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.

6. National Policy (Criteria 2, 8 and 15)

This section considers the extent to which Children's Services Plans reflected National Performance Framework Outcomes, articulates how CSPPs are working together to implement Getting it right for every child, and illustrates connections with aligned strategic plans and associated delivery.

National Performance Framework (NPF) (Criterion 2)

The Guidance set out that "it is expected that all actions, activity and initiatives are aligned with, and seek to deliver the ambitions contained in the NPF". Each CSP should therefore clearly link its priorities, objectives, aims and actions to the outcomes of the NPF.

16 of the 30 CSPs demonstrated strong links with the NPF, 11 CSPs were underpinned by the NPF but needed to make stronger and/or more explicit links between their strategic priorities and outcomes and the NPF Outcomes, while the remaining three CSPs did not mention the NPF at all.

A best practice approach to fully satisfy this Criterion would be to reference the relevant NPF Outcomes in reference to specific strategic priorities and outcomes and draw more explicit connections.

Good Practice Examples

Inverclyde: Inverclyde’s Children’s Services Plan provides a table for each area of strategic priority which clearly links the Plan’s outcomes and actions to specific NPF Outcomes.

South Ayrshire: South Ayrshire’s Children’s Services Plan maps its priorities against the 11 NPF Outcomes in a very useful table, which is user-friendly and concise.

The Children, Young People & Families Outcomes Framework

A key recommendation of the 2019 national report on Children's Services Planning was to embed a more joined-up strategic narrative on improving outcomes for children and young people across government, with improved use of data to support this. The report also highlighted a need for greater clarity on national performance outcomes and indicators of wellbeing, with local areas indicating that development of a model which could be applied on a cross-sector basis would be helpful.

The 2019 and current review of Children's Services Plans identified significant variation in the indicators being used across Scotland to demonstrate improvements in the wellbeing of children, young people and families. While variation in reported data to take account of local needs and priorities remains important, consultation feedback[6] highlighted that clearer articulation of national outcomes, alongside development of a core wellbeing indicator set was important to enhance consistency of approach, and to support comparative benchmarking.

Development of the Children, Young People and Families (CYPF) Outcomes Framework has aimed to address this, by providing an over-arching holistic approach to understanding wellbeing of children and young people in Scotland, rooted in GIRFEC and with children's rights at its core. Further information on the Outcomes Framework is provided in Appendix E.

Constructive engagement with partners on development of the framework took place in 2019, and included the Children's Services Planning Strategic Leads Network, COSLA, and a range of national stakeholder organisations and governance fora.

In March 2022, the COVID-19 Children & Families Collective Leadership Group and Directors Group for Improving Outcomes for Children endorsed recommendations to approve outputs from the current phase of development, and supported a phased implementation of the Outcomes Framework, starting with the Wellbeing Outcomes, Shared Aims, and Core Wellbeing Indicators being available for use from April 2022.

The CYPF Outcomes Framework is a first step in Scotland's data improvement journey, with further activity planned. This aims to build capacity in collaborative analysis and use of data, and to progress data development including more meaningful indicators where gaps are identified. Adopting a cross-sector collaborative approach has enriched development of the Outcomes Framework so far, and ongoing engagement with stakeholders, including CSPPs, will take place to understand readiness for implementation, identify barriers and co-design supporting resources.

Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) (Criterion 8)

Children's Services Planning Partnerships have a collective responsibility to provide strategic oversight of local multi-agency GIRFEC practice which ensures a joined-up approach is in place to support children and families in their area. CSPs should set out local priorities and actions aimed at embedding GIRFEC practice and evaluating the quality and effectiveness of practice in improving outcomes for children, young people and families.

In September 2019, the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, confirmed the Scottish Government's commitment to GIRFEC as Scotland's national approach to improving outcomes for children, young people and families, and this lies at the heart of policy development and service delivery. The Deputy First Minister also set out that named person and child's plan would be taken forward on a non-statutory basis, with refreshed practical guidance developed to support professionals in using the GIRFEC approach. Planned work to refresh the GIRFEC approach was paused during 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and recommenced in early 2021.

This Criterion for the review of CSPs considered how Children's Services Planning Partnerships had embedded the GIRFEC practice approach within their Plan. Key words used to analyse the content of Plans included aspects of wellbeing across SHANARRI[7], My World Triangle, Child's Plan, Resilience Matrix, Named Person and the review explored reference to transitions to adult services, training the workforce, self-evaluation activity, trauma-informed practice, improvement activity (CYPIC) and nurturing approaches.

The majority of Plans (27 out of 30) included information which met this Criterion, while three CSPPs needed to include more information on how the GIRFEC practice approach was incorporated into development and delivery of their CSP. Most CSPPs were offering training and development opportunities to the local workforce (25 out of 30) and provided trauma-informed services and/or trauma-informed training for staff (22 out of 30). Many CSPs referenced wellbeing using SHANARRI (19 out of 30) and provided details on availability of Named Person through practitioners in Universal Services of Education and Health (Family Nurse Practitioners and Health Visitors were mentioned in half the CSPs), and use of the Lead Professional role.

