Progressing the human rights of children in Scotland: 2018 report

The report sets out the progress made in relation to children's rights since June 2015.

5 Family Environment and Alternative Care

Relevant UNCRC Articles: 5, 9-11, 18(1-2), 20-21, 25, and 27(4)

This cluster focuses on the family environment, the right of children to be well cared for if they live apart from their parents, and the right to be protected from all forms of violence and abuse.

5.1 National Parenting Strategy

Scottish Ministers believe that parents – mums, dads and anyone who is involved in raising children of any age – are the strongest influence on a child’s life. The National Parenting Strategy (2012), which was developed in consultation with parents and carers, aims to highlight their vital role, not only in improving the health and wellbeing and life chances of Scotland’s children and young people, but also as key to a better Scotland. The Scottish Government has made significant progress around commitments included in the Strategy, which aim to make a practical difference for families, for example, extending the provision of early learning and childcare, improving access to coordinated family support and relationship support, developing the PlayTalkRead campaign, and offering the Family Nurse Partnership on a wider basis. The Scottish Government is continuing to work with delivery partners to further develop and implement measures to support positive parenting.

In the Parenting Strategy, the Scottish Government also committed to commission new work to develop comprehensive, practical advice on different approaches to assist parents in managing their children’s behaviour. This commitment will support the implementation of the Children (Equal Protection from Assault)(Scotland) Bill, if approved by Parliament. The Scottish Government aims to provide parents with information about a range of alternative options available to them, to help them manage the behaviour of their children and impact positively on their parenting skills.

In addition, the Scottish Government provides funding to 22 organisations that support parents, carers, children and families through the Children, Young People and Families Early Intervention Fund, including Relationships Scotland, NSPCC, Home-Start UK, Parent Network Scotland, Parenting Across Scotland, and Cyrenians.

Support for Fathers

The Scottish Government funded and supported the Fathers Network Scotland to deliver the Year of the Dad in 2016. The aim of the Year was to bring about culture change, encouraging and influencing services and employers to do more to enable dads to play a full role in family life and their child’s development – and to encourage some dads to be more actively involved. The definition of ‘dad’ used for the Year was deliberately broad, encompassing stepdads, adoptive dads, gay dads and father figures (such as grandads). A wide range of organisations supported and took part in the Year, with 56 organisations delivering 95 events and reaching 14,800 people.

The Scottish Government also chaired and organised the National Fathers Advisory Board, which provides a mechanism for a range of organisations from the third and public sector, each with an interest in supporting dads and their families, to collaborate, share intelligence and pool resources. Funding has also been provided to key organisations to deliver a range of work to support dads, children and families, including Fathers Network Scotland, Midlothian SureStart, Families Need Fathers and One Parent Families Scotland (including for their dads service).

Shared Parental Leave and Flexible Working

Although the legal powers governing shared parental leave and flexible working are currently reserved to the UK Government, the Scottish Government is committed to working with employers, directly and through their representative bodies, to promote and support flexible working. Underpinning this commitment is a recognition that flexible working arrangements are critical to enabling families to spend time together and forge positive relationships. The Scottish Government funds, and is an active member of, Family Friendly Working Scotland, working in partnership with Working Families, Parenting Across Scotland and Fathers Network Scotland to support and promote the development of family-friendly workplaces across Scotland. Scottish Government funding for Family Friendly Working Scotland totals around £0.5m since 2014.

5.2 Review of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 and Family Justice Modernisation Strategy

In May 2018, the Scottish Government launched a consultation on a review of Part 1 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (1995 Act) and the creation of a Family Justice Modernisation Strategy.[60] The 1995 Act is centred on the needs of children. It defines parental responsibilities and rights and gives the court power to make decisions about things such as who a child should live with or spend time with.

The consultation sought views on reforming Part 1 of the 1995 Act and on other matters related to family law, such as aspects of the Children’s Hearings System and measures to protect victims and children from the harm caused by domestic abuse. A key focus of the consultation is on improving how the court obtains the views of the child in family cases. Alongside the formal consultation document, the Scottish Government also issued an online survey questionnaire for children and young people and has undertaken a series of engagement events involving them. The outcome of the consultation will inform the development and content of a Family Law Bill to be introduced to Parliament and a Family Justice Modernisation Strategy, which will outline existing work to improve how family cases are dealt with and further work planned.

In addition to the consultation, in June 2018, the Scottish Government announced grant funding for two research projects into the family justice system.[61] In one of the projects, guided by an expert group of young people, researchers are identifying the challenges and exploring the implications for children’s rights where the child’s voice is not heard in family actions. Researchers are also considering how the approaches of other countries could be translated into a Scottish context. The second project is focused on legal professionals’ understanding of domestic abuse and its implications in child contact cases, exploring the interaction between the criminal and civil justice systems. Interim findings from both research projects will be included in consideration of next steps following the consultation on the 1995 Act and the development of the Family Justice Modernisation Strategy.

Recognising the importance of developing and maintaining positive relationships within families, the Scottish Government also provides funding, through the Children, Young People and Families Early Intervention Fund, for organisations that provide counselling, mediation, child contact centres, and a range of high quality resources.

5.3 Removal of Children from their Families

Part 12 of the CYP Act encourages relevant agencies to provide families with support before statutory intervention becomes necessary. Officials are currently identifying a number of early intervention systems that encourage families to come together, supported by service providers, and plan their own solutions to the issues affecting them.

