Improving outcomes for children, young people and families: review of Children’s Services Plans and strategic engagement activity

Summary review of children’s services plans for 2020 to 2023, in line with the Children and Young Peoples (Scotland) Act 2014, statutory guidance part 3. Highlighting key strengths, areas for development and details from strategic engagement with local children’s services planning strategic leads.

8. Services Offered and Activities Planned (Criteria 6, 7 and 11)

Each Children's Services Plan should provide a narrative of the services offered locally to safeguard, support and promote wellbeing, including details of both children's services and related services. The review of CSPs considered the extent to which this information was included to clearly set out how CSPPs have a collaborative and comprehensive local strategy for supporting families. This strategy is intended to describe the rationale for how and where family support is provided through a broad range of services and support that fulfils a continuum of need spanning prevention, early intervention and targeted/intensive support.

Part 3 of the Children and Young People Scotland Act 2014 (Section 7) defines Children's Services Planning duties as these relate to 'children's services', 'related services', 'other service providers'[14] and Scottish Ministers[15] in exercising their functions under the Prisons (Scotland) Act 1989 and through certain powers.

A children's service is: Any service in the local authority area provided wholly or mainly to, or for the benefit of, children.

A related service is: Any service in a local authority area which does not fall into the definition of a 'children's service' but still has a significant effect on the wellbeing of children and young people. Examples of this include community-based services such as welfare rights, libraries or sports centres, and services for adults which address parents/carers' needs in their own right, such as support for mental health, disability, drug and alcohol use, or involvement with the justice system.

Children's Services (Criterion 6)

Most Children's Services Plans (22 out of 30) met this Criterion and included a narrative on the types of children's services offered in the local area. Seven CSPs did not provide much detail on existing/new services, and one CSP did not include any information on children's services.

Although the majority of Plans made some reference to provision of children's services, most would benefit from a more detailed narrative on specific services planned to meet its strategic priorities, and by including examples of the different types of children's services available over the period of the CSP. A robust CSP would present a clear distinction between services and supports already in place, and what new services developments (if any) were planned for the next three years. Best practice would include clear information setting out availability of universal, and targeted/specialist services, as well as information on whether support is delivered on a multi-agency and/or single service basis, describing partners' individual and collective contribution to each strategic priority of the Children's Services Plan.

Across all Children's Service Plans for 2020-2023 the types of services mentioned included (list not exhaustive):

  • Services to tackle the impact of low income on children and young people: free school meals, Community Kitchen, Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods, access to school holiday meals, access to uniforms, sanitary products, food and clothes banks.
  • Early Years: healthy start vitamins and vouchers, early learning, pregnancy/maternity, early years expansion funding, childcare, breastfeeding support, developmental milestones, Bookbug, baby massage, infant mental health.
  • Learning and Education: young apprenticeships, employability programmes, support to overcome barriers to learning and life-skills programmes for specific interest groups such as gypsies/travellers and refugees including English as an Additional Language, The PeterDeen Scholarship, Lifelong Learning, positive destinations, careers week, placement opportunities, internships.
  • Physical Health: Community Child Health services, initiatives such as Eat, Play, Grow Well, The Childsmile dental programme, Grow Well Choices, sexual health advisory services, alcohol and drug education, smoking cessation, Active Schools, healthy weight programmes, support in teenage pregnancy, promotion of outdoor play, immunisation programmes, Duke of Edinburgh Award physical activities, sports programmes, allied health professionals.
  • Mental Health and Mental Wellbeing: school counselling, educational psychology, support from Named Persons, perinatal and infant mental health support school nurses, digital therapeutic interventions, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), Healthier Minds, bereavement support, anxiety management, play programmes.
  • Targeted /Specialist support with a focus on: Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), child protection, disability, neglect, young carers, support for neurodiversity (ADHD and autism), post-school transitions for young people with Additional Support Needs, transition to adult health and social care services, Effective and Early Intervention/ Whole Systems Approach to Youth Justice, speech and language therapy, children's services social work, support for care experience (Looked After Children, throughcare and aftercare, continuing care, residential homes, fostering, kinship and adoption services), suicide prevention, domestic abuse, child sexual exploitation, anti-bullying, allied health professionals.
  • Engagement and Participation: Youth forums, Young People's Advisory Panel, Connecting Voices, 'Pizza and Coke' sessions, Corporate Champions, Mini Champs and Champions Board for care experienced children and young people, Mind of My Own app (further examples in Children's Rights section).
  • Other services: leisure and arts programmes, social spaces, volunteering, digital inclusion, advocacy, support for LGBTI young people, housing.

Related Services (Criterion 6)

Development of each area's CSP should also include information on local provision of related services. This includes both community-based supports which improve quality of life for children and families, and support provided to families by adult services to meet individual needs of parents/carers, and/or care experienced young people up to the age of 26. The Plan should also demonstrate how partners across the Children's Services Planning Partnership are working in a joined-up way to make sure young people have positive experiences in the transition between children's and adult services.

