National Child Protection Leadership Group minutes: December 2021

Minutes from the 15 December 2021 meeting of the National Child Protection Leadership Group.

Attendees and apologies


  • Clare Haughey MSP, Minister for Children and Young People (Chair)
  • Claire Burns, Co-Director, CELCIS & Institute for Inspiring Children’s Futures
  • Alison Gordon, Chief Social Work Officer, North Lanarkshire & 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
  • Joanna Macdonald, Deputy Chief Social Work Adviser, Scottish Government 
  • Lindsay MacDougall, Acting Head of Child Protection, Scottish Government 
  • Peter MacLeod, Chief Executive, Care Inspectorate
  • Margaret McGuire, Executive Nurse Director for NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde
  • Prof Alex McMahon, Chief Nursing Officer, Scottish Government
  • Moira Price, Head of Victims and Witnesses Policy, COPFS
  • Angela Scott, Chief Executive Aberdeen City Council. Strategic Lead for Children and Education, including Child Protection, SOLACE
  • Lesley Sheppard, Deputy Director: Children's Rights, Protection and Justice, Scottish Government
  • Ruth Sills, Child Protection Programme Lead, CELCIS
  • Kay Tisdall, Professor of Childhood, Edinburgh University 
  • Michael Wood, Professor of Education, University of Dundee and General Secretary, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland


  • Kate Morris, Professor of Social Work, University of Sheffield
  • Brid Featherstone, Professor of Social Work, University of Huddersfield
  • Dr Alex McTier, Evidence and Evaluation Specialist, CELCIS
  • Stephen Bermingham, Head of Practice and Policy, Children’s Hearings Scotland
  • Robert Scott, Team Leader, Child Protection Unit, Scottish Government
  • Angela Latta, Professional Social Work Adviser, Child Protection Unit, Scottish Government
  • Craig Kellock, Children and Families Analysis, Scottish Government
  • Fiona Marshall, Senior Policy Advisor, Child Protection Unit, Scottish Government (Secretariat)


  • Gayle Gorman, Chief Executive, Education Scotland
  • Mairi Macpherson, Deputy Director, Improving Health and Wellbeing, Scottish Government
  • DCS Samantha Faulds, Head of Public Protection, Police Scotland
  • Laura Caven, Chief Officer, Children and Young People, COSLA
  • Alan Small, Chair, Child Protection Committees Scotland
  • Dr Gregor Smith, Chief Medical Officer, Scottish Government
  • Cathie Cowan, Chief Executive, NHS Forth Valley
  • SallyAnn Kelly, Chief Executive, Aberlour
  • Jackie Brock, Chief Operating Officer, The Promise Scotland
  • Jane Moffat, Deputy Director, Strategy, GIRFEC and the Promise Division, Scottish Government


  • Eddie Doyle, Scottish Government Senior Medical Advisor for Paediatrics (attending on behalf of Dr Gregor Smith)
  • DSU Martin Maclean, Head of National Child Abuse Investigation Unit & Lead for Child & Adult Protection, Police Scotland (attending on behalf of DCS Samantha Faulds)
  • Lorna Aitken, Senior Education Officer, Education Scotland (attending on behalf of Gayle Gorman)
  • Tam Baillie, Vice-Chair, CPC Scotland (attending on behalf of Alan Small)
  • Brian Houston, Head of Support, The Promise Scotland (attending on behalf of Jackie Brock)
  • Nicola Dickie, Director of People Policy, COSLA (attending on behalf of Laura Caven)
  • Sarah Gledhill, Head of Strategy and GIRFEC, Scottish Government (attending on behalf of Jane Moffat)

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Chair welcomed attendees to the meeting, including new member, Professor Alex McMahon, and guests, and noted apologies. 

The Chair noted the current fast moving situation with regards to Omicron and invited the Group to reflect on possible impacts on child protection responses and share any views that they would like fed into the Covid-19 Children and Families Collective Leadership Group meeting on 16 December.


