeping the promise will also be crucial areas of work for the sub-group to support. 

Members made the following points in response to the update:

  • there were queries over whether the voluntary sector workforce is being included in the sub-group’s work. Phillip confirmed that the sector is being included with representation from the voluntary sector on the sub-group
  • the needs of youth work and community learning staff should be considered as part of the sub-group’s work
  • there are also significant issues around foster care and kinship care
  • early retirements are a concern for workforce supply. The sub-group could usefully consider taking action on issues such as better succession planning; facilitating part-time working and other recruitment and retention measures
  • staff would welcome support in navigating a complex landscape of policies and initiatives. It is important to reduce any unnecessary silos and barriers to joint working and invest in improvement work and capacity building
  • important to ensure sufficient support is provided for implementing the new child protection guidance

The sub-group’s membership may need to be extended to encompass the range of priorities. For example, greater representation from health professionals and Police Scotland.


  • Phillip Gillespie to provide members details for sub-group

Action plan for 2022-2023

Members were invited to consider the following discussion questions:

  • building on the deep dive session and other discussions on the national care service at the meetings on 7 October and 4 November, what are the priority issues that members would wish to include in the action plan for 2022-23?
  • what are the outstanding medium term issues from CLG’s 2020 action plan that need to be included as priorities for 2022/23? (These were improving children, young people and families’ mental health and wellbeing; greater support for early years and under-fives; better support for care leavers.)
  • how can CLG best support the priorities in the Covid recovery strategy on the wellbeing of children and young people and vision of making progress towards a wellbeing economy and accelerating inclusive person-centred public services?

Suggestions were as follows:

  • support for early years and under-fives should remain a focus. Key priorities and measures should be developed for the areas where CLG’s input would be most beneficial. There are also workforce issues for the early learning and childcare sector to be considered
  • inspection and improvement work. The care inspectorate offered to assist in developing this area of activity for CLG
  • better support for care leavers should remain a priority particularly given ongoing concerns over the premature deaths of care experienced young people
  • contribute to education reform work being led by Professor Ken Muir, for example, in relation to the GIRFEC refresh and other areas of potential collaboration

Additional points from MS Teams chat:

  • we will have the report from the continuing care review by January which can be included in a focus on care leavers
  • CYPIC is working with ELC colleagues to set up a learning exchange that starts in February. Care inspectorate are involved in a national ELC improvement programme and perhaps can link in with this work
  • engagement currently taking place on draft core wellbeing indicator set, and intend to bring that to CLG early next year. Also engaging on a national route map / driver diagram for improving wellbeing and may help provide a context for prioritising


  • co-chairs to develop priorities for action plan for discussion at next meeting. 

Any other business and close 

Jennifer Davidson noted that the observatory of human rights Scotland is developing a collaborative theory of change to assist in embedding UNCRC. Consideration is being given to arranging workshops with CLG and the UNCRC strategic implementation board to help develop the approach. Further details will be provided to CLG following discussion with Scottish Government and other partners.

Michael Chalmers highlighted to members that the child poverty action plan and Covid recovery strategy have been scheduled for discussion at CLG’s next meeting on 13 January although the agenda is subject to change depending on issues over the spread of the Omnicron variant.

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