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.

4. Engagement and Ownership of Plan (Criterion 10)

A Children's Services Plan should convey a shared sense of ongoing engagement and ownership with children, young people, families, the local workforce and wider community, with each CSPP demonstrating how they have made full use of stakeholders' ideas and suggestions from engagement activity in the development, delivery and evaluation of their Plan.

CSPs which fully met this Criterion included evidence on engagement with service users (children, young people and families); service providers (including frontline workers); and communities.

Engagement with Children, Young People, Families and Workforce

CSPs that demonstrated strong engagement included examples of local activities with children, young people, their families, staff and the wider community to describe the CSPP's process of engagement. This included details of engagement events and tools used, who participated, and how (in-person, virtually, via online survey, etc.), and when and where engagement took place. Strong Plans also included key findings from engagement and linked them directly to specific strategic priorities and actions to demonstrate how local engagement activity had informed different aspects of the CSP.

All CSPs fully or partially satisfied this Criterion, with 14 CSPs fully meeting requirements set out in the Guidance. The remaining 16 Plans would have benefitted from adding further information to include more detail on one or more of the following:

  • The type of engagement undertaken (type of event, organiser, tools used, participants, etc.)
  • Engagement with parents/carers and families
  • Engagement with the local workforce (Statutory and Third Sector children's/adults services)
  • Engagement with the wider community
  • Discussion of key findings from engagement activities
  • Clarity on how key findings have contributed to the development of the CSP and informed its priorities and actions.

The tools most commonly used for engagement were surveys, consultations, focus groups, social media, apps, as well as participation opportunities. Participation opportunities included Youth Voices; Youth Councils; youth forums/other youth platforms; children and young people's advisory/planning groups; Champion Boards; and participation groups for specific groups of children and young people with particular needs, such as those with care experience or with a disability.

A few Plans captured the lived experiences of local children and families, incorporating these into the design of local children's services. This was reflected in CSPs through reference to re-design, co-design, and co-production of services with children, young people, families and providers working in partnership.

Less than a third of CSPPs referred to offered or planned advocacy support/services available to all children and young people, or for particular groups.

Among examples of good practice identified were:

  • Dedicated section(s) in the Plan discussing engagement with children, young people, families, frontline workforce, Third Sector and other stakeholders
  • Evidence of engagement with groups of children and families with specific needs, such as care experience, Gypsy/Travellers, those experiencing poverty
  • Ensuring participation of children, young people, and families, as well as service providers in evaluating progress of the CSP
  • Inclusion of quotes from engagement events, linked to chosen priorities and actions
  • Active involvement of service users and service providers in identifying the strategic priorities for the CSPs.

Good Practice Examples

East Dunbartonshire: Children, young people, families, and other stakeholders were consulted for the development of this Plan, with young people and parents co-producing it. Examples of the engagement tools used included online questionnaires, experience of service questionnaires, and feedback from children, young people, families and professionals. The CSPP uses the National Standards for Community Engagement. It has moved towards digitalisation, using Teams and social media, extending content of web pages and resources, developing and sharing mental health care videos and audio files. Among the Plan’s actions are to empower children, young people and their families to express their views regarding needs and services, to ensure there is regular consultation with looked after young people, and to establish Corporate Champions. Findings from consultation events with young people were used to identify emerging needs.

East Lothian: East Lothian’s Children’s Services Plan includes 2 sections on hearing voices of children and young people; and consulting on the Plan. This shows clearly how the results of local engagement with children, young people, families, and Third Sector partners were used to develop each of the strategic priorities. Building on feedback from children, young people and providers, and findings from the Youth Summit and Champion’s Board, East Lothian’s CSPP ran an online public consultation on the proposed priorities. The Plan includes key themes and the proportions of respondents who agreed with the specific wording of each priority. This layout of evidence demonstrates best practice in adopting a children’s rights-based approach to the development of East Lothian’s Plan, and robust engagement with the Third Sector.

Glasgow: Glasgow’s Children’s Services Plan provides details on engagement activities and their key findings. Development of Glasgow’s CSP was based on an extensive consultation process which included children, young people, parents/carers, and the workforce. This used a variety of engagement formats, with a diverse set of organisations and agencies involved. An appendix in the Plan provides comprehensive information on their consultation approach, which included events with children and young people via schools, meetings with the Young People’s Champions Board and Children’s Services Advisory Group, one-to-one and group interviews with key stakeholders including Third Sector organisations, as well as webinars, a survey, and polls. Engagement findings are then clearly linked to key themes within Glasgow’s Plan.