Less than half the Plans (11 out of 30) referenced any completed or planned self-evaluation on elements of the GIRFEC approach. Fewer than five mentioned use of the Child's Plan, My World Triangle and Resilience Matrix, or made reference to nurturing approaches, or supporting young people through the transition to adult services. Only two Plans mentioned engagement with Children and Young People Improvement Collaborative (CYPIC) advisors and/or use of the Model for Improvement.

An example of good practice adopted within some Plans was the inclusion of diagrams/tables to show how strategic priorities of CSPs were aligned to GIRFEC principles, how actions and outcomes were aligned to aspects of wellbeing (SHANARRI) and how performance indicators were mapped against their contribution to SHANARRI. Best practice included a breakdown of the Children's Services Planning Partnership's vision to include specific references to how GIRFEC underpinned this, and recruitment of a GIRFEC implementation work-stream lead.

Even though most Plans met this Criterion, this aspect of Children's Services Planning would be improved by CSPPs providing more detail on how GIRFEC is incorporated through specific aspects of their CSP, and examples of how collaborative multi-agency GIRFEC practice is leading to improved outcomes and experiences for local children, young people and families.

Good Practice Examples

Aberdeenshire: Aberdeenshire’s Children’s Services Plan clearly set out that it was built upon the GIRFEC approach, and briefly provides some context on what the GIRFEC approach means. The Plan highlights a collaborative and joint approach by the CSPP with the GIRFEC Strategic Group responsible for development and governance of the Plan. A review of GIRFEC practice arrangements in 2019 concluded that there were strong foundations and commitments between partners to embed GIRFEC and work collaboratively, and made recommendations for further improvement activity, such as support for a programme of self-evaluation of practice by Local GIRFEC Groups.

GIRFEC-focussed activity set out in the Plan includes learning and development opportunities for the workforce and volunteers; multi-agency resources provided through Aberdeenshire’s GIRFEC website; Named Person Service; a focus on responding to ACES; and use of the Lead Professional to coordinate support through a Child’s Plan. A very useful table links the Plan’s aims, actions, performance measures, leads and timescales, with aspects of wellbeing (SHANARRI) and relevant UNCRC articles.

Argyle and Bute: Argyle and Bute’s Children’s Services Plan is underpinned by the GIRFEC framework, and shows that all partners have adopted its shared language and overarching aims of promoting wellbeing. The first priority of the Plan focusses on the CSPP’s collaborative leadership and communication, driven by the GIRFEC collective leadership approach. A dedicated section of the Plan maps services and actions against aspects of wellbeing across SHANARRI and highlights services informed by attachment-led and trauma-informed practice approaches. Use of the Named Person and Lead Professional roles has been embraced by partners, with a named midwife approach to coordinate the antenatal care plan for pregnant women. Argyle and Bute’s workforce is offered training opportunities on ACEs and trauma-informed support, as well as learning about UNCRC.

Argyle and Bute CSPP mentions engagement with CYPIC and use of Quality improvement (QI), setting out a very ambitious plan of measuring and monitoring progress. The Performance, Quality Assurance (PQ&A) Group is responsible for monitoring and reviewing progress of the CSP and reporting on its progress using QI and the PDSA (Plan-Do-Study-Act) strategic planning cycle. The Plan also details how PQ&A are conducting shared self-evaluation of partnership service delivery, and will develop refreshed improvement priorities annually.

Scottish Borders: It is clear that the GIRFEC approach is incorporated throughout the Plan and its strategic priorities, adopting a multi-agency approach and a commitment to workforce planning and development. Among the Plan’s strategic priorities there is a focus on developing traumainformed practice and Trusted Adult services for children, young people, and families.

West Dunbartonshire: An example of best practice of this Plan is the inclusion of tables which connect each strategic priority and related outcomes, actions, and mostly measurable indicators of progress to relevant SHANARRI aspects of wellbeing, as defined by the GIRFEC approach, and UNCRC articles.

Refreshed GIRFEC policy and practice guidance have been co-produced by working groups involving practitioners from adults and children's services in the public and Third Sector. Revised materials were consulted on with stakeholders to ensure these support confident and clear practical delivery of GIRFEC, underpinned by necessary, relevant and proportionate information-sharing.

Children's Services Planning Strategic Leads provided feedback to inform revision of the GIRFEC materials. An analysis report of consultation responses is expected in May 2022, at which point consideration will be given to any necessary changes to the materials ahead of final publication in summer 2022.

Opportunities for strengthened collaboration between the GIRFEC Stakeholder Group and CSP Strategic Leads Network will be explored over the coming year. This will include implementation of revised GIRFEC guidance following its publication, and learning from practice to inform future activity to overcome any barriers to putting GIRFEC into practice through implementation and improvement support.