Members raised the following points which will be fed into the Collective Leadership Group meeting. Action 1 – Peter Macleod:

  • staff shortages and the need for local systems to identify the children most at risk and prioritise them
  • that keeping schools open must be a priority
  • the importance of affirming the health visitor role and reinforce role of emergency services and others in health
  • request that the exemption for critical workers is applied to the child protection workforce so that local authorities do not have to apply for each individual staff member

Kay Tisdall shared the Independent Children’s Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment (CRWIA) (July 2020), an analysis of impact that the Covid-19 emergency legislation and policies had on children and young people in Scotland. Section 4: Looking ahead to Phases 1 to 4 — coming out of lockdown, and section 5: Learning so far — respecting, fulfilling and protecting children and young people’s human rights in times of crisis may be particularly useful. There are appendixes on particular topics, including on child protection and on domestic abuse.

 Lesley Sheppard will feed this into the Scottish Government CRWIA which is underway. Action 2 – Lesley Sheppard.

On 18 November 2021, the Chief Nursing Officer, Professor Alex McMahon and Director for Children and Families, Michael Chalmers wrote to NHS Boards and partners highlighting the importance of universal and targeted health services for children and families. This can be circulated to the Group. Action 3 – Alex McMahon and Secretariat.

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes

The Chair noted the tragic death of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and welcomed the intention for a full national review in England. Scottish Government and national partners will consider the review’s findings for Scotland. Scottish Government’s advisers and national partners are also considering the information that was made available during the trial.

Launch of the whole families approach framework

The Chair informed the group that on 8 December Scottish Government launched the ‘Families Affected by Drug and Alcohol Use in Scotland: A Framework for Holistic Whole Family Approaches and Family Inclusive Practice’. This framework will ensure that family members receive support in their own right, and collectively as a family, to recover from the harms caused by alcohol and drug use. The Chair thanked the Working Group chaired by Neil Hunter, for leading the work on this, and to everyone else who has been involved.

Minute and actions from 22 September 2021 meeting

The Chair noted that action three in the minute will be changed to be assigned to the Child Protection Data Subgroup and Alison Gordon to take forward and not Ruth Sills. Action 4 – Secretariat

The Group agreed that the minute of the meeting on 22 September was accurate.

The Chair informed members that the Public Protection Induction Resource for Chief Officers was launched on 23 November. The resource has been positively received. The Chair thanked Ruth Sills, Chair of the Chief Officers’ induction subgroup and the subgroup for completing this work.

The subgroup are now focussing on planning a Chief Officers’ leadership event in summer 2022 and are currently seeking input from Chief Officers. Ruth Sills will provide an update at the 23 March 2022 meeting.

Priority actions, linked programmes and completed actions - Papers 1, 1a and 1b

The Chair informed members that there will be a discussion about the role and remit of the Group later in the meeting.

Paper 2, JII and Barnahus

This paper provided an update to members regarding progress since the 22 September meeting.

Joint Investigative Interviews (JII): All pilot sites (Lanarkshire, North Strathclyde, Dumfries and Galloway and Glasgow), and the first non-pilot area (Fife) are now live in practice. 49 staff have now been trained in the Scottish Child Interview Model for joint investigative interviewing. An Awards Ceremony for the first four cohorts of learners took place at the Scottish Police College, on 30th September 2021.

Lothian and Borders, Ayrshire and North East Scotland are undertaking planning and preparation for the implementation of the model. The remaining areas are in communication national JII team and are considering their readiness for implementation.

Barnahus/Bairns’ Hoose: The Scottish Government has established a dedicated Bairns’ Hoose Unit which combined staff from the Children and Families, Justice and Health Directorates. There is a range of work underway to deliver the Bairns’ Hoose vision including the establishment of a National Bairn’s Hoose Governance Group with an independent chair by spring 2022. The Leadership Group agreed at its meeting on 14 December 2020 to provide oversight and overall governance of Bairns’ Hoose policy.

