Local authority social work services (LASWS) children and families group: minutes 8 December 2020

Minutes of the meeting of the group on 8 December 2020

Items and actions

Agenda Item 1 – Welcome and Introductions

Craig Kellock (CK) welcomed delegates to the meeting and provided an update on recent staffing changes.

Agenda Item 2 - Actions from previous meeting

CK provided an update on the status of actions outstanding following the last meeting of the group. The table below summarises the those actions.




Reconvene permanence working group

Not progressed


Launch consultation on children’s social work statistics data collections

Consultation launched in September 2020


Consult on data on permanence

Covered by consultation





Include question on need for more information on kinship care

Covered by consultation





Amend minutes for May 2019 meeting to remove mention of adding kinship care order as legal reason

Amended minutes now published on website.


LAs to send contact details for IT providers

Some details provided, in relation to inviting IT providers to future LASWS meetings. No further action required at present.



SG to invite IT providers to future LASWS meetings

LASWS membership to remain as is, and IT providers to be invited to working subgroups as appropriate.



ScotXed to investigate inconsistency in child protection case conference report in ProcXed

The type wasn’t triggering if there was no case conference in the first record.  A workaround to ensure the first record has a case conference present has been put in place.


Agenda item 3 – User Engagement Consultation        

A questionnaire on changes to the current data collections and published statistics had been circulated with returns to be completed by mid-November. We received 42 responses with wide-ranging comments from a range of stakeholder organisations and local authorities. CK highlighted the importance of establishing user needs in informing developments to data collection, and undertook that a summary of proposals be published early in the new year. This would be part of an ongoing user-engagement process, aligned with other work developing in the sector.

CK outlined the key themes arising from an initial analysis of consultation responses.  These included:

  • The importance of data linkage with health data
  • Recommendations to include postcode data in data collections, to enable analysis by area deprivation. The discussion noted the difficulty in validating postcodes, in particular home postcodes for looked after children.
  • The need for information on family circumstances, including sibling relationships.
  • Recognition of the data-supplier burden imposed by additions to data collections.
  • Requests to gather information on the circumstances leading to children becoming looked after.
  • The lack of information on informal kinship care.
  • The importance of understanding out-of-area placements.
  • Recognition of the usefulness of data provided by Police Scotland in the vulnerable children Covid-19 monitoring data collection.
  • The lack of information in the current data collection on the early stages of the child protection process.
  • Fewer recommendations were made of data items which could be dropped.

CK asked for responses from local authority representatives the meeting how they are placed in terms of being able, or otherwise, to access and provide CHI in data collections. Although this was not being put forward as an addition to data collections presently, it would be helpful to understand the main barriers faced and whether CHI was already accessible in some areas. Several responses were provided in the meeting chat, and CK invited others to respond by email following the meeting.

Action: local authorities to provide feedback on the accessibility of CHI as a future consideration for adding to data collections.

CK explained that initial priorities for development would be explored later in the meeting. This followed some discussions with policy teams and consideration of the main areas for improvement in data collections.

Going forward, proposals for development would be considered by short-life working groups, involving members of LASWS, then taken back to LASWS for further consideration and agreement on timescales for implementation.

Micky Anderson highlighted the need for strategic oversight of the fundamental review of data collection required.

Agenda item 4 – The Promise

Claire Stuart gave an outline of the Independent Care Review reports and described the role of The Promise, ongoing engagement analysis, and work to set out the policy, governance and data landscape in Scotland. Slides would be shared with the group.

Agenda item 5 - Children Looked After data collection

Robin Bennie (RB) reported that around 80% of Looked After Children data returns had been submitted and that most had been subject to first-level validation checks.

CK noted that a new second-level validation seeking continuity between episodes of care in the previous year’s data collection and this year’s collection was to be implemented. Scottish Government would explore adding this as a validation check in ProcXed in future years.

Action: Scottish Government to explore introducing a validation check in ProcXed comparing episodes of care open in the previous year’s data collection with the current year.

The group discussed the usefulness of re-introducing some first-level validation errors which had been removed in recent years.

Action: Scottish Government to provide validation rules for checks which have been removed from first-level validation, to assist local authorities quality-checking data throughout the year.

CK introduced three priority areas for development, each to be supported by a working group made up of volunteers from this meeting. The groups would consider: continuing care and aftercare; permanence; and geographical data. Several volunteers offered to join the groups.

Action: Scottish Government to set up continuing care and aftercare data working group

Action: Scottish Government to set up permanence data working group

Action: Scottish Government to set up geographical data working group

Agenda item 6 - Child Protection data mapping – Dr. Alex McTier

Alex McTier (AM) presented the child protection data mapping work he has led and is being prepared for the Child Protection National Leadership Group. This included areas for consideration and further mapping, including on data linkage, the presentation of statistics and strengthening analytical connections nationally. Slides would be shared with the group.

Agenda item 7 - Child Protection data collection

RB reported that all councils had provided data and that these were being subject to first- and second-level validation checks.

Will Howes (WH) described some analysis of child protection investigations data, noting a large degree of variation in the proportion of investigations resulting in a case conference, by local authority. It was felt this may be a result of variations in practice, rather than variations in the interpretation of statistical guidance. The data had not previously been included in published statistics, but has been released under Freedom of Information on two occasions, and the team felt it was best to pro-actively publish in the future. The discussion noted it would be helpful to see what the data shows.

Action: Scottish Government to share analysis of child protection investigations data

Fiona Marshall (FM) explained the consultation on the National Child Protection guidance was ongoing and provided a timeline for its publication. The current child protection data collection is informed by the national guidance, and items in the data collection, such as risk factors, would be reviewed following its publication. However, the discussion noted there were aspects of child protection data collection which could be reviewed prior to the publication of the guidance. CK set out a plan to involve Police Scotland in discussions relating to data collection on early child protection processes.

Action: Scottish Government to contact Police Scotland about possible data collection on Inter-Agency Referral Discussions

The collection of geographical data would be reviewed by the same working group considering this for Looked After Children data. Some concerns were noted about identification of children from some rural postcodes, and whether SIMD datazone was a suitable alternative. It was noted that postcodes would not be revealed in any published analyses.

Agenda item 8 - Data development – Celia Macintyre and Gillian Raab

Celia Macintyre (CM) outlined her work developing longitudinal Looked After Children datasets for research purposes. In developing and cleansing the data, various quality issues were uncovered, and have been flagged in the longitudinal dataset. CM offered to provide a summary of data quality flags to colleagues in local authorities for their data, and noted these may prove useful in improving the quality of future data returns.

Action: CM to share data quality flags with local authorities

CM also outlined next steps, including work to support addressing linkage issues.

Gillian Raab (GR) described her published analysis on children born into care, facilitated by the longitudinal dataset. This included comparisons with figures for England and Wales. Slides would be shared with the group. 

Agenda item 9 – AOB

There was discussion about the Vulnerable Children – COVID-19 monitoring survey, including the pause over Christmas, consistency of data returned, the necessity for the data collection to continue, and for how long. CK described the review to be undertaken into the data collection, involving Scottish Government, the Improvement Service, Public Health Scotland and members of the SOLACE ‘Risk, Vulnerability and Protection’ data group. The review would consider the scope and reporting frequency going forward.

The relevance of binary gender categories was queried but there was not time to discuss this in the meeting. Guidance on gender will be reviewed for future years.

CK thanked all delegates for their attendance and contributions.

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