National Child Protection Leadership Group minutes: December 2022

Minutes of the meeting held on the 7 December 2022.

Attendees and apologies


  • Clare Haughey MSP, Minister for Children and Young People (Chair)
  • Claire Burns, Director, Centre for Excellence for Children's Care and Protection (CELCIS)
  • Laura Caven, Chief Officer, Children and Young People, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)
  • Laura-Ann Currie, Head of Inclusion, Health and Wellbeing and Equalities, Education Scotland
  • Eddie Docherty, Executive Nurse Director, NHS Lanarkshire
  • DCS Samantha Faulds, Head of Public Protection, Police Scotland
  • Alison Gordon, Chief Social Work Officer, North Lanarkshire and Social Work Scotland representative
  • Jackie Irvine, Chief Executive of the Care Inspectorate
  • 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, Head of Child Protection, Scottish Government
  • Mairi MacPherson, Deputy Director, Improving Health and Wellbeing, Scottish Government
  • Fiona McFarlane, Head of Public Affairs at The Promise Scotland
  • Caren McLean, Head of Protection & Permanence, CELCIS
  • Tom McNamara, Deputy Director, Children’s Rights, Protection and Justice, Scottish Government
  • Moira Price, Head of Victims and Witnesses Policy, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS)
  • Angela Scott, Chief Executive, Aberdeen City Council, Strategic Lead for Children and Education, including Child Protection, Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE)
  • 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 (ADES)


  • Tam Baillie, Vice Chair of Child Protection Committees Scotland, attending on behalf of Alan Small, National Chair, Child Protection Committees Scotland.
  • Sarah Corbett, GIRFEC Team Leader, attending on behalf of Jane Moffat, Deputy Director for Strategy, GIRFEC and the Promise Division, Scottish Government.
  • Dr Eddie Doyle, Senior Medical Advisor for Paediatrics, attending on behalf of Professor Sir Gregor Smith, Chief Medical Officer, and Mairi MacPherson, Deputy Director, Improving Health and Wellbeing, Scottish Government


  • Robert Scott, Team Leader, Child Protection Unit, Scottish Government
  • Angela Phillips, Policy Adviser, Child Protection Unit, Scottish Government
  • Jenny Stenton, Senior Policy Adviser, Child Protection Unit, Scottish Government (Secretariat)


  • Iona Colvin, Chief Social Work Adviser, Scottish Government
  • Professor Brigid Daniel, Chair, Children’s Services Research Steering Group
  • Dr Heather Ottaway, Head of Evidence and Innovation, CELCIS
  • Louise Long, Chief Executive Officer, Inverclyde Council
  • Ruth Sills, Child Protection Programme CELCIS
  • Martin MacLean, Detective Superintendent, Police Scotland
  • Teresa Rack, Child Protection Unit, Scottish Government
  • Fiona Marshall, Child Protection Unit, Scottish Government
  • Vallath Krishnan, Child Protection Unit, Scottish Government
  • Jamie Aarons, Professional Social Work Adviser, Scottish Government
  • Victoria Milne, Team Leader from the Adult Support and Protection Unit, Scottish Government


  • Cathie Cowan, Chief Executive, NHS Forth Valley
  • Neil Hunter, Principle Reporter/Chief Executive, Scottish Children's Reporter Administration (SCRA)
  • Jane Moffat, Deputy Director for Strategy, GIRFEC and the Promise Division, Scottish Government
  • Alan Small, National Chair, Child Protection Committees Scotland (CPCScotland)
  • Professor Sir Gregor Smith, Chief Medical Officer, Scottish Government

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

Joanna MacDonald welcomed the group members, delegates, and guests to the meeting noting that the Minister would join and take over as Chair as soon as possible.

Update – arrivals from Ukraine

Iona Colvin reported that eight young people have arrived unaccompanied, with a further five being assessed by Local Authorities. Iona thanked Aberlour and North Lanarkshire for their support of these young people.

It was noted that there is still an issue with 16 and 17 year olds remaining in Scotland while their parents return to Ukraine. The Scottish Government continues to work with Local Authorities and COSLA to support local areas when dealing with these situations.

The UK Government’s Ukraine Humanitarian Taskforce identified a need to better understand current and emerging risks associated with harm to children and young people under the Homes for Ukraine Programme. The Taskforce convened a Child Harm Threat Panel to consider the available evidence from across the UK on child protection concerns. The panel met on 10 November.

