National Bairns’ Hoose Governance Group minutes: April 2023

Minutes of the meeting held on 25 April 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Val de Souza, National Bairns’ Hoose Governance Group (Chair)
  • Laura Buchan, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Services, Crown Office
  • Justine Craig, Chief Midwifery Officer, Directorate for Chief Nursing Officer, Scottish Government (deputising for Professor Alex McMahon)
  • Anna Donald, Deputy Director, Criminal Justice Division, Directorate for Justice, Scottish Government (deputising for Neil Rennick)
  • Ian Donaldson, Deputy Director, Children’s Rights Protection and Justice Division, Children and Families Directorate, Scottish Government
  • Mary Glasgow, Chief Executive, Children 1st
  • Alistair Hogg, Principal Reporter, Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration
  • Jillian Ingram, Joint Investigative Interview National Implementation Coordinator, COSLA
  • Sally Ann Kelly, Chief Executive, Aberlour, CCPS representative
  • Chantelle Lalli, Justice Lead, Bairns’ Hoose Unit, Directorate for Justice, Scottish Government
  • Louise Long, Chief Executive, Inverclyde Integration Joint Board, representing SOLACE
  • Martin Maclean, Detective Chief Constable, Police Scotland (deputising for DCC Malcom Graham)
  • Henry Mathias, NCS Strategic Lead, Care Inspectorate (deputising for Jackie Irvine)
  • Joanna McDonald   Deputy Chief Social Work Advisor, Scottish Government (deputising for Iona Colvin)
  • John Trainer, Chief Social Work Officer and Head of Childcare and Criminal Justice
  • Andrew Watson, Director of Children and Families, Scottish Government


  • Michelle Best, Senior Practitioner, Fife Council
  • Kiran Haksar, Bairns’ Hoose Unit, Directorate for Justice, Scottish Government
  • Alex McTier, Evidence and Evaluation Specialist in the Centre for Excellence for Children's Care and Protection (CELCIS), University of Strathclyde.
  • Jack Murray-Dickson, Bairns’ Hoose Unit, Directorate for Children and Families, Scottish Government
  • Caroline Morgan, Fife Council
  • Catherine Sturrock, Bairns’ Hoose Unit, Directorate for Children and Families, Scottish Government
  • Alison Wishart, Team Manager, Fife Council 


  • John Burns, Chief Operating Officer, NHS Scotland, Scottish Government
  • Iona Colvin, Chief Social Work Advisor, Office of the Chief Social Work Adviser, Scottish Government
  • DCC Malcolm Graham, Detective Chief Constable, Police Scotland
  • Neil Hunter, Principal Reporter, Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration         Renfrewshire Council  
  • Jackie Irvine, Chief Executive, Care Inspectorate
  • Professor Alex McMahon, Chief Nursing Officer, Scottish Government
  • Neil Rennick, Director for Justice, Scottish Government
  • Lesley Swanson, Head of Bairns’ Hoose Unit, Directorate for Children and Families, Scottish Government

Items and actions

Welcome, introductions and apologies 

The Chair welcomed attendees to the meeting and introduced new members, Andrew Watson, the new Director of Children and Families in the Scottish Government and Laura Buchan representing the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Services, to the group.  Apologies were noted.

Minutes of last meeting and action register 

The Chair invited any comments on the Minutes of the previous meeting held on 17 January 2023. COPFS raised a point regarding their comments on the Short Life Working Group on Children in Conflict with the Law to be incorporated into the minutes from 17 January, that would be followed up after the meeting. No other comments or issues were raised regarding the minutes.

Open and ongoing actions from the previous meeting were discussed as below:

  • the Chair noted that NBHGG dialogue with children and young people was a key Ministerial priority outlined at the outset of her appointment but that it has been limited so far. It was highlighted that the intention to share videos with children and young people after NBHGG meetings is being reviewed given limited circulation of the videos so far. The Chair indicated she would reopen the matter to members on how they would best like to introduce themselves, and would consult children and young people as to how they would best like to engage 
  • Children 1st provided an update on their engagement with Sheriff Mackie who wants to follow up on his reflections from the Stockholm visit; they have an appointment to discuss these with the Crown Office. Members expressed interest in Sheriff Mackie’s’ work and expressed interest in Group engagement with him going forwards
  • Children 1st also provided an update on the North Strathclyde Bairns’ Hoose, with the Wee House anticipated to open in July. It was noted that Children 1st will be able to share internal pictures of the Wee Hoose and architects’ depictions of the Big Hoose with the Group.  Artist depictions of the Wee Hoose were shared and were warmly received by members
  • an update was provided on the Terms of Reference (TOR); discussions are ongoing on the most appropriate way to reflect the reporting mechanisms with COSLA leaders in the TOR
  • the Chair noted that a follow-up session from the Collaborative Intelligence workshops has been planned to take place in early Autumn