One of the CSP priorities focusses on promoting children and young people’s involvement in the development and design of services. The CSP outlines improvement aims and high-level actions, such as the co-production of tools with children and young people to support their engagement, and the development of innovative engagement methods. Glasgow’s CSPP have invested in a range of engagement tools, such as Viewpoint and Direct Workbag, which provides alternative ways of seeking children and young people’s views and addresses preferences for use of online communication methods.

Orkney: Orkney’s Children’s Services Plan has engagement and empowerment of children and young people in the Plan’s development at its centre. The Plan includes an information-rich and concise section discussing in detail the engagement events conducted, and information on key findings. Some engagement findings are incorporated into Orkney’s Children’s Services Plan, and the rest have been used to contribute to development of Orkney’s Local Outcomes Improvement Plan.

Engagement with the Third Sector

Collaboration and engagement with Third Sector organisations is an essential part of the development and delivery of each area's Children's Services Plan.

Most CSPs referenced collaborating with the Third Sector. In detail, 13 CSPs provided robust information on this, while 10 CSPs needed to include additional information on how Third Sector organisations participated in development and delivery of children's services. In the remaining seven CSPs there was no mention of the Third Sector.

Those Plans that included information on the Third Sector, usually made reference to this as being a wider partner within the CSPP, or mentioned Third Sector organisations among service providers. They recognised the importance of joint working with universal services of health and education, as well as provision of targeted services, and pandemic-related services.

Good Practice Example

Glasgow: Glasgow’s CSP demonstrates use of a range of stakeholder ideas and suggestions, including Third Sector organisations, gathered through extensive local engagement. Third Sector partners work as part of the CSPP, and are involved in service decision-making and improvement activity to address local commissioning processes to ensure that Third Sector organisations can reliably and consistently provide services. Among the improvement aims of Glasgow’s CSP is that Third Sector and statutory agencies will continue to widen and strengthen collaborative working in order to support and enhance the experiences of parents/carers, and to promote participation in parental engagement programmes.

The CSP Strategic Leads Network has focussed on strengthening the contribution of the Third Sector within Children's Service Planning at a local and national level.

This was progressed in a number of ways over 2021/22:

  • Children in Scotland's 'Supporting The Third Sector Project' Project Lead has presented on Third Sector issues at CSP Strategic Leads Network meetings, and is a standing Network member
  • Two national Third Sector Interface (TSI) Forum colleagues joined the CSP Strategic Leads Network
  • Presentations to raise awareness of opportunities for strengthened Third Sector participation within Children's Services Planning have been delivered at the national TSI Forum, and Children's Sector Strategic Forum (to elected representatives of national Third Sector organisations)
  • Network engagement sessions are open to Third Sector colleagues
  • Increased Third Sector contribution to the GIRFEC Policy and Practice Guidance refresh.

Supporting the Third Sector Project

'Supporting the Third Sector Project' (STTSP) is led by Children in Scotland, and the project aims to support strengthened participation of Third Sector partners in strategic Children's Services Planning and delivery of GIRFEC practice. This includes sector capacity-building, promoting local and national connectivity with Third Sector Interfaces, and increased Third Sector participation in national strategic planning groups focussed on improving outcomes for children and families.

Project aims for 2022/23 are focussed on further enhancing the presence and influence of the Third Sector in a number of strategic planning arena. This includes: building strategic capacity of the Third Sector through training and development; additional support to TSI's focussed on improving their facilitation role with local forums such as CSPPs; developing mechanisms which ensure national policy development is influenced by the voices and experience of the Third Sector; and facilitating CSPPs to evolve local approach to Children's Services Planning in a way which fully integrates the wider Third Sector in planning, service delivery, and progress reporting.

The STTSP has engaged proactively with the Children's Services Planning Strategic Leads Network to co-develop a self-evaluation tool 'How Good is Our Third Sector Participation in Children's Services Planning?'. This is being piloted through early adopter CSPPs and aims to support them to evaluate the extent and quality of Third Sector participation locally. It does this by exploring different aspects of the Children's Services Planning cycle, and considers associated service delivery and improvement activity.

The tool provides a series of challenge questions which help the CSPP (with their local TSI and wider Third Sector partners) to identify areas of collaborative strength and areas for development, and is designed to be part of a wider suite of resources under development on whole family wellbeing. Use of the tool facilitates meaningful dialogue on opportunities for enhanced Third Sector participation in different elements of the three-year planning, delivery and reporting cycle locally, and generates a robust evidence-baseline from which CSPPs can target improvement activity. It is anticipated that experiential learning from the pilot will be collated as a summarised report, and offers an opportunity to better articulate and strengthen the role of the Third Sector in Children's Services Plans for 2023-2025.


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