National Child Protection Leadership Group minutes: April 2021

Minutes from the 23 April 2021 meeting of the National Child Protection Leadership Group.

Attendees and apologies


  • Lesley Sheppard, Deputy Director: Care, Protection and Justice, Scottish Government (Chair)
  • Hazel Borland, Executive Nurse Director for NHS Ayrshire and Arran (SEND membership shared with Margaret McGuire)
  • Jackie Brock, Chief Operating Officer, The Promise Scotland 
  • Claire Burns, Co-Director, CELCIS and Institute for Inspiring Children’s Futures
  • Iona Colvin, Chief Social Work Adviser, Scottish Government
  • Cathie Cowan, Chief Executive, NHS Forth Valley
  • Eddie Follan, Chief Officer Children and Young People COSLA 
  • Alison Gordon, Chief Social Work Officer, North Lanarkshire and Social Work Scotland
  • Neil Hunter, Principle Reporter/Chief Executive, SCRA
  • Elliot Jackson, National Convenor of the Children’s Panel and Chief Executive of Children’s Hearings Scotland
  • SallyAnn Kelly, Chief Executive,  Aberlour
  • Joanna Macdonald, Deputy Chief Social Work Adviser, Scottish Government 
  • Lindsay MacDougall, Acting Head of Child Protection, Scottish Government 
  • Peter MacLeod, Chief Executive, Care Inspectorate
  • Mairi Macpherson, Deputy Director, Improving Health and Wellbeing, Scottish Government
  • DCS Samantha McCluskey, Head of Public Protection, Police Scotland
  • Margaret McGuire, Executive Nurse Director for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde
  • Moira Price, Head of Victims and Witnesses Policy, COPFS
  • Bill Scott-Watson, Interim Deputy Director for Strategy, GIRFEC and the Promise Division, Scottish Government
  • Ruth Sills, Child Protection Programme Lead, CELCIS
  • Alan Small, Chair, Child Protection Committees Scotland
  • Kay Tisdal, Professor of Childhood, Edinburgh University 
  • Michael Wood, Professor of Education, University of Dundee and General Secretary, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES) 


  • Prof Brigid Daniel. Chair of the National Child Protection Guidance Steering Group
  • James Cox, Social Work Professional Advisor, Child Protection Unit, Scottish Government
  • DSU Martin Maclean, Head of National Child Abuse Investigation Unit and Lead for Child and Adult Protection, Police Scotland
  • DI Neil McKenzie, Professional Policing Advisor, Child Protection Unit, Scottish Government
  • Lucy Robertson, Managing Director, Craigforth
  • Lesley Swanson, Team Leader, Child Protection Unit, Scottish Government
  • Fiona Marshall, Senior Policy Advisor, Child Protection Unit, Scottish Government (Secretariat)
  • Siân Robson, Policy Officer, Child Protection Unit, Scottish Government (Secretariat)


  • Maree Todd, Minister for Children and Young People (Chair)
  • Prof Amanda Croft, Chief Nursing Officer, Scottish Government
  • John Froggatt, Deputy Director, Creating Positive Futures, Scottish Government
  • Gayle Gorman, Chief Executive, Education Scotland
  • Angela Scott, Chief Executive Aberdeen City Council. Strategic Lead for Children and Education, including Child Protection, SOLACE
  • Dr Gregor Smith, Chief Medical Officer, Scottish Government


  • Eddie Doyle, Scottish Government Senior Medical Advisor for Paediatrics (attending on behalf of Dr Gregor Smith)
  • Janie McManus, Strategic Director, Education Scotland (attending on behalf of Gayle Gorman)
  • Wendy Mitchell, Professional Advisor - Early Years and Children’s Services Scottish Government attending on behalf of Amanda Croft

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions  

The Chair welcomed members and guests to the meeting and noted apologies and delegates. The Chair also welcomed new members Jackie Brock, Cathie Cowan and Joanna Macdonald. 