Research on the experiences of children and families through the pandemic[8] has highlighted the importance of supporting continuity of professional relationships with children, young people, and parents/carers to provide the care and support needed. Effective safeguarding, support and promotion of children and young people's wellbeing means ensuring early and responsive support is in place before urgent action is needed, so that families get the help they need, when they need it. This is a central aim of GIRFEC and Children's Services Planning.

Links with Plans & Reports (Criterion 15)

This Criterion refers to whether Partnerships have illustrated links between the CSP and other statutory planning/reporting. GIRFEC and UNCRC are discussed in more detail elsewhere in this report.

Key plans and reports that were considered include local Child Poverty Action Plans, Children's Rights Reporting, Integrated Health and Social Care Plan, Local Outcomes Improvement Plan, Community Justice Outcomes Improvement Plan, and underpinning plans and strategies such as Child Protection Plans, Corporate Parenting/Promise Implementation Plans, the National Improvement Framework, Community Learning and Development, Early Learning and Childcare, Community Child Health Plans, GIRFEC Implementation, Locality Plans and other single service plans.

All Children's Services Plans referenced links with other national and local policies, plans, strategies and reports. Examples of good practice were seen in those Plans where the CSP not only mentioned, but clearly discussed the links between the aims and strategic priorities of the CSP and aligned plans, as well as the links with associated local delivery of children's services, related services and improvement activity. Another example of good practice was including diagrams or tables of relevant national and local strategic policy drivers, strategies and/or plans which were linked to specific priorities and actions of the Children's Services Plan.

All CSPs mentioned The Promise[9] and many were built on the foundations of the Independent Care Review (Voice, Care, People, Family, Scaffolding), making reference to its findings. A few CSPs included The Promise as a strategic priority or linked their strategic priorities to elements of Keeping The Promise. Two CSPs created a dedicated local Promise Team to implement and deliver The Promise locally, with the need for close connection with any local Corporate Parenting action plans highlighted.

The majority of CSPs referred to the Local Outcome Improvement Plan (LOIP) and Local Child Poverty Action Plan. More than half of the Plans mentioned the local Corporate Parenting Strategy. Other plans commonly referenced in CSPs included Child Protection Plan, Health & Social Care Partnership, Violence Against Women Plans/Gendered-based Violence strategies, Alcohol and Drugs Partnership, Mental Health Strategy. A few CSPs also mentioned their Community Learning and Development Plan, local Housing Strategy, and Disability Strategy Group Plan. Other national and local plans and strategies were mentioned but are not discussed in detail in this report.

Good Practice Examples

Aberdeen: The Plan includes a dedicated section on the Partnership’s contribution to the wider strategic and statutory agenda. The section discusses how the Partnership is aligned with the work and services of other multi-agency strategic partnerships which work alongside it in a collaborative way. The Plan does not just reference plans, but briefly explains how they are linked to the CSP and delivery of children’s services.

Dumfries and Galloway: The Dumfries and Galloway CSP links each strategic priority with specific action plans. A useful diagram maps the Plan’s priorities against the NPF, Dumfries and Galloway’s LOIP outcomes, and with action contained in supporting plans. This represents a great example of careful linking delivery of the aims and intent of the CSP with other aligned local plans.

Stirling: Stirling’s Plan reflects good practice through illustrating its links with Keeping The Promise. The Plan presents an appendix with a table setting out Stirling’s ‘I-statements’. These statements were provided by a group of care experienced young people who reflected on their own experiences, linked to the foundations of The Promise. The CSPP has shared ownership of the Stirling Promise Action Plan, and is planning to develop a 10-year strategy to implement the outcomes of the Independent Care Review locally within Stirling.

Feedback from the CSP Strategic Leads Network and other multi-agency forums highlighted the challenges faced by public services in navigating a complex strategic planning and reporting landscape. This echoes findings from the Independent Care Review[10], which described a "complex, incoherent and inconsistent landscape, with a vast array of structures, status, accountability and lines of responsibility in relation to Scotland's care system". Change Programme ONE[11] further highlights the difficulties faced in implementing siloed policy and legislation, with a need for strategic cohesion which takes account of overlapping areas of policy.

The CSP Strategic Leads Network has provided a national forum through which CSPPs collaborate and evolve Scotland's collective approach to improving outcomes for children and families. This highlights the important role of each area's Children's Services Plans in driving local community planning for children and families through a joined-up strategic approach across partners resulting in integrated delivery of services and support. The Network facilitates a collective forum from which CSPPs influence development of policy approaches and initiatives relevant to children's services planning, and through which Strategic Leads can inform and participate in improvement activity.

In addition to services for children and young people, it is essential that Children's Services Planning arrangements continue to develop in a way which better incorporates actions to address community and societal impacts such as child poverty, and the contribution of adult services to create a truly cohesive and coherent policy environment which better supports joined-up delivery of services, and joined-up experiences for children, young people and families.


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