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.

5. Vision and Strategic Priorities (Criteria 1 and 5)

Vision (Criterion 1)

Each area's Children's Services Plan should set out a clear, ambitious and compelling vision, shared across CSPP partners.

All CSPs (except one) contained a clear vision, shared with local partners. CSPPs overall had similar visions which focussed on improving outcomes for children and young people. These mostly had a focus on keeping children and young people loved, safe and respected; enabling them to realise their full potential; offering the right support, in the right place, at the right time; ensuring opportunities and life chances; ensuring children and young people are included as valued contributors; and offering the best possible start in life for babies and families.

More than half the Plans referred to their guiding key values and principles, which built on ambitions of Getting it right for every child, Children's Rights, and Keeping The Promise.

Good Practice Example

Dumfries and Galloway: Dumfries and Galloway’s Children’s Services Plan includes an appendix which states its vision, going on to explain what a vision is, and who it is for. This also has a helpful section on what the vision (broken down into smaller segments) means for local children and young people; parents/carers; and for those who work in services for children. This is a good example of directly communicating the Plan’s vision to different stakeholders in a user-friendly way.

Strategic Priorities (Criterion 5)

To fully meet Criterion 5, a Children's Services Plan should cover the following:

  • Identify a manageable number of strategic priorities
  • Include priorities linked to measurable indicators
  • Ensure that the rationale for chosen priorities is explicit and clearly linked to the joint strategic needs assessment (JSNA).

All Children's Services Plans identified clear strategic priorities for the period of the Plan. 11 out of 30 Plans fully met this Criterion, while the remaining 19 would have benefitted from inclusion of further information on one or more of the above aspects.

CSPs identified an average of five priorities, ranging between three and nine priorities. Table 2 below presents a list of strategic priority themes by the number of Plans which included that priority, with the most commonly identified priorities being Child Protection, Mental Health and Wellbeing, Corporate Parenting/ Children and Young People with Care Experience, and Child Poverty.

The vast majority of CSPs identified a manageable number of priorities, with a clear governance structure to oversee progress described (see Section 3). 18 out of 30 Plans included measurable priorities, i.e. priorities linked to a set of measurable progress indicators, and 15 Plans set out priorities clearly linked to data and evidence which explained the rationale behind their choice.

Around half the CSPs needed to more clearly set out their rationale for their chosen strategic priorities. Even though some Plans identified evidence-based priorities, these did not clearly explain how priorities were linked to data and evidence from JSNA and engagement activity. A short section which briefly discussed the rationale for choosing each priority would have enhanced this element.

In a few Plans, strategic priorities were at a very high level, based on the overarching statutory aims of a Children's Services Plan, such as promoting, supporting and improving wellbeing, and shifting resource towards early intervention and prevention. Strategic priorities ideally should guide the specific outcomes and actions a CSP will focus on over a 3-year period in order to achieve its overarching aims. This could include a mix of specific aspects of wellbeing of children and young people (for example mental health, early years, or a focus on the needs of specific vulnerable groups), and/or improvement activity focussed on different processes or aspects of the approach to Children's Services Planning (such as collaborative data use, service improvement, commissioning, or rights and participation of children, young people and families).

Examples of good practice were identified in Plans which contained the following detail for this Criterion:

  • Clear and specific priorities on one page, together with the CSP's vision (user-friendly)
  • The governance arrangements in place for each priority
  • The scope of each priority discussed in some detail
  • Priorities broken down into single/multi-agency objectives with short/mid/long-term outcomes
  • Inclusion of a table which linked priorities, aims, actions, outcomes, performance measures, leads and timescales
  • A section on why these priorities matter to local children, young people and families
  • Rationale for each priority using local data and evidence.
Table 2 – Strategic Priorities by number of CSPs

Strategic Priority

Number of CSPs

(N= 30)

Details on priority area

Child Protection / Safety


Health needs, children and young people being safe and free from harm, access to a safe place and someone they can talk to, community safety, feeling safe at school and online, safe care, reducing offending. This includes reduction of violence against women/ domestic abuse/ safe home environment (4 Plans), as well alcohol and drug use/ parental alcohol and drug use (5 Plans).