The Chair noted that due to restrictions in the pre-election period, the Minister for Children and Young People was unable to chair the meeting but that it had been decided that the meeting should go ahead in order to progress the revision of the National Child Protection Guidance as a critical piece of work. Approval of the final draft guidance will be sought when the new administration is in place. 

The Chair also advised that due to the pre-election period, Civil servants would be unable to discuss policies that could be introduced in the next parliament.

Minute and actions from 14 December 2020 meeting 

SallyAnn Kelly stated that she is no longer the Chair of the Committee on Care and Support for Children and Young People at CCPS. This will be removed from the December minutes. Action 1 – Secretariat

There were no further changes and the Group agreed that the minute of the previous meeting was accurate.

Actions from the 14 December 2020 meeting

The Chair explained that actions which do not pertain to the revision of the National Child Protection Guidance or the Learning Review Guidance will be covered at the next substantive meeting. Actions 4 and 8-10 will be covered in today’s agenda.

Summary of the consultation results - paper 1 

The Chair explained that since the consultation on the revised National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland closed, a significant piece of work has been carried out to engage further with key stakeholders and policy colleagues to discuss and review comments and make further edits to the National Guidance where necessary. 

The Chair invited Lucy Robertson to give the Group an overview of the consultation analysis. Lucy noted that this consultation was one of the more complex that Craigforth has analysed for the Scottish Government due to the importance and complexity of the content and the length of responses provided by many respondents. Responses were received from a diverse range of organisations, including Child Protection Committees, local authorities and third sector organisations.

Some respondents responded to the draft guidance systematically, others provided a more topic or client group specific perspective. Lucy highlighted to the Group that:

  • a very small minority of respondents was seeking a more fundamental review which would set out how the approach to child protection in Scotland could and should be, rather than a review to develop the best version for the here and now
  • some respondents noted that the guidance was long but several suggested additional wording
  • there was support for the accompanying practice insights

On the whole, the overall tone was positive and respondents acknowledged the scale of the task to review the guidance, were appreciative of the work involved in the draft and acknowledged that the revised guidance was a significant step forward from the previous version.

The Chair thanked Lucy and asked for comments or thoughts on the consultation. Members commended Lucy and her colleagues on her analysis.  Lucy left the meeting.

Issues/key revisions for discussion - paper 2

The Chair explained that the Project Team had carefully considered the analysis report and all consultation responses, and had worked with relevant policy leads and in some cases directly with respondents to ensure that views are suitably reflected in the guidance.

Key issues and proposed approaches were discussed at the Steering Group meeting on 29th March. Following some further discussion and revisions, these have been shared with the Leadership Group in paper 2. The Chair noted that if members have identified other issues, there will be an opportunity to raise these at the end of the discussion. The Chair asked Brigid Daniel to lead members through paper 2.

Brigid noted that the consultation responses showed that a wide range of agencies consider child protection of relevance to their work. There was a huge amount of detail in the responses, and some suggestions for revision that are more appropriate for local processes and operational guidance and other suggestions and views which will inform delivery of wider strategic developments including implementation of The Promise and UNCRC. Brigid explained that every comment has been considered by a relevant policy lead and that there has been a detailed process for recording decisions about suggestions. She thanked Lucy for the analysis report and everyone who has fed into discussions about revisions. 

The group discussed each of the issues raised in paper 2.

Degree of local variance.

Brigid suggested that the solution lies in the articulation of the relationship between national and local guidance. Wherever they live in Scotland, children and families should expect to experience a consistent child protection response. Local guidance should link back to the national guidance. Members agreed that every child should demand the same level of protection and assistance.