Draft Bairns’ Hoose standards will be consulted on by summer 2022 and final standards will be published by the end of 2022. Scottish Government have committed to publish further information in early 2022 about the plans to deliver Bairns’ Hoose.

Tam Baillie asked for reassurance that island settings are being considered in JII and Barnahus/Bairns’ Hoose development. Lindsay MacDougall informed Tam that island communities are being looked at. Bairns’ Hoose is a Programme for Government commitment and must work across Scotland for all children. Lindsay will feedback to Bairns’ Hoose colleagues and a discussion with him would be welcome. Action 5 – Lindsay MacDougall/Secretariat

DSU Martin Maclean co-chairs the Joint Investigative Interviewing (JII) Implementation Governance Subgroup with Laura Caven, COSLA. Martin also informed the group that a specific remote and island subgroup has been in place for a while. There has been engagement with island communities and further engagements are planned in the new year with each of the islands areas. A version of the model that suits them will be developed.

Members noted the paper and did not have comments or questions on the update.

Paper 3, unaccompanied asylum seeking children

This paper provided an outline to members of the significant developments with regards to Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children and the steps that the Scottish Government are taking.

The Chair highlighted concerns that Ministers have relating to the National Transfer Scheme (NTS) and the announcement that the UK Government made in November that it will mandate the NTS for all UK local authorities for an unspecified time. The Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government wrote to the Home Secretary outlining their concerns. The Scottish Government’s concerns relate to the welfare of these children, the financial burden on Scotland’s local authorities, and the lack of detail on how the new scheme will operate.

Members noted the paper and did not have comments or questions on the update.

Paper 4 – child sexual abuse and exploitation

This paper provided members with an update on the public engagement campaign that the Scottish Government will launch on Safer Internet Day on 8 February 2022. The campaign is aimed at supporting parents and carers of children aged 8-11 years to keep their children safe online.

The paper also provided an update on the draft Online Safety Bill. The Scottish Government has been working with the UK Government on the implications of the draft Online Safety Bill for Scotland. The conclusions of the Joint Committee undertaking pre-legislative scrutiny were published 13 December, calling for more explicit standards, and even greater powers to investigate and fine big tech firms.

Scottish Ministers will continue to work with policing and industry experts to understand the full implications for child protection in Scotland and continue to press the UK Government to ensure the legislation is as robust as possible. The final legislation will be published next spring and Scottish Government will assess if legislative consent is required from the Scottish Parliament or if existing legislation in Scotland needs to be updated.

Members noted the paper and did not have comments or questions on the update.

Paper 5, harmful sexual behaviour

At the Leadership Group on 14 December 2020, members agreed to the establishment of a subgroup of the Leadership Group to advise and oversee deliver of the programme of proposals from the Expert Group on Preventing Sexual Offending involving Children and Young People Report, and development of Harmful Sexual Behaviour policy in general. The subgroup have met four times in 2021 and have set up three workstreams to consider: support for education, in particular professional learning, assessment and intervention and a pilot of the NSPCC HSB audit tool.

Members noted the paper and did not have comments or questions on the update.

Paper 6, implementation of the national child protection guidance

Joanna MacDonald, Chair of the National Child Protection Guidance Implementation Group provided a verbal update on implementation.

There has been progress in several areas since the group last received an update on 22 September:

  • members of the Implementation Group circulated a communication to their organisations and networks in early November. The aim of this was to clearly communicate the 18-24 month implementation timescale and reassurance from the Care Inspectorate and to share information on supports that are in place/planned
  • an oversight document, aimed at highlighting the layout and aims of the National Guidance, and a key processes overview document which highlights the child protection processes in Part 3 of the National Guidance have been developed and shared
  • the Implementation Group met for the second time on 18 November. Members discussed existing and planned support and resource offers, areas of focus and ways of working, the development of a resource for children, young people and families
  • the Implementation Group are connecting with existing groups and establishing new subgroups to take forward identified areas of focus

Peter Macleod provided reassurance that the Care Inspectorate will support implementation through the link inspector role. Peter commented that he was pleased to see the development of the workstreams for health professionals interacting with multi-agency child protection processes, and the practical implementation coming through in some of the training resource that’s being offered.