In respect of arrivals from Ukraine, last week 231 school places were accessed, with 150 of those at primary level. Over 3,000 children who have arrived from Ukraine have secured places in education in Scotland. Laura-Ann Currie notified the group that all teaching staff have been made aware of the importance of trauma informed approaches and that NES Trauma modules have been added to the National Improvement Hub.

Jamie Aarons highlighted the emergence of mental health support needs in adult arrivals from Ukraine. There is an expectation that this and trauma related needs will move to children. She said that in advance of this we need to ensure psychological wellbeing packs are up-to-date and to include signposting to children’s services as well as to adults’.

Joanna thanked all partners involved in the Ukraine response for their continued work and support.

Minute and actions from the last meeting

Members were content to agree the minutes and actions from the last meeting on 21 September. It was noted that all actions are completed or covered during this meeting.

Joanna provided the group with an update on UNCRC developments. Engagement continues with the Parliament’s Legislation Team and UK Government on the admissibility of the draft amendments. The Parliamentary Clerks are looking carefully at the Standing Orders to consider whether the proposed amendments are in scope. Engagement continues with UK Government lawyers who are actively considering draft amendments. We have no timeline as yet, but everything is being done that can be in the meantime to prepare.

The Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) are preparing a leaflet in relation to the Reconsideration Stage and there is a plan to develop a child-friendly version of this too.

Horizon scanning/emerging risks

Cost crisis

Joanna noted the Scottish Government Emergency Budget Review has taken place in response to the cost of living crisis and the First Minister has written to the Prime Minister reiterating the urgent actions required by UK Government. It was noted that children may be at more risk of harm due to the cost of living crisis.

SallyAnn Kelly highlighted to the group the chronic stress in families dealing with the financial crisis. She asked how can we respond to this and what would our emergency response look like? Should it be in line with incident management? SallyAnn continued to underline the need for a collective understanding when supporting families. She raised concerns about vacancies in the workforce, both in social work as well as third sector organisations. Therefore the response to this needs to be a national one.

Iona advised that there are staffing issues, especially in rural areas and that these remain a challenge. A workplan is underway and almost in the final stages of agreement. This includes any immediate solutions that may be available. Iona also added that there is a shortage of social workers in both adult and child care. What can be done about this locally and nationally is being looked at, with more people being invited in to join the discussion. Action 1: Iona to meet with SallyAnn Kelly to discuss.

Jackie Irvine added that the care providers have raised cost-related issues with the Care Inspectorate noting that these pressures have led to some providers to close.

Laura-Ann Currie highlighted that parents are finding it difficult to support their children and that there remains a shortage of educational psychologists. Laura-Ann also raised the question of how do we get more trained psychologists into the system?

Angela Scott agreed with SallyAnn’s use of the term ‘incident’ and added that Aberdeen City Council have created an Incident Management Team to look at neglect indicators and identifying families that could be at risk, to ensure they do have support from services. This also concerns children who are not on registers or who have moved on and off registers in the past. Angela asked, what more could be done to accelerate this work by the group?

Claire Burns suggested carrying out a scoping exercise across communities to ensure that workforces know what help and support is out there so that they can pass this information onto families.

Alison Gordon commented that while recognising the challenges, there is a need for services to work holistically rather than reactively. Issues remain around local authorities’ cost of living plans and how we ensure we are reaching our most vulnerable children. Alison added that the Child Payment increase has helped but there is still work to be done on identifying families who need extra help. Could this be done via direct payment in collaboration with education colleagues? This could be similar to the work carried out during the pandemic as education staff can help identify children who are not known to social work, as well as those who remain disengaged from school post-pandemic.

Iona Colvin commented that it is worth thinking about the links with primary care, particularly with GP services, as that is where families with no other contacts in the system are likely to be known. Louise Long replied that Integration Joint Boards have recently agreed for health visitors and school nurses to give direct payments to families.

Laura Caven explained that the Collective Leadership Group had a short-term working group which was looking at collating resources in one place. Action 2: Laura Caven to report back on progress with collating these resources and subsequent plans for these.

Tam Baillie raised that in every single local authority there are good things happening and that there has been a response to this challenge, however, there doesn’t seem to be a national overview to enable learning from good practice or initiatives. Tam asked how we facilitate more shared learning from good practice?

Joanna MacDonald agreed and echoed the fact that in many cases what we are not hearing is what is working really well and how we encourage this information to be shared.