  • COPFS to submit suggested amendment to minute
  • once the new children and young people engagement arrangements have been established members to consider how they would best like to introduce themselves to children and young people 
  • Children 1st to coordinate a meeting between Chair and Changemakers Group
  • Children 1st to request update from Sheriff Mackie on his work to share with the Group
  • Children 1st to share additional pictures of the Wee Bairns’ Hoose and depictions of the Big Bairns’ Hoose with Group

Children and young people

Scottish Government provided an update:

  • a video for children and young people has been commissioned to accompany the Standards due to be published 31 May (following the GG meeting, arrangements changed and the children and young people created posters rather than a video to accompany the Standards)
  • the Pathfinder Application Pack includes a requirement for applicants to demonstrate plans for meaningful engagement with children and young people. 
  • Children and young people will be involved in the assessment process of the Pathfinders in a manner appropriate for them
  • funding has been secured for HIS to continue with the Link Worker Model work and for Children 1st to continue with the Changemakers work – the Bairns’ Hoose Unit (BHU) will work to ensure that the GG is kept informed 
  • the Children and Young People Participation and Engagement Plan is to be published 31 May (the publication date was subsequently changed to the 1 June)

There was a discussion on the need for a wider Communications and Engagement Strategy. Scottish Government confirmed that approval for additional resource in the Bairns Hoose Unit has been secured; once recruitment has taken place, this will include a focus on communications and engagement. 

There was a presentation from Fife Council on feedback received from children, young people and their families about their experience of Joint Investigative Interviews (JII) from February to December 2022: 

  • the council began operating SCIM in October 2021
  • they found a simple methodology most effective to gather feedback: social workers asked families to complete a simple questionnaire; Generally, forms were completed and returned during visits
  • 31 families provided feedback which was a small proportion of users; it was noted that it must be the decision of the child whether they (or their family) want to provide feedback
  • the council is refreshing the form for April 2023. Key updates are the creation of two separate age targeted forms for younger children and teenagers, as well as seeking feedback on medicals, for which the health team is now involved
  • the council offered to share their annual child protection report once it has been signed off so that the Group can see further details of their work

Children 1st presented on learning from their engagement with children and young people: 

  • Children 1st gather feedback through the Changemakers, a core group of 6 to 8 young people (membership of the group is constantly evolving). A dedicated Rights, Advocacy and Trauma team lead on this work
  • the Changemakers offer retrospective feedback which is beneficial as it can be difficult to engage with children and young people when they are distressed
  • having begun their recovery journey, the Changemakers feedback can be more critical than feedback gathered during the process. The Changemakers have had a chance to reflect on their experiences and want to make improvements for others, whereas immediate feedback can reflect children wanting to please or to be kind to the workers who have helped them
  • the Changemakers report is currently in draft and will be shared with the Group when completed
  • feedback from the Changemakers included:
    • the importance of a positive experience in the early days/initial period of disclosure and Joint Investigative Interview
    • the differences in the experiences of children who are believed to have been subjected to sexual abuse, measures such as the removal of these children’s phones and the search of their rooms and belongings made them feel like perpetrators rather than victims
    • practical suggestions such as to limit the role of uniformed police
    • the lack of ongoing recovery support
    • persistent issues around the justice process with a common theme of children reflecting that they wish they had never said anything
    • the lack of coordination between agencies creating difficulties such as children being given a hard time by teachers when they return to school
  • there was a discussion by the Group on the importance of, and need for, effective recovery services
  • there was a discussion on the court process. It was noted that unfortunately there will likely be times that cases are delayed and it was important to ensure that victims receive clear and timely communication and understand this due to no fault of their own. The courts have also been doing work on creating a more welcoming environment in court buildings, although the aim is to keep all children out of court
  • the Group noted the need for join-up with Education to ensure trauma-informed support from teachers/schools for children going through court processes 


  • Fife Council to share slides and annual report
  • Children 1st to share slides and impact report once finalised
  • GG members to consider how to use the learning provided by the presentations to maintain group focus and connection with children’s experiences, as well as to share more widely with partners
  • SG Justice, COPFS and Children 1st to meet to discuss the circumstances outlined in Children 1st presentation

Chair’s report

The Chair spoke to her report. It was noted that there will be a shift from planning as the Pathfinder phase is commencing; work continues to address resource challenges; and a Ministerial-led Health event is planned for 27 June (The Ministerial health event has been rescheduled to 19 September), led by Maree Todd, Minister for Social Care, Mental Wellbeing and Sport, with the participation list for the event being developed.  

