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.

12. Summary & Reflections

This report has discussed review findings from the analysis of Scotland's 30 Children's Services Plans published in 2020/21 and provided an overview of policy developments relevant to Children's Services Planning and key themes from strategic engagement.

The aim of the report was to set out the extent to which CSPPs have met Criteria set by Part 3 of the Statutory Guidance and to identify areas of strength in Children's Services Planning, as well as areas where further support is needed.

What is going well?

Seven Criteria were fully satisfied by 21 or more CSPPs (highlighted in green in Table 1 in the Executive Summary):

  • Include a clear and shared vision
  • Offer services with a focus on prevention and early intervention
  • Incorporate the GIRFEC practice approach
  • Incorporate children's rights and UNCRC
  • Present links to aligned national/local plans
  • Include narrative on children's services offered
  • Set out a comprehensive local strategy for whole family support showing how and where services provide this.

Other areas of strength across CSPs included:

  • Most CSPs presented robust governance arrangements and highlighted the importance of multi-agency collaboration, in line with the 2019 review of the 2017-2020 CSPs
  • All CSPs identified clear strategic priorities. The vast majority of CSPs identified manageable priorities, with a clear governance structure to oversee delivery and progress described
  • Most CSPs mentioned COVID-19 and some Plans set out how services and supports were adapted or created to respond to the emerging needs of children and families as a result of impacts of the pandemic
  • Most CSPs referred to local offers of workforce training and development opportunities.

What needs more support?

Five Criteria from Part 3 of the Guidance were not or only partially satisfied by 15 or more CSPPs (highlighted in red in Table 1 in the Executive Summary) and four Criteria were not or only partially satisfied by 10-14 Plans (highlighted in amber).

From the review of the 30 CSPs the following areas requiring further development emerged:

  • Most Plans only partially satisfied the SMART Criterion. In particular, most Plans were not time-related, and slightly less than half were not measurable.
  • 12 out of 30 Plans did not include measurable priorities and only half the Plans set out priorities which were clearly linked to data and evidence which explained the rationale behind their choice.
  • Two thirds of CSPs did not provide information for children's services budget and how it is spent across services and partners shifting investment to prevention and early intervention.
  • 12 out of 30 Plans did not include a joint strategic needs assessment. More than half the CSPs needed to strengthen their use of data and evidence by providing additional detail. 12 out of 30 CSPs did not contain clear progress indicators or performance measures. Overall, CSPPs used data and evidence when writing their Plans, but it was not always clear how these data were used when developing the Plans and services, and identifying priorities and areas that require further improvement.
  • Even though all CSPPs fully or partially satisfied the Criterion on Engagement and Ownership, 16 Plans would have benefitted from adding further information, especially around engagement with local workforce and the wider community. 17 CSPPs needed to include more information to better evidence how Third Sector organisations have participated in development and delivery of services and supports, in line with the 2019 review.
  • 14 of the 30 CSPs needed to make stronger and/ or more explicit links between their strategic priorities and outcomes and the NPF Outcomes.
  • 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 over the period of the Plan to meet strategic priorities and from including examples of the different types of universal, generally available, and targeted/ intensive children's services available. A third of the Plans could have included more information on related services, in line with the 2019 review.
  • A third of the Plans needed to discuss their family support strategy in further detail.

Final Thoughts

Children's Services Planning Partnerships have published interesting, ambitious and well-thought out Children's Services Plans overall, with examples of good practice highlighted throughout this report to share examples of where particular Criteria were met well. This demonstrates the dedication and commitment across Scotland in working collaboratively to strengthen the approach and delivery of Children's Services Planning, with the ultimate aim of improving outcomes for every child, young person and family.

The findings of this review are intended to support CSPPs in developing their next Children's Services Plans. Together with the learning from policy developments and strategic engagement referred to throughout this report, findings will inform recommendations on priority improvement action related to Children's Services Planning and inform relevant transformational change programmes undertaken through the COVID-19 Children & Families Collective Leadership Group, Children's Services Planning Strategic Leads Network, and other stakeholder forums.


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