Mental Health & Wellbeing


Address gaps and reduce inequalities, equitable access to appropriate health provision and advice, improve mental health and wellbeing of children and young people, respond to needs, support and promote, whole community approach, increase range of alternative services.

Care Experience/ Corporate Parenting


Looked after children, care experienced children and young people, attainment, improve outcomes, deliver The Promise, nurturing relationships, permanent placements, early intervention and prevention, inclusion, safe and stable home environment, health needs.

Child Poverty


Financial support, reduce child poverty and impact of poverty on children, young people and families, reduce inequalities, gender equality, inequalities of health and educational outcomes linked to deprivation, stigma, improve life chances.

Children's Rights and Voice/Participation


UNCRC, children and young people's voice, respect and promote children and young people's rights, children and young people involved and included in the development and delivery of services, participation, listen and respond to views of children, young people and families, empowerment.

Physical Health


Improve timeous assessment of health needs of children and young people, improve health, healthy lifestyle, obesity, physically active, health inequalities and equitable access to appropriate health provision and advice.

Education Destinations?


Educational attainment, improve achievement, inclusive education, reduce educational attainment gap, options and opportunities, equal opportunities, quality learning experiences, extend potential.

Disability/Complex/ Additional Support Needs


Support children and young people with a disability and/or complex needs and/or additional support needs, enable them to reach their potential, support them to overcome barriers to inclusion at home, school and communities, reduce inequalities in learning, improve attainment and achievement, improve outcomes.

Early Years


Support in early years of life (pre-school age group), best start, maternal health, speech and language, nurturing environment.

Family Support


Support parents and carers.



Workforce support, partnership work, Youth Justice, employability.



Almost all CSPPs incorporated GIRFEC in their CSPs, this category is just for those who clearly mentioned GIRFEC among their key priorities.

Good Practice Examples

Glasgow: Glasgow’s CSPP identifies clear priorities for its Children’s Services Plan, which are measurable and manageable. The CSP includes very useful tables for each priority, which link each priority to specific outcomes, improvement aims, and high-level actions. The priorities are clearly linked to local needs, identified through an extensive consultation with children and young people. The Plan discusses the consultation approach and its findings in detail showing shared ownership over its development.

Tayside: Tayside’s Children’s Services Plan includes clear priorities, which are measurable and manageable. They are clearly connected to the themes identified through a joint strategic needs assessment and consultation. Consultation activity included several engagement events with children, young people and families, which are described in the Plan.

Reference to COVID-19

Although it was not a requirement set out in the Guidance specifically, communication via the Children's Services Planning Strategic Leads Network encouraged inclusion of pandemic-related information within revised Children's Services Plans, where these had not been finalised pre-pandemic. All but three Plans mentioned COVID-19, referencing the impact of the pandemic and lockdowns on the wellbeing of children, young people, families and local communities. This included information on workforce resilience, service developments and adaptations, and impacts on service delivery. Key words often used in relation to the pandemic were impact, adaptation, new supports, flexible, adjust, digital, innovative and creative, and recovery.

Among the impacts of the pandemic identified in CSPs were:

  • Increased poverty, child poverty, and food insecurity
  • Impacts on emotional and mental health of children, young people and parents/carers
  • Increased health and social inequalities
  • Interruption of services (mainly due to school closures and physical distancing requirements)
  • Impact on learning and attainment, including digital exclusion
  • Increased incidents of domestic abuse.

Among new supports and adaptations developed by CSPPs to tackle the impact of the pandemic were:

  • COVID-19 Wellbeing Hubs
  • Use of local/national pandemic data
  • Establishment of taskforces
  • In-school education for vulnerable children, at-home learning programmes, attainment support
  • Food and medication deliveries, Food initiatives
  • Wellbeing packs of activities for children and young people
  • Tackling digital exclusion through provision of devices, Wi-Fi, data
  • Bereavement support.


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