The importance of connectivity was noted, for example with regards to the proposals for the National Care Service. This should be on the agenda for this group. It was noted that this will be discussed as part of Paper 8.

Joanna will provide a further update at the 23 March meeting. Action 6 – Joanna MacDonald

Paper 7, child protection data work plan

Dr Alex McTier provided the group with an update on the work that has been undertaken in the past 12 months and the plans for 2022. Two key areas of work in 2022 are the update to the Annual Child Protection Statistical Return specification, and the development of version 2 of the Minimum Dataset for Child Protection Committees. These both align with the National Guidance and support implementation.

There are several areas of the work plan that are more challenging and stretch beyond child protection across all children’s services. Therefore direction and comment was sought from the group on: Children with disabilities, child participation and engagement measures, how to connect with new/emergent data asks.

Members welcomed the paper and the amount of activity that’s been undertaken, noting that data should continue to be a priority for the group.

Members supported the focus on children with disabilities and commented that the data should sit within the wider, family support context whilst retaining the child protection element. Kay suggested that Professor Sheila Riddell at the University of Edinburgh could advise regarding data. Action 7 – Alex McTier, Craig Kellock. Lorna Aitken suggested that this data could be linked to the proposed GIRFEC assessment of wellbeing statutory guidance or the current legislation linked to Additional Support Needs. Action 8 – Sarah Gledhill, Alex McTier, Craig Kellock.

Members noted that participation must remain an area of focus for the Leadership Group. There was acknowledgement that participation is difficult to quantify, and that the focus is broader than child protection as children and families move in and out of the child protection system. Alison Gordon noted that North Lanarkshire are looking at participation holistically and trying to embed it in their systems so it’s not episodic. They are looking at the broader information to get specific child protection data, rather than focussing purely on child protection.

Angela questioned levels of awareness at local levels and suggested that a Leadership Group newsletter should be considered. Action 9 – Secretariat.

Paper 8, review of role and remit

Lindsay MacDougall introduced the paper and discussion. There have been a number of developments since the group was established in 2017, including the Covid-19 Children and Families Collective Leadership group. It is a suitable time for members to discuss whether the group is still useful and the priority areas for action remain relevant.

Members comments:

  • the Children and Families Collective Leadership Group has a wider role. The National Child Protection Leadership Group can offer more focussed discussion and has a local area and strategic focus
  • the group is unique in that it covers policy, delivery and inspection
  • membership of the group has been increased and health representation strengthened
  • although a large group, it is easy to participate, engage and give feedback
  • the wide membership is important and reflects multi-agency and multi-disciplinary working
  • the Ministerial chairing is helpful for providing a push to achieve objectives and priorities
  • from health and Chief Officer angle, the group is very helpful enabling feed back to health colleagues nationally

Members suggestions:

  • strengthen reporting of workstreams into the group
  • priorities should include some continuation around the Child Protection Improvement Programme, also Programme for Government, Bairns’ Hoose, National Care Service, inspection and learning review findings, data
  • stronger connection/ 2-way feedback with the Collective Leadership Group via members that sit on both groups and consideration of a brief highlight report
  • consideration of a communication from the group to Chief Executives and leaders to increase engagement and understanding of the group’s role
  • add UNCRC implementation as a priority area
  • update participation in the priority actions paper
  • thinking about links with adult services strategic groups, particularly regarding transitions for young people and support for families, and the wider public protection agenda
  • strengthen the agenda around horizon scanning and future risks, for example issues of online risk

