The Early Years Framework

Steps the Scottish Government, local partners and practitioners in early years services need to take to give all children in Scotland the best start in life.

1. A coherent approach

A coherent national agenda

There are many influences on children and parents, and many services that support them. It is essential that Government and its partners are working to a coherent agenda so that children and parents receive consistent rather than confusing messages and so that managers and staff can make sense of the policy environment to deliver a set of services which are aligned to a set of common priorities.

The joint policy statement set out 4 principles of early intervention which can be used to underpin a consistent approach across a range of strategies:

  • our ambitions are universal - we want to reduce inequalities, to have the same outcomes for all and for all to have the same opportunities;
  • we take action to identify those at risk of not achieving these outcomes and take action to prevent that risk materialising;
  • we make sustained and effective interventions in cases where these risks have materialised; and
  • we shift the focus from service provision as the vehicle for the delivery of outcomes to building the capacity of individuals, families and communities to secure outcomes for themselves, making use of high quality, accessible public services as required.

These principles have already been reflected in a range of government policies, for example Equally Well, the report of the Ministerial Task Force on Health Inequalities, the drugs strategy Road to Recovery and the youth justice framework.

Curriculum for Excellence is also central to the delivery of the early years framework as learning is the key to many of the national outcomes. It aims to achieve transformational change in Scottish education - enabling all our young people to become successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors. This aim is not the preserve of schools. If we are to achieve improved quality in learning and teaching and increased attainment and achievement for all children and young people in Scotland, including those who need additional support, the transformation in education must extend well beyond schools to include early years centres, colleges, universities, employers and the full range of professionals working with children and young people.

This new approach to Government has made a strong start but in many senses is still in its infancy. It will take a significant and ongoing effort to ensure alignment across Scottish Government policies and to ensure this flows through into our relationship with key partners.

Single Outcome Agreements, Community Planning and Integrated Children's Services Planning

At the heart of the model of transformational change is a whole system approach to giving children the best possible start in life. The vision and case for action articulate how early years and early intervention contribute to a range of medium to long-term outcomes across economic activity, employability, health, education, crime and communities. The process of change encompasses family, community, service and workforce elements.

Integrated Children's Services Plans ( ICSP) are a statutory obligation for local authorities and should also be seen as an opportunity to take forward transformational change in their local area. ICSPs should be seen as the children and young people's component of Community Plans, but should become increasingly focused around the needs of children and families, rather than around systems and processes.

The next generation of Single Outcome Agreements ( SOAs) will be drawn up with Community Planning Partners and local Community Plans will form the foundations. The case for better integration between Community Plans and ICSPs is further reinforced by this framework's approach on developing family and community capacity as a key support for children in their early years.

This is not about separate plans or processes from the mainstream community planning system. It is about recognising the opportunity that exists to improve a range of outcomes through a focus on early years within that process.

Getting it Right for Every Child

Getting it Right for Every Child is a key foundation for all action with children, young people and families. The approach has established a set of 14 principles and values and 10 core components ( and puts the child firmly at the centre of planning and action. It promotes a shared approach that builds solutions with and around children, young people and families.

Getting it Right for Every Child applies to all children, whatever their level of need and to all agencies. At the heart of the approach are streamlined planning, assessment and decision making processes that lead to the right help being provided at the right time for children to address all their needs and risks. The emphasis is on improving outcomes, delivering a holistic approach to meeting the child's needs. Other elements of the Getting it Right for Every Child approach encompass, amongst other things, common values, information sharing, risk assessment models and the development of a lead professional role. All of this requires a shift in culture, systems and practice if the desired outcomes for children are to be achieved.

The Getting it Right for Every Child way of working, being implemented by the Highland Pathfinder, confirms and strengthens the responsibilities of the universal services within health and education and strengthens the links between community health services and education providers. It supports practitioners to plan for children in a unified way using common language and tools to identify concerns, assess children's wellbeing and to plan action to address their needs or risks. It enables practitioners to deliver timely and proportionate help to children who need extra support over and above that which all children receive from the universal services. It streamlines planning and decision-making for these children and for children with more serious or complex needs who require multi-agency help. It also ensures that every child who needs additional support has a plan in place to address their needs and that the plan is reviewed to ensure it is effective. This single streamlined process is used with all children, those who may need some additional support from within health or education services as well as those who need multi-agency support or more targeted services and children who are referred to the Reporter or a children's hearing, children who are looked after or children who are in need of protection.

All of these elements were identified by the task groups as being important in the way forward for early years. Delivery of the early years framework is therefore fundamentally dependent on how agencies, services and communities work to achieve Getting it Right for Every Child and its effective implementation at national and local levels.

Getting it Right for Every Child already encompasses action by adults to improve the support they give to their children, and the child's plan can include action by adult services. This is an element of the approach that is still relatively immature, although it is prominent within the Getting it Right for Every Child domestic abuse pathfinders.

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