Getting our priorities right: good practice guidance

Updated good practice guidance for all agencies and practitioners working with children, young people and families affected by problematic alcohol and/or drug use.

Chapter 6: Strategic Leadership And Workforce Development

168. Strong strategic leadership and also a competent and confident workforce underpin effective service delivery. Partnership working - as described in the previous chapter - is at the core of this, both at strategic and operational levels. This chapter describes some of the key elements of effective partnership working. This includes the relevance of strong partnership working to those with a strategic responsibility for implementation. For example, Lead Officers and Public Protection Forums such as CPCs and ADPs. It also goes on to explore the need for joint, coherent and effective workforce development planning to support practitioners and front line managers to deliver services with a 'whole family' recovery approach.

General principles of partnership working

169. Partnership working can mean different things at different levels. It can refer to strategic planning and leadership, operational service design and management arrangements, and also a co-ordinated approach across front-line services. Whatever the nature of the partnership, it is important that all participants understand their key responsibilities including around accountability and influence. To achieve this, partnerships should agree overall accountability and governance frameworks. These should recognise the strengths of local public services and the third sector.

Practice Points - Characteristics of Effective Partnership Working

Staffing and management structures should be bespoke - to match the activity at hand

Shared values and principle

Open and transparent negotiations and decision-making

Timely reporting for performance management

Regular communication and contact

Collaboration with operational programmes

Shared outcomes

Written partnership agreements, so that there is clarity in terms of roles, responsibilities and conflict resolution

Links between performance management, scrutiny and planning

170. Strategic partnerships should take account of these features and provide the necessary leadership for operational partnerships and local services to implement services for better outcomes for children and their families.

National and local planning

171. Local plans should reflect the 16 National Outcomes set out in the Concordat between the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities ( COSLA) through Single Outcome Agreements. The National Outcomes most relevant to local service planning for children and young people are:

  • National Outcome 4: Our young people are successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and effective citizens;
  • National Outcome 5: Our children have the best start in life and are ready to succeed; and
  • National Outcome 8: We have improved the life chances of children, young people and families at risk.

172. Children's services planning should be within the Community Planning framework. There should be direct links between relevant local plans and Single Outcome Agreements.

173. CPCs are locally based, inter-agency, strategic partnerships responsible for child protection policy and practice across the public, private and wider third sector. Their role is to provide individual and collective leadership and also general direction for the management of child protection services in their areas.

174. In 2009, the Scottish Government, in partnership with COSLA, published A New Framework for Local Partnerships on Alcohol and Drugs . That framework included plans to move local alcohol and drug strategic planning - which was identified as a priority area for improvement - into Community Planning Partnerships ( CPPs). As part of this change, new ADPs were created in October 2009 in each local authority area. These replaced the former Alcohol and Drug Action Teams.

175. Ultimately, ADPs are anchored in CPPs and are responsible for drawing up joint partnership-based strategies to tackle alcohol and/or drugs in their communities. They should ensure that community planning takes a coherent response to adult problem alcohol and/or drug use and the impacts on children.

176. They are also expected to be involved in producing, implementing and monitoring local Single Outcome Agreements that include a problematic alcohol and/or drug use element.

177. The Supporting the Development of Scotland's Alcohol and Drug Workforce sets out the aim of identifying all actions required to deliver the alcohol and drug workforce and to outline the important roles and contributions of those directly involved in workforce development.

Public protection and partnership agreements

178. Local areas need to demonstrate how CPCs and ADPs are working together in partnership with local services to support children and families affected by parental problem alcohol and/or drug use. Chief Officers of the local authority and within NHS should be satisfied that there are effective accountability and governance structures in place to achieve this. These arrangements should ensure that there is compatibility between the priorities of the strategic plans/work plans of each and every multi-agency partnership and that these are documented.

179. Strategic plans should be reflective of the needs of children affected by parental problematic alcohol and/or drug use, the recognition by individual membership organisations of those needs, and also its strategies to equip staff to meet these needs.

180. Chief Officers should ensure there is a local level partnership agreement between CPCs and ADPs to strengthen links and accountability between these forums.

181. The partnership agreements should have a clear terms of reference and joint action plans which have an outcome focus. A draft terms of reference for CPC/ ADP local partnership agreements is provided in Appendix 6.