Members were invited to send further comments to the group secretariat. Action 10 – all members

Comments and suggestions will be reflected upon and changes will be brought back to the group at the March meeting. Action 11 – Lindsay MacDougall/Secretariat

Protecting children: a social model – presentation and discussion

The Chair welcomed Professors Brid Featherstone and Kate Morris to present to the group and facilitate a discussion on the social model of protecting children. The social model approach challenges the current child protection model which they believe is too focussed on families/mothers and seeks to explain behaviours by psychology and inter-familial relationships. The approach that Brid and Kate have developed has a more social focus based on strong co-production and building systems from the bottom up.

Brid and Kate have been working with colleagues on the Change Project which focusses on domestic abuse which they describe as a social problem that goes across society but has been individualised in child protection with those that are most affected, women, expected to protect their children.

The Change Project has been helping agencies to take stock and look at how they are responding to domestic abuse.


  • majority of referrals came from police, incident driven. They don’t include context on social and economic circumstances, history of man/woman, family and community context
  • professionals then have to gather information to place incident in broader context
  • there is a need for a more nuanced understanding of domestic abuse and violence to understand lived experience of all involved
  • judgements and values in the commentary in the files such as about how family members were/weren’t fulfilling their “responsibilities.”
  • limited evidence of capturing women’s and child’s experiences. Not engaging with intersections. Absence of men who are either signposted to different services or just disappear from plans

Resulting in:

  • need for a nuanced, empirically driven understanding of experiences and practices. Using mixed methods attempt to understand experiences and responses and working closely with families and practitioners to collect and understand data
  • need to develop frameworks for change that work for families and communities


  • careful supervision and support for staff required to reflect on how current practices impact families
  • translation into mainstream change and response is very challenging
  • practitioners very anxious in this space – revert to safe conversations e.g. individual risk management
  • bring voices around the table that don’t necessarily normally talk to each other
  • very different views and positions in this space. Tensions will need to be addressed
  • need for an intersectional approach to this area. Domestic abuse goes across society but not all are equally vulnerable. Development of policy – needs to be rooted in all elements of society
  • the need to provide high challenge and high support to those that are harming

Alison Gordon noted that North Lanarkshire is undertaking further roll out of the Safe and Together model. Brid reflected that the model drills down into the realities of everyday life and is very important and useful. However, she stressed the need to develop more response approaches and get away from idea that one size fits all.

Professor Kay Tisdall asked how the social model will assist human and children’s rights. Brid noted that broader thinking about inequalities is critical, and a high performing child protection system cannot be bolted onto a society that fails to help families to flourish. This approach raises the question as to why domestic abuse is considered within child protection responses. Children are harmed by domestic abuse but the response should be about what’s going on in adult relationships. Siloing in England of children and adults services makes it very challenging. Women being held to account for something they’re not necessarily responsible for.

Brid noted that there is compatibility between the social model and UNCRC. In the approach they are trying to avoid parent/child binary positions.

Claire Burns noted that practice needs to change at all levels. Broadening the conversations needs to happen in Scotland to meet aspirations of The Promise but can be difficult. There is a need for leadership to support those conversations. Kate noted that Barnsley has done big piece of work on broadening conversations. They worked at a number of levels – front line, middle management, elected members, then brought together a raft of services for a conversation. It has been a multi-layered, systemic piece of work with a lot of good will which will, among other things help to reduce acute, heavy cost demands on the system.

Kate will talk with Scottish site to share learning over next 2 years and keep the group informed. Action 12 – Professor Kate Morris/Secretariat

Ruth Sills asked if they had any reflections on primary prevention. They are working with Safe Lives and are not going to work with children due to tricky ethics.

The Chair thanked Brid and Kate, and noted that some of their research and learning is relevant to cross-government work on tackling poverty that the Chair is involved in.


Members had no other business to raise. The Chair asked members to send topics for discussion to the secretariat. Action 13 – all members.

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