SallyAnn added that during the pandemic provisions were made to ensure we supported the most vulnerable. We now need to consider what can be done nationally to support local authorities to financially help families. SallyAnn questioned if there could be a mechanism to add to Section 12 budgets? In addition, SallyAnn raised the consideration of providing a coordinated response to families of children with complex needs, many of whom rely on machinery powered by electricity as a life support to children.

Eddie Doyle informed the group that the Scottish Government Health Resilience Team have been working on energy equipment costs and how more help could be offered to vulnerable families. Eddie also commented that health boards can access funds to help these families. It would be useful to link in with health boards and the Scottish Government Health Resilience Team to ensure we are moving in the right direction and no duplication of work occurs. Action 3: Secretariat to link in with the Scottish Government Health Resilience Team and health boards.

Joanna asked for communication on what is currently happening with agencies and any good practice that could be reported back at the next meeting. Action 4: All members to consider good practice and feed back to future discussions.

Iona Colvin noted that work on this is being coordinated through policy and pathfinder work in the Child Poverty and Social Justice Directorate of the Scottish Government. She suggested inviting Shirley Laing, Director of this unit to a future meeting to explain what they are doing. Laura Caven also suggested linking with Julie Humphreys, Deputy Director in the same division. Action 5: Secretariat to invite Shirley Laing to the next meeting.

Laura-Ann Currie asked whether there could be a national communications strategy to highlight where people can go to find out what help is available. Louise Long noted that there are local communication strategies. [It was subsequently highlighted that a national communications strategy has been launched - Cost of living crisis - Cost of Living Support Scotland (].

[Ms Haughey joined the meeting.]

Ms Haughey suggested that cost of living is raised as a substantive item for the agenda in the March meeting. Action 6: Secretariat to add cost of living to March meeting agenda. In addition, by the next meeting there should also be more information available on the Online Safety Bill and how this will help protect our children online. Action 7: Secretariat to add Online Safety Bill to March agenda. Ms Haughey also advised that the future role and remit of the group should be discussed at the next meeting as the last review of the remit was carried out in December 2021. Meetings have taken place individually with members to gain views on this. Action 8: Secretariat to add remit of group to March agenda.

Ms Haughey noted that SallyAnn Kelly had asked for a horizon scanning item on Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE); however, there is not time for a substantive discussion at this meeting so CSE will be added to the agenda of a future meeting. Action 9: Secretariat to add CSE to a future meeting agenda.

Papers circulated:

The following papers have been circulated for information: 

  • paper 1 - workstream tracker. There were no comments received on this paper
  • paper 2 - unaccompanied asylum seeking children. There were no comments received on this paper
  • paper 3 - harmful sexual behaviour. There were no comments received on this paper
  • paper 5 - national child protection guidance implementation. There were no comments received on this paper
  • paper 6 - child protection data workplan. There were no comments received on this paper
  • paper 7 - Joint Investigative Interviews (JII) and Bairns’ Hoose. The Bairns’ Hoose team were unable to join today as they are in Sweden. Members were advised to send any questions on this paper to Secretariat by email. In relation to JII, Laura Caven provided a link to the Scottish Child Interview Model Quality Assurance and Data Framework 

Paper 4 - Chief Officers’ Leadership Event (COLE) report and evaluation

Ruth Sills updated on the first Chief Officers’ Leadership Event, chaired by Joanna MacDonald that took place on 28 September 2022. Ruth confirmed that 24 Chief Officers attended the event, including representation from Police Scotland, health and local authorities. Very few evaluations were returned, however there were indications that attendees felt the overall quality of the event was good though there was some low scoring on the opportunities for development. Ruth advised caution in interpreting the response data due to the low numbers of evaluations returned.

Members were asked to comment on extending the invitation for the event to include public protection, to offer views on whether a mix of online and face-to-face events is the right approach, and whether they are content with the current Chief Officers’ Group membership and chairing arrangements. There was mixed feedback on online events and the preference indicated a mixture of short, thematic online events as well as in-person events. Ruth advised the group that they are looking to prioritise a high quality face-to-face event rather than smaller online events. It was also proposed that an element of flexibility is considered on who attends the events going forward.

Alison Gordon commented that Chief Social Work Officers would welcome involvement as in addition to their statutory roles, most are Lead Officers supporting Chief Officers’ Group Chairs/Groups at a local level.