The Chair indicated that she will be preparing a briefing for Ministers predominantly on the Pathfinder phase and that members should consider how they want to use the opportunity.


Chair to brief Ministers on Pathfinder phase with contributions from members

Scottish Government Bairns’ Hoose policy update

There was an update from Scottish Government:

  • the new Ministerial appointments: Natalie Don MSP is Minister for Children, Young People and Keeping the Promise; Siobhian Brown MSP, is Minister for Victims and Community Safety and Maree Todd, MSP is Minister for Social Care, Mental Wellbeing and Sport. The new Ministers have been briefed on Bairns’ Hoose and a cross-portfolio meeting with the Chair is being arranged
  • the refreshed Vision and Values, Bairns’ Hoose Standards, Children and Young People Engagement Plan, and the Bairns’ Hoose Progress Report and Pathfinder Delivery Plan will all be published on 31 May (the publication date for these documents was subsequently changed to the 1 June). The Bairns’ Hoose website will also be launched. The links to publications will be shared with members
  • there was an engagement session on 18 April with Chief Officers on the Pathfinder Application Pack and process. Feedback was encouraging and with anticipated questions asked
  • Pathfinder applications are expected to open on 12 June
  • a series of Pathfinder engagement events are being planned over the summer while the application process is open. The secretariat requested that members get in contact if they have suggestions for areas or venues for these events
  • the Specification for Requirement for the procurement of a Grant Fund Administrator for the Pathfinder phase is being finalised. The aim is for the Invitation to Tender (ITT) to be live towards the end of May
  • the Children and Young People Centre for Justice (CYCJ) will be supporting analytical work during the Pathfinder phase, as well as an Evaluation of the Scottish Child Interview Model (SCIM)
  • the current budget allocation for the Pathfinder phase is for 23/24 and there will be further funding for 24/25 

There was a discussion on the Pathfinder engagement events and the need for the presentation to include a description of what the Barnahus model is. 

The chair requested that the Group has the chance to comment on the Visions, Values and Approach publication. It was noted that the document had been shared previously with key partners. Further feedback from the Group welcome, however due to publication deadlines, comments would need to be received within the week. 

There was a discussion on the Fund Administrator. It was noted that the Fund Administrator would provide transparency in how funds were distributed, as well as manage the volume of grants to support capacity within the BHU. 


  • NBHGG members to suggest venues/regions for Pathfinder engagement events
  • BHU to share the Vision and Values document with the Group for comment
  • BHU to consider how to share information with the Group in relation to the Fund Administrator

CELCIS NCS research 

CELCIS presented on the Children’s Services Research Study (it was noted the report is still in draft and there were restrictions on the content of his update):

  • the aim of the research was to answer the question ‘how do we ensure that children, young people and families get the help they need, when they need it?’. The project is running from September 2022 to Autumn 2023
  • the research is led by an independent steering group of 12 to 15 colleagues who are acting as critical friends, chaired by Professor Brigid Daniels and independent of the Scottish Government to provide an objective evidence-based repor

The research comprises five strands:

  • a rapid evidence review of published national and international research evidence
  • a ‘deep dive’ to examine a range of approaches to children’s services in 5 high-income countries
  • a national scoping and mapping study to explore different models of integrated service delivery in Scotland
  • a national survey of children’s services workforce
  • targeted focus groups/interviews with professionals

There was a discussion on the indicators being used for the report. The indicators have been weighted and contextualised based on location. The 32 local authorities have been grouped into three categories based on how integrated their services currently are: highly integrated, moderately integrated and non-integrated. The structures and differences between these areas will be compared. Attention has also been given to what sits best at national/local/regional levels. 

There was a discussion on the role of the development of the National Social Work Agency, being undertaken by Social Work Scotland and the Scottish Association of Social Work.

Any other business

The next meeting is scheduled to take place on 22 August. The group agreed for this meeting to take place virtually with the following meeting on 14 November to be in person in Glasgow.


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