It was noted that it will take substantial effort to update local procedures and guidance, and this effort might be greater in some areas than others. There will need to be consideration of how to support local adaptation, which could take a couple of years to implement. Members agreed that clear messaging of the minimum standards will be crucial to achieve consistency, and these should set a high bar consistent with UNCRC. The detail of local processes might vary and departures from the national guidance should be justified. It was suggested that learning regarding resolving tension between national and local guidance can be gained from other policy areas and Eddie Follan said that COSLA would be keen to support and facilitate this [Action 2 – Eddie Follan]. Self-evaluation will be central going forward to build evidence of what works.

In terms of infrastructure for consistent implementation, it was suggested that CPC Scotland would be key in ensuring sharing of learning and resources to avoid duplication of effort. It was raised that for alignment of local and national data collection, support/space for workforce development would be required.

Amendments to the recommended IRD process were discussed. The wording in the guidance has been a collaborative process with the aim of improving consistency across the country, while allowing local flexibility. The evidence base for the proposed process is given in several pages of references in the guidance. Peter Macleod noted that joint inspections of child protection processes have historically focussed on IRDs and this is likely to continue therefore inspections could provide a useful check point on how implementation is progressing.

Framing our aspiration and direction of travel

Brigid reminded the group that due to the pre-election period restrictions, it was not possible to enter into policy discussions at this time. Brigid noted that the consultation showed a lot of interest in the upstream context of child protection, and that respondents were keen for the guidance to frame the longer term direction of travel.  

It was noted that the Independent Review of Adult Social Care might impact on implementation of this guidance, if there is a move to a National Care Service and increased interplay between child and adult systems. Iona Colvin noted that the timeline for a National Care Service is likely to be 2-3 years from legislation to implementation. The revised Guidance gives an opportunity to better link child and adult systems as it is more focussed on GIRFEC and wellbeing, and this move ‘upstream’ includes the family context. It was agreed that communication around publication of the guidance will be crucial. This topic could be discussed in more detail at the next meeting when the Minister is in attendance. Action 3 - Secretariat

GIRFEC/named person

The Guidance is framed in the direction we’re moving in. Text relating to named person is around function/role of a named person and is not capitalised. Members had no objections to this approach.

Poverty and neglect

Some consultation respondents felt that the text still stigmatised poverty, in spite of an attempt to frame greater recognition of the impact of poverty. The text has now been amended to explicitly state that poverty is not always associated with neglect, but it can be a contributory factor, and to suggest that people use the third side of My World Triangle in dealing with neglect. Members were content with this approach.  

Accessibility and usability

In line with the emphasis in the guidance on involving children and young people and families in the design and understanding of their own care and protection experiences, a ‘Guide to the Guidance’ document will be co-produced with children and young people and families. This will not be a simplified version but rather explain the key aspects of protective responses and what children and young people and families can expect.

The guidance is long and complex but it is presenting a complex topic and there has recently been an appreciation of wider areas of concern that impact on the wellbeing of children that should be included. It was proposed that to make the guidance itself easier to read, we should ensure clearer navigability, accessibility and access, signposting, links, searchability, contents pages and formatting.

SallyAnn Kelly offered to provide a contact for a colleague who adapts documents for parents with learning disabilities. Other available resources could be linked to a co-produced document. Being able to search and interact with the main guidance including on a mobile device will be important. An easy-read version was suggested and this was noted by the Project Team for consideration.

Practice insights 

These have been renamed from practice notes to indicate that rather than being how-to guides their purpose is to provide additional information on what good practice might consist of. An introduction to these is presented  as an appendix in the guidance and explains what they are, what they are not and how they connect to the text and wider aspirations for child protection in Scotland. There are 18 insights, comprising of 2-5 sides each. They can be amended, removed and supplemented in the future. Members had no objections to this.

Additional comments

Peter Macleod asked how CPCs and Chief Officer Groups handle complaints in circumstances where harm has occurred in their own locality. Specifically, how they rectify it themselves if they are responsible for the services. The Chair agreed this is something the group should consider at a future meeting. Action 4 - Secretariat

The Chair thanked all those who have been involved to getting to this point. 