A key finding from both the 2019 and 2022 reviews of Children's Service Plans was that greater reference to the role of adult services should be made within Plans. From the 2022 review, 20 out of 30 Plans made some mention of related services, six Plans needed to add further information on this, and four Plans did not make any reference to related services at all.

As mentioned above, related services can be distinguished between adult services and community-based services. Examples of related adult services mentioned in the 2020-2023 Plans included support for parental drug and alcohol use, services for young parents, adult/family learning, and adult protection. Examples of community-based related services included financial support and advice for families (to overcome poverty (including in-work poverty) and food insecurity), housing/homelessness initiatives, employment support, affordable transport, training opportunities, and digital literacy.

The CSPs which robustly met this Criterion included a short section on local provision of related services, both adult and community-based, over the period of the Plan. This demonstrated alignment with children's services, and the contribution of related services to relevant strategic priorities and/or outcomes of the Plan.

Some CSPs also mentioned training opportunities aimed at the wider workforce, such as trauma-informed training; continuing professional development on child protection (e.g. identification and response to abuse, neglect and child sexual exploitation); and learning and development opportunities raising awareness around children's rights.

Good Practice Examples

Stirling: Stirling’s CSP provides a great narrative on local provision of children’s and related services, which covers:

  • universal services for every child and young person (e.g. health visiting)
  • enhanced services for children who need additional support (e.g. speech and language therapy)
  • targeted/specialist services to address more complex needs impacting on wellbeing (e.g. CAMHS)
  • compulsory intervention for (very few) children - and intensive support to overcome significant adversity (e.g. child protection services)
  • services which could positively impact on outcomes for children and young people (e.g. services for families, and community-based supports, such as reduction of barriers to employment).

Stirling’s CSP discusses the services offered over the period of the 2017-2020 Plan and new services and actions planned to achieve the priorities and outcomes for 2020-2023. It provides clear information on several services aimed at tackling the impact of low income on children and young people’s participation and achievement, such as breakfast clubs and action to address period poverty.

The Plan sets out how the CSPP is working collaboratively to increase the capacity and confidence of the local workforce, such as provision of learning and development and resources by educational psychology, and developing trauma responsive practice, as well as training opportunities for young people. Initiatives, like Stirling’s Champions Board, have been set up to facilitate children and young people’s active participation in local decision-making. Finally, Stirling’s Plan sets out planned improvements to service delivery, such as the development of a local framework of services for children and young people with disabilities.

Primary Prevention and Early Intervention Services (Criterion 7)

Among the overarching statutory aims of Children's Services Plans is a focus on early intervention and prevention.

Effective primary prevention is usually characterised by:

  • Support and help directed to parents, carers and families, as well as directly to children
  • Support provided in the first few years of child's life (pre-birth to pre-school)
  • Families accessing wider community supports to improve their quality of life.

Early intervention means:

  • A workforce able to respond to the needs of families in a safe, effective, person-centred and trauma informed way, as soon as there are signs of difficulty
  • Recognising wellbeing needs may emerge at any age, without warning, and that the speed/nature of response significantly impacts on the success of addressing those needs.

The majority of CSPs (25 out of 30) included information which met this Criterion. In the remaining five CSPs, providing more detail on how this was being achieved by the CSPP would have strengthened this element of the Plan's content.

The CSPPs which did this well described the local offer of services with a focus on prevention and early intervention. This included services for children and families in the early years and aimed at the best start in life, preventative approaches regarding alcohol and drug use, and pathways to positive mental health with a focus on prevention and early intervention, as well as timeous assessment in response to identified health needs of children and young people.

Some CSPPs had identified prevention and early intervention as one of their strategic priorities, which further emphasised the focus on this area, with examples of developing new services, improvement activity, and embedding use of the GIRFEC national practice model in both children's and adult services (early identification of need, assessment of wellbeing, Child's Plan, Team Around the Child and Family).

Many Plans did not make explicit links between services being offered over the period of the CSP and their role in prevention or early intervention, often with a lack of examples of the services fulfilling those aims. Most of the Plans that partially met this Criterion did not mention how services were focussed on prevention.

CSPPs could more fully meet this Criterion in future Plans by:

  • Being more explicit on their preventative approach, presenting specific examples of how services are delivering preventative support/ actions
  • Stating explicitly which services are aimed at early intervention, what support is provided and how its impact will be evaluated
  • Discussing how the CSPP is shifting resource towards early intervention.

Good Practice Examples

Highland: Highland’s CSPP has implemented the GIRFEC approach locally by using the THRIVE model to differentiate between children, young people and families who are:

  • ‘Getting By’ (and benefit from prevention and general promotion of wellbeing)
  • ‘Getting Help’ (mainly from support of universal services)
  • ‘Needing More Help’ (from early intervention services and targeted/specialist supports).