Practice Points - Strategic Planning

Identify all relevant strategic groups that are either directly responsible for the CAPSM agenda, or contribute to relevant outcomes for children and families including: ADPs; CPCs; Integrated Children's Planning Partnerships; Adult Protection Committees and Community Safety Partnerships.

Compatibility of strategic priorities/outcomes across each group to achieve synergy, identify who is leading on which priority and demonstrate how each will contribute to national, high-level outcomes for children (e.g. National Outcome 5: Our children have the best start in life; National Outcome 8: We have improved the life chances for children, young people and families at risk).

Action/delivery plans for each strategic group which detail how these will be achieved in with baselines; intermediate outcomes and key performance indicators to support performance management.

Leads: Each partnership/plan should have named leads for implementation and to be representatives on other key strategic groups (e.g. between ADPs/ CPCs) with regular liaison and good communication with regard to actions and progress/outcomes/impact.

Operational Planning

182. National expectations for children and CPCs were described in the National Child Protection Guidance. ADPs also provide plans and reports which will demonstrate progress towards family's outcomes. The link to planning and reporting arrangements for ADPs can be viewed at:

183. ADPs/ CPCs can only encourage those services that do not receive statutory funding to adopt this approach. A senior adult service member of staff should be designated responsible for the agency's action plan. They should also be trained to give advice to staff on children's issues. It may be helpful if the agency holds a register of all dependent children of adult service users for use as needed.

184. Staff in adult services should be trained to a level that matches what is expected of their role. This should include:

  • a knowledge of local information sharing protocols and an understanding of the limits of confidentiality;
  • the ability to raise the issue of children and pregnancy with service users in a sensitive yet clear way and also to screen for risks;
  • information about the adult and their responsibilities for a child should be considered as part of an ongoing process. Particular attention should be paid to any change in the adults' circumstances or where any new adults enter the household;
  • the ability to recognise immediate risks to children and knowing how to act where these are identified;
  • the ability to recognise any unmet needs with regard to children's wellbeing and to know what to do if these are identified;
  • knowledge of role of the Named Person and how to contact them; and
  • a knowledge of local statutory and non-statutory children's services and the referral process for these. ADPs/ CPCs will want to ensure that this information is readily available.

185. Adult services must try to identify - from the service user - what other services are involved with the family and should seek permission to liaise with these. Every attempt should be made to verify information given about children by parents/carers with reliable third parties.

186. Screening by adult services should include seeing the child/children and there should be home visiting by staff trained to identify risks/unmet needs where the service has the capacity to do this. Contact with children should not be limited to the period of initial engagement but should take place from time to time, particularly if/when there is any change in the adult's circumstances.

187. There are limitations on what can be undertaken in certain street level/outreach services, needle exchanges and such initiatives as Naloxone training projects. Staff in these services should be trained to be able to identify immediate child protection concerns and know how to refer these on.

Workforce learning and development

"I need someone (worker) who knows the score. Knows when I am at it and challenges me".

Sue - drinking mum

Who is the workforce?

188. A broad range of practitioners are generally involved with children and/or adults where problem alcohol and/or drug use is a factor. This includes:

  • universal services, which play a key role in early identification, intervention and sharing of concerns;
  • specialist and targeted services, working directly with children and/or their families;
  • service providers, responsible for the delivery and planning of services locally; and
  • clinical/residential/in-patient services.

189. The National Framework for Child Protection Learning and Development in Scotland sets out a common set of skills and standards for workers to ensure the delivery of a consistently high standard of support to children and young people across the country. The main aim is to strengthen the skills and training of professionals and improve the advice and tools available to them in assessing, managing and minimising risks faced by some of our most vulnerable children and young people.

190. To be able to provide effective services for children and their families, agencies first need empathetic, confident workers. These workers should also have a clear understanding of both theoretical and evidence-based practice. This should be underpinned with professional judgement, an understanding of values and attitudes, and also how these can impact on professional judgement.

191. The Common Core of Skills, Knowledge and Understanding and Values for the Children's Workforce In Scotland (2012), describes the skills, knowledge, understanding and values that everyone (paid or unpaid) working with children, young people and other family members should have, and the 'basics' needed to build positive relationships and promote children's rights. The skills, knowledge and understanding ('essential characteristics') are set out in 2 contexts: relationships with children, young people and families; and relationships between workers. They are cross-referenced to the guiding principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child ( UNCRC), and the values are taken from GIRFEC. The Common Core document states that some agencies will add to it, to reflect local circumstances, or elements particular to their own workforce.