Implementation – update and discussion

The Chair invited Lindsay MacDougall to provide an update and lead the discussion on implementation. Lindsay noted that the recent focus has been on getting the content of the guidance right, and that publication is a key milestone but it is not the end point. Adaptation of local guidance and implementation will be equally important.

The scale of the task in developing revised local guidance aligned with the revised National Guidance was acknowledged: different areas are at different stages and have different levels of resources available to them. A timescale of 1-2 years is thought by CPC members to be realistic. It is suggested that it will be a process of evolution, with local areas making adaptations rather than a full implementation, since much of the existing guidance remains. This will be a two stage process – a period of consideration of what needs to be done, followed by a period of adaptation and implementation.

There were in-depth discussions throughout the meeting regarding the degree of local variance in implementation.

A small implementation steering group would be established to undertake detailed planning as local areas engage with the guidance and a fuller picture of support needs emerges. This group will consider the appropriate balance between national supports where common needs are identified and developments that are taken forward at local or regional level through adaptation or augmentation of existing structures or programmes. The Children and Families Collective Leadership Group is considering data and workforce support implications, and other significant areas of work. Implementation of the National Guidance must be considered within this wider context.

CPC Scotland, COSLA and Social Work Scotland have begun some initial scoping of implementation of this guidance. Alan Small outlined the work undertaken by CPC Scotland in which members rated their priorities for implementation from a selection of suggestions. The highest rated suggestions were: 

  • a simplified version for members of the public, services, families, and that CPCs could use for training
  • resource for carrying out the change to ensure training and processes match the Guidance. Resource could be a grant, or national training

There will be continued discussions about resourcing.

Members discussed the size of the task ahead, and how risk to children could increase if organisations are in a state of flux. Planning for implementation must be carefully thought out and considered in the context of any potential structural changes that might also occur and the ongoing pressures from the pandemic. The Chair noted that through clear messaging and sequencing, it should be about alignment of changes, rather than layering changes on organisations.

Eddie Follan noted that COSLA will support communications to ensure that implementation is as smooth as it can be and will have discussions about key issues and barriers. He would be happy to coordinate further discussions to across CPCs and local government to inform messaging. Action 5 – Eddie Follan/Secretariat

Members discussed the communications plan for launch in the context of other changes and the plan beyond the launch. In social care, there will be narrative around adult social care after the Feeley review and the impact of the pandemic. The communications plan is being discussed and the next Steering Group meeting is dedicated to discussion of implementation, including communications. All organisations that have been involved in production of the guidance will be involved in communication. 

Sign-off of Learning Review Guidance – paper 3

The Learning Review Guidance has been revised on the basis of discussions at the December Leadership Group meeting. The Chair invited Alan Small to provide an update. Alan informed the Group that a consultation on the Guidance with CPCs was conducted and the Case Review Oversight Group took all comments into account when revising and finalising the Guidance. Alan explained that there is a shift to an emphasis of learning to give an opportunity for agencies to learn in a safe environment. Alan noted that there are other processes in place that can scrutinise and hold agencies to account.

Some changes from the previous Significant Case Review Guidance include extending reviews to unborn babies and looked after or formally looked after children, and a single point of contact in COPFS with a 28 day turnaround. A Knowledge Hub will be used to share learning themes from reports without disclosing the area they are in or any details of families. Additional resources will sit as supporting documents alongside the guidance on the Scottish Government website including a leaflet for families and advice on media strategies. There will be a period of review of the guidance and its implementation. 

Members discussed that the new Learning Review process aims to increase consistency in the review process across Scotland, the shift towards learning is positive, and the interface with fiscal and police services is welcome. Members agreed this is an excellent piece of collaborative work, congratulated Alan and the group for their efforts and approved publication of this guidance at the same time as the National Child Protection Guidance.


No other business was raised. The next meeting is scheduled for 26th May (note, this was since changed to 15th June).

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