Highland’s Plan adopts a nested and layered preventative approach, spanning universal services (primary prevention) and health promotion, to working preventively as health needs, vulnerability and risks present (secondary prevention), and provision of sustained intervention and support (tertiary prevention) where health care risks and needs require intensive support, either temporarily or over longer periods of time.

Shetland: One of the Plan’s strategic priorities appears to place strong emphasis on continuing to develop Shetland’s primary prevention and early intervention services. This is aligned to work around preventing abuse, reducing poverty and inequality, enhancing child protection, developing a ‘holistic Early and Effective Intervention approach’ for the youth justice system, and early intervention around the care system.

West Lothian: Early intervention and prevention is a strategic theme that runs across all the strategic priorities and services offered through West Lothian’s Plan. The Plan dedicates a one-page section on how multi-agency partnership working will ensure there is enough focus on preventing crises for children and young people, as well as offering support at the earliest opportunity. The Plan focusses on both early years support, and support needed during childhood and adolescence, providing many examples of the services offered locally to meet wellbeing needs.

West Lothian CSP refers to a shift in resources from managing crisis, to prevention and building resilience, and makes a commitment to investigate best practice in early intervention and preventative approaches to implement in West Lothian. The CSPP also undertook a thematic strategic needs assessment on Early Intervention and Prevention, to inform the future development of children’s services locally.

Strategy for Supporting Families (Criterion 11)

Family support includes universal support for all families, support for families in need and on the edges of care, and families in need of intensive/specialist support where they face complex needs, high levels of risk, or crisis. This includes parental and parenting support, support for carers, and whole family wellbeing. It involves the provision of multi-agency holistic support wrapped round the needs of the whole family, in line with the GIRFEC approach which understands wellbeing of children and young people in the context of their network of family and care.

The COVID-19 Children & Families Collective Leadership Group (CLG) developed the "Holistic Family Support – Vision and Blueprint for Change" (the 'Vision') which sets out that families should be able to access preventative, needs-based support when they need it, for as long as they need it. The principles within this Vision were drawn out by the Family Support Advisory Group (FSAG) and informed a "Routemap and National Principles of Holistic Whole Family Support" (the 'Principles'). The Children's Services Planning Strategic Leads Network have actively contributed to their development.

The FSAG and CLG established a clear principle that there should not be nationally imposed model(s) for delivering holistic whole family support, in recognition that local solutions will vary to meet differing local needs. However, the Principles set out the core elements of what 'good' should look like and these are further articulated through the "How Good Is Our Family Support?: A National Self-Assessment Toolkit," which is currently in development.

The review of Children's Services Plans identified a range of examples of universal, targeted and specialist services that aimed to provide support to families with different types of wellbeing needs. These included support for pregnant women and new parents, support for families with children experiencing behaviours consistent with ADHD, support for families with children with a disability or complex health needs, support for Gypsy/Traveller families, family learning opportunities, family therapy, family counselling, family money advice and financial support, encouraging healthy family lifestyle. An interesting approach set out in one Plan was to bridge the gap between school and home to create a child's family network and adopt a blended model of support.

Each CSPP should have a clearly described strategy for holistic family support which adopts a whole systems approach, and refers to the role of children's and related services, and how these are delivered in a joined-up way. Most CSPPs (20 out of 30) referred to a local family support strategy, or to planned services aimed at delivering whole family support within their Plan. Eight CSPs would have been strengthened through providing more details on the services provided or planned to ensure available support to the whole family, with specific examples of universal, targeted and specialist services available in their area. Two Plans did not mention a holistic whole family approach at all. Family support was a strategic priority for six CSPPs.

Good Practice Examples

Clackmannanshire: Clackmannanshire’s Plan includes a dedicated section setting out the local approach to whole family support as one of its strategic priorities. This work-stream includes:

  • Development of a wellbeing economy and community wealth-building focussing on opportunities presented to develop sustainable food and heating as part of the Alloa Transformation Zone
  • Establishment of a Wellbeing Hub and Learning Estate development
  • Alloa Transformation Zone linking Place developments with wellbeing opportunities for promoting health and learning. This includes public spaces such as footpaths and parks
  • STRIVE (Safeguarding through Rapid Intervention) draws on the GIRFEC practice approach and takes a “whole systems” approach to delivering better outcomes, faster, for the most vulnerable people in Clackmannanshire. It does this by gathering and sharing information at an early stage to try and prevent the need for further intervention and supports existing systems already in place to respond to child and adult protection concerns in Clackmannanshire. The STRIVE team is a multi-agency team made up of police officers, social workers, and housing officers, as well as a part-time education officer and Third Sector partner organisation, Wellbeing Scotland.