192. Learning and development in the area of problematic alcohol and/or drug useis not an isolated activity and has to link to other learning and development strategies, for example local implementation of GIRFEC, child protection, the Sexual Health and Blood-Borne Virus Framework, domestic abuse, mental health etc.

What is workforce development?

193. Workforce development is a planned process aimed at ensuring both collective and individual effectiveness in the delivery of services. It should be sufficiently flexible to respond to any new information and/or changes. In effect, it should enable skills and knowledge to be brought together.

194. Workforce development encourages staff to take personal responsibility for their learning. It might typically include training, peer support, and effective supervision arrangements that encourage reflection and learning. Other examples of learning opportunities include, learning from Significant Case Reviews, case discussion groups, practitioner forums and opportunities for shadowing across services.

195. CPCs and ADPs should develop a joint training programme and strategy based on the following principles:

  • the values and principles of GIRFEC;
  • the GIRFEC Practice Model;
  • the key roles and functions of CPCs;
  • the principles and key features of the framework for ADPs;
  • promoting quality and consistency of professional relationships;
  • local policies and leadership, including training links between adult and children's services;
  • inter-agency training;
  • learning and development champions;
  • embedding training in practice and making links with relevant practice guidance and training/competency frameworks;
  • providing relevant training for line managers, planners and commissioners;
  • promoting a safe environment in which to learn and share, for example:
    • effective staff support and supervision
    • acknowledgement of staff fears and apprehensions
    • impact of dealing with disclosures
    • explicitly embedding in personal development plans;
  • ensuring a more specific focus on issues related to problem alcohol use;
  • promotion of the Recovery Agenda and treating the whole family;
  • outcomes-focused; and
  • compliments single agency training requirements to ensure workforce is meeting professional competencies e.g. training for maternity services staff etc.


Angela McTeir - (Chair) - Scottish Government Children Affected by Parental Substance Misuse Policy

Graeme Hunter - ( Deputy Chair) - Scottish Government Child Protection Policy

Alan Crawford ACPOS
Alex Cole Hamilton Aberlour Child Care Trust
Anne Neilson NHS Lothian
Anne Whitaker NHS Lothian
Bill Atkinson Perth and Kinross Council
Boyd McAdam Scottish Government Getting it Right for Every Child Policy
Catriona Laird WithScotland
Chris Bain Scottish Government Child Protection Policy
Christine Duncan Scottish Government Child and Maternal Health Policy
David Carracher North Ayrshire Council
Deirdre McCormick Scottish Government - Nursing Officer - Children, Vulnerable Families and Early Years
Elaine Wilson Lloyds TSB Partnership Drugs Initiative
Gillian Buchanan Professional Adviser to Scottish Government
Grant Campbell Scottish Government Alcohol Policy
Hazel Robertson Angus Alcohol and Drug Partnership
Jacquie Pepper Care Inspectorate
Joy Barlow Scottish Training on Alcohol and Drugs
Julie Murray Borders Alcohol and Drug Partnership
Julia Swan ADES
Julie Taylor NSPCC
Karen Wallace SCRA
Laura Powrie Scottish Government Drugs Policy
Liz Dahl Circle
Louise Hill Strathclyde University
Malcolm Schaffer SCRA
Margo Williamson South Ayrshire Council
Marion Gibbs Scottish Government Homelessness policy
Marj Stewart Scottish Government Getting it Right for Every Child Policy
Martin Kettle Glasgow Caledonian University
Mary Hepburn NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde
Nick Hobbs SCRA
Nicola Harkness SCRA
Sally Ann Kelly Barnardos Scotland
Tom Leckie Care Inspectorate


Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs ( ACMD) (2003) Hidden harm: responding to the needs of children of problem drug users, London: Home Office.

Bancroft, A., Wilson, S., Cunningham-Burley, S. Backett-Milburn, K. and Masters, H. (2004) Parental drug and Alcohol Misuse: Resilience and Transition among Young People, York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Best, D. (2011) Digesting the Evidence, Glasgow: Scottish Drug Recovery Consortium.

ChildLine Scotland, and Centre for Research in Families and Relationships (2005) Children's Concerns about Health and Well-being of Parents and Significant Others. Edinburgh: CRFR.