Angela Scott commented that she felt the event was helpful and did agree there are limitations to online learning. Angela agreed with the proposition to extend the invitation to public protection colleagues. She also noted that health and Police Scotland were sparsely represented and the event was mainly attended by local authority Chief Executives. It was noted that the Scottish Government have issued a reminder to the NHS to ensure they maximise their attendance.

Joanna MacDonald supported an in-person meeting and agreed that everything around public protection can be life-changing for families.

Tam Baillie highlighted the point that being online has made sessions more accessible and increased participation for those located in rural and island communities. Therefore, whilst it would be good to have more in-person events, hybrid options would also allow wider inclusion. Tam said that this is about public protection and not only child protection.

Ms Haughey commented that there are lessons to be learned from the pandemic that we can transfer over. Comments from members will be shared with the group responsible for planning future events.

National Care Service (NCS) – a presentation on the issues and opportunities for public protection

A joint presentation was conducted by Angela Scott, Louise Long, Professor Brigid Daniel, Dr Heather Ottaway, Joanna MacDonald and Lindsay MacDougall.

Lindsay MacDougall provided a re-cap of the journey since the Child Protection Systems Review and Child Protection Improvement Programme, reflecting on where progress has been made.  

Joanna MacDonald discussed the findings of joint inspections held between 2018 and 2020, which had identified areas of improvement as well as areas where there is still progress to be made.

Professor Brigid Daniel informed the group about the CELCIS commissioned Children’s Services Reform Research and the role of the Independent Research Steering Group in providing independent direction and oversight to this work. Professor Daniel stressed that this is research and not a consultation or a review and that it focusses on children’s services only.

Dr Heather Ottaway gave a review of the research, providing a timeline and information on the five strands:

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

Louise Long talked to the group about the SOLACE group and “Lift and Shift” issues, including balancing rights and protection. Louise said that sometimes rights need to be waivered to protect children. Louise discussed the continuing journey and the need to stick to certain policy initiatives such as GIRFEC. She went on to speak to the group about transition planning to the NCS and the need to look at the balance between accountability and risk. On evidence, they ask where do we find it and how do we use it?

Louise asked the group, do we lift and shift by sticking with the current system and moving to NCS or do we lift and twist by continuing on the journey of improvement? They also asked for views on how best to manage transition as well as how we continue the improvement journey in the context of significant change?


Ms Haughey advised that time for discussion was limited and noted there had been a variety of questions posed in the meeting chat which would require to be responded to at a later date.

Iona Colvin was identified as lead for the NCS Public Protection workstream and noted that she was happy to continue this conversation with members at a follow up meeting in the new year.  Action 10: Secretariat to arrange a follow-up meeting.

SallyAnn Kelly asked if the research will touch on the practice models deployed in the comparative analyses. She noted her particular interest in the impact of the culture of change and improvement and the strength of the relational nature of that, and how that impacts on the how the delivery feels for those who have to access support. SallyAnn also voiced concern about how strand 3 can reach any credible conclusions without the voice of children and families being at the heart of conversations. She asked how do we make sure that we hear what families and children say about their experiences of the systems we create?

Claire Burns responded that she was taking a note of all questions and would respond to them individually. Action 11: Claire Burns to note questions and bring unanswered ones to follow-up meeting.

Tam Baillie asked if the research will address issues relating to costs and resources?

Dr Heather Ottaway replied that it will be as far as is possible, but full economic modelling is outside the remit of the study.

Justine Craig queried the place of universal services, in particular health/midwifery/ health visiting/Family Nurse Partnership/school nursing, in the research. The research is for children’s services only however pre-birth is vital and maternity (midwifery) is the universal service here which is an adult service delivered for women, children and families.

Dr Heather Ottaway replied that these areas of health will be included in the workforce survey.

Laura-Ann Currie asked where education psychology services sit within this. They work across health, education, allied health services, social services and the third sector.

Dr Heather Ottaway replied that it is planned to include educational psychology services in the workforce survey of the research study.

Alison Gordon commented that we need space to follow up on some of the issues raised today and how we keep a healthy and strong child protection system in light of any change.

Any other business

The next scheduled meeting will take place on 8 March 2023, in-person with hybrid option. [As noted above an additional meeting will be arranged to continue the NCS discussion].

Ms Haughey advised that Professor Alexis Jay, Chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in England and Wales, will attend the next meeting to discuss the Inquiry’s findings.

Ms Haughey thanked everyone for attending and closed the meeting.

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