Clackmannanshire’s CSP also includes use of the Icelandic Prevention Model for alcohol and drug use; preparing young people for life, work and the future; and tackling poverty.

Falkirk: Falkirk’s Plan clearly defines its family support pathway through a user-friendly diagram which includes:

  • Primary drivers: GIRFEC – Building Resilient Families; Funding, Resources and Planning, Transitions; and Systems and Process
  • Secondary drivers: Co-production of the pathway with families to design coordinated and accessible supports, based on local data, following the GIRFEC pathway with training for staff, and use of Child’s Plan, coordinated funding, ensuring child to adult transitions, service to service collaboration, and central request for assistance process, etc.
  • Specific change ideas: focus groups with families, JSNA Data, Tests of change for new coordinated approach in one locality, etc.

North Lanarkshire: Throughout the Plan there is mention of supporting families, as well as children and young people. Examples of family supports include parenting support and early years of parenting, support for families with children with a disability, financial and employment supports, food poverty and its link with neglect, breastfeeding support, infant mental health, and maintenance of family relationships, especially between siblings.

One of the Plan’s priorities is to support families, including support for the early years of parenting, children supported at home and support for good mental health, emotional resilience and trauma recovery. The Plan aims to develop consistent family support approaches based on the 10 Family Support Principles identified in The Promise. A strategic priority on Care focusses not only on those who are experiencing care/care experienced, but also on their families, including brothers, sisters, parents and peers.

Whole Family Wellbeing Funding

The approach to holistic whole family support has continued to evolve as CSPPs focus on strengthening joined-up delivery of local services. As was the case in the 2019 review of CSPs, there is a continued need for stronger articulation of the role of related services across the 3-year planning cycle, and in the associated delivery of services and support to families.

The Scottish Government has committed to investing at least £500 million over the life of this Parliament for Whole Family Wellbeing Funding (WFWF). This is intended to:

  • Enable the building of universal and holistic support services across communities in Scotland, helping to reduce the need for crisis intervention
  • Give families access to the help they need, where and when they need it
  • Ensure we are providing the right kind of support to families to enable them to thrive
  • Facilitate the system change required to transform how family support is delivered by ensuring families can access seamless holistic support that wraps around individual needs
  • Contribute to improving people's lives across a wide range of wellbeing areas, including: child and adolescent mental health, child poverty, alcohol/drugs use, and educational attainment.

£50 million of the WFWF will be deployed in 2022-23, with a focus on building capacity for a more significant investment from 2023-24 onwards. Distribution of this funding and wider implementation of the Whole Family Approach will have significant influence over the development of the next round of Children's Services Plans (2023-2026), with CSPPs as the local leadership mechanism for planning and delivery of services and supports to improve outcomes for children, young people and families in each area of Scotland.

The Children's Services Planning Strategic Leads Network have been working collaboratively with the Family Support Advisory Group in developing these proposals, and ensuring provision of holistic whole family support will be a continued priority focus within Children's Services Planning.

National Care Service

The Independent Review of Adult Social Care was led by Derek Feeley, a former Scottish Government Director General for Health and Social Care and Chief Executive of NHS Scotland, with its report on findings published in February 2021[16]. This recommended the establishment of a National Care Service (NCS) for Scotland to:

  • ensure that care is person-centred and human rights based
  • provide greater recognition and support for unpaid carers
  • improve conditions for the workforce
  • commission for public good, and
  • ensure more effective approaches to scrutiny and improvement of social care services.

The National Care Service Bill was introduced to Parliament on 20 June 2022. The Bill sets out principles for the National Care Service (NCS) and places a duty on the Scottish Ministers to promote a care service designed to secure improvement in the wellbeing of the people of Scotland. The aim of the Bill is to ensure that everyone can consistently access community health, social care and social work services, regardless of where they live in Scotland. It provides for a National Care Service, accountable to Scottish Ministers, with services designed and delivered locally.

The Bill therefore provides for a power to transfer accountability for a range of services, including adult social care and social work services, children's social work and social care services and justice social work services, to the Scottish Ministers, subject to Parliamentary approval.

The Bill requires further public consultation to be held and the results to be laid before Parliament alongside any regulations prior to any potential transfer of children's services and justice social work services. This recognises that those areas were not specifically examined by the Independent Review of Adult Social Care.

The overall position is that a final decision on the inclusion of justice social work and children's social care and social work services in the NCS will not be taken until further detailed consideration and evidence gathering with key partners has been carried out. Instead, the NCS will be designed so that children's services and justice social work services can be included if that is considered appropriate in due course.

The implications of this change, regardless of whether Children's Services are transferred to the NCS or not, will have an impact on future Children's Services Planning/Plans. This will be a key consideration for CSPPs over the next planning and reporting cycle.


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