Cleaver, H.Unell, I. and Aldgate, A. (2010) Children's Needs - Parenting Capacity: The Impact of Parental Mental Illness, Learning Disability, Problem Alcohol and Drug Use, and Domestic Violence on Children's Safety and Development. 2 nd Edition. London: The Stationery Office.

Forrester, D. (2000) Parental substance misuse and child protection in a British sample: a survey of children on the child protection register in an inner London district office, Child Abuse Review, 9(4):235-246.

Forrester, D and Harwin, J 2008 Outcomes for children whose parents misuse drugs or alcohol: A two year follow up study. British Journal of Social Work 38, 1518-1535

Gillan, E., Wales, A., Hill, L., and Robertson, F. (2009) Untold damage: Children's accounts of Living with Harmful Parental Drinking Edinburgh: Scottish Health Action for Alcohol Problems and ChildLine Scotland

Gorin, S. (2004) Understanding What Children Say: Children's Experiences of Domestic Violence, Parental Substance Misuse and Parental Health Problems London: National Children's Bureau.

Hill, L. (2011) Children Living with Parental Substance Misuse, Scottish Child Care and Protection Network ( SCCPN) Research briefing, Stirling: SCCPN.

Hogan, D. and Higgins, L. (2001) When Parents Use Drugs: Key Findings from a Study of Children in the Care of Drug-using Parent, Dublin: The Children's Research Centre.

Kroll, B. (2004) Living with an Elephant: Growing up with Parental Substance Misuse', Child and Family Social Work, 9: 129-140.

Lang, A. R., Goeckner, D. J., Adesso, V. J., and Marlatt, G.A. (1975). The effects of alcohol on aggression in male social drinkers. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 84: 644-651.

Manning, V., Best, D. W., Faulkner, N. and Titherington, E. (2009) New estimates of the number of children living with substance misusing parents: results from UK national household surveys, BMC Public Health 9, 377-388.

NHS Scotland - Information statistics Division (2010) Alcohol Related Hospital statistics 2010.

Plant, M. (2008) The role of alcohol in women's lives: a review of issues and responses, Journal of Substance Use. 13, 155-191.

Scottish Executive (2003) Getting our Priorities Right: Policy and Practice Guidance for Working with Children and Families Affected by Parental Substance Misuse Edinburgh: Scottish Government.

Williams, C. N. and Klerman, L. V. (1984) Female alcohol abuse: its effects on the family, in: S. C. Wilsnack and L. J. Beckman (Eds) Alcohol Problems in Women, pp. 280-312 New York; Guilford Press.

Scottish Executive (2004) Hidden Harm: Scottish Executive response to the report of the inquiry by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, Edinburgh: Scottish Executive

Scottish Executive (2006) Hidden Harm: Next Steps - Supporting Children Working with Parents - Scottish Executive Response of the Inquiry by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, Edinburgh: Scottish Executive.

Scottish Government (2008) The Road to Recovery: A New Approach to Tacking Scotland's Drug Problem, Edinburgh: Scottish Government.

Scottish Government (2009) Changing Scotland's Relationship with Alcohol: A Framework for Action, Edinburgh: Scottish Government.

Scottish Government (2010) The National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2010, Edinburgh: Scottish Government

NHS Scotland (2011) Estimating the national and local prevalence of problem drug use in Scotland 2009/10, Edinburgh: Information Statistics Division.

Singleton, N. (2011) Getting Serious about Stigma in Scotland: The Problem with Stigmatising Drug Users, London: UK Drug Policy Commission.

Stark, E. and Flitcraft, A. (1996) Women at Risk, Domestic Violence and Women's Health, Thousand Oaks, CA, London, New Delhi: Sage Publications.

Scottish Government (2011) A Pathway of Care for Vulnerable Families Edinburgh: Scottish Government.

Mitchell, F. Burgess C. (2009). Working with Families Affected by Parental Substance Misuse: a Literature Review, Scottish Childcare and Protection Network for the Scottish Government.

Forrester and Harwin (2006) Parental Substance Misuse and Child Care Social Work: Findings from the First Stage of a Study of 100 families, Child and Family Social work, 2006, 11, pp325-335.

Whittaker A. (2011) The essential Guide to Problem Substance Use During Pregnancy: a Resource Book for Professionals, London: DrugScope.


Back to top