The Scottish Government expects that all professionals dealing with children and their families act in accordance with the National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland (2014). The Guidance outlines that, unless the level of risk posed to the child requires emergency measures to immediately protect that child, procedures to remove a child from its family will only start after extensive efforts to keep the child with the family. In Scotland there are two different ways a local authority can ask to remove a child from its family. If the child is in immediate danger the local authority can ask a Sheriff Court to grant a child protection order (CPO). Otherwise the local authority can refer the case to a Children’s Reporter, who will decide if it is necessary to refer a child to a children’s hearing for compulsory measures of supervision, which may include supervision at home, or away from home. The hearing is explicitly charged with determining the course of action that it believes gives paramount consideration to the welfare of the child.

“We all need to be loved! Love helps us grow in confidence and feel valued. We all need someone to guide us, care for us and love us for who we are.”

Member of the Children’s Parliament, Rights Event, 2018

5.4 Looked After Children

Under the 1995 Act, ‘looked after children’ are broadly defined as those in the care of their local authority – sometimes referred to as a ‘corporate parent’. There are many reasons children may become looked after, including: because they face abuse or neglect at home; are unaccompanied minors seeking asylum, or who have been illegally trafficked into the UK; or the child’s behaviour requires it. As of December 2017, there were 15,317 looked after children in Scotland. There were 2,723 children on the child protection register.

The Getting it Right for Looked After Children and Young People Strategy (2015), has three aims:

  • Early engagement – intervening at a young age and intervening at any age but as early as possible to support and build on assets within families and communities to prevent children becoming looked after;
  • early permanence – for as many as possible of those who do become looked after so as to reduce drift and delay in terms of decision making to get children to permanent placements while taking into account the rights, needs and views of the child; and
  • improving the quality of care – for all looked after children and young people.

Throughout the reporting period, the Scottish Government has taken forward a range of actions to help progress these key aims. For example: the public consultation on a review of the 1995 Act, as discussed at section 5.2 above, also covered fundamental issues affecting children, such as the right of any age of child to be supported to be heard and have decisions made in their best interests and explained to them, the child’s right to family life and how to better support sibling relationships. Responses to the consultation will also assist the Scottish Government to formulate contact guidance for stakeholders.

The Realigning Children’s Services (RCS) programme is an assets based approach, working with families and communities, which helps Community Planning Partnerships (CPP) to make better joint strategic decisions about how to improve outcomes for children and families. Its focus is on identifying ways to shift investment ‘upstream’ to allow prevention and early intervention and reduce the need for high intensity, high cost services. A new, third tranche of the RCS programme commenced from September 2018.

The Scottish Government is also working with stakeholders to introduce a degree qualification for residential care workers to ensure that they are equipped to meet the needs of the children they care for. A mandatory learning and development framework has also been established for foster carers, which will ultimately ensure that foster carers are equipped with the skills required to offer full support to children in their care.

Promoting Permanence

The Permanence and Care Excellence (PACE) programme was established in 2014 with the aim of enabling more looked after children to experience permanence as early as possible. This means providing stable, secure and nurturing relationships for children, normally within a family setting, that continue to adulthood. There are a range of different routes to permanence depending on the needs and circumstances of the child, and PACE uses an assets-based approach to assess the appropriate route for each child. The programme supports local authorities and their partners in health, Children’s Hearings, the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration and the courts, to work together to identify delays, blockages and difficulties to securing permanence for looked after children and to develop and test improvements at a local level.

The PACE programme is delivered in partnership with the Permanence and Care Team (PaCT) at the Centre of Excellence for Looked After Children (CELCIS). 2017 data reports that 1,971 children and young people achieved ‘legally secured’ permanence. The PfG 2017-18 committed to roll‑out PACE to all local authorities. The programme is currently operational in 21 areas, allowing for more opportunities for cross fertilisation of improvement ideas nationally. The intention is to offer support to all local authority areas by the end of 2018.

The Scottish Government set up Scotland’s Adoption Register to increase the number of children who are adopted, particularly those who are more difficult to place. Through the CYP Act, the Scottish Government has placed Scotland’s Adoption Register on a statutory footing. Since its establishment in 2011, the Adoption Register has facilitated 413 matches with adoptive families. The Adoption Register has successfully moved onto an online system run in collaboration with Link Maker. The online system went live on 11 November 2016. In 2017, there were 341 adoptions – the highest number of adoptions on record.

The Scottish Government has also taken steps to further support kinship carers. A new National Kinship Advice Service was commissioned in September 2017. Responding to feedback from carers and children and young people, the new service incorporates development work to improve the support for children and young people in kinship care to establish peer group support and the development of appropriate advice and information packs. The Scottish Government also convened a working group to comprehensively evaluate a national care allowance scheme for kinship, adoption and foster care. The group’s final report, which makes 12 recommendations to Scottish Ministers and COSLA leaders, was published in September 2018.[62]

Outcomes for Looked After Children

The CYP Act increased the support for care leavers, enabling them to receive support, advice and assistance in all areas of their wellbeing up to their 26th birthday. Non-statutory guidance on Aftercare and Continuing Care was co-produced with the care sector and published in November 2016.[63] The Guidance advises that young people should be involved in planning for when they cease to be looked after as soon as possible and the presumption should be that they will ‘stay put’ for as long as possible or until a time when they feel ready to move on.

Statistics are published each year for education outcomes for looked after children; their school attendance, exclusions and post-school destinations. Looked after school leavers continue to have lower attainment than other school leavers, but data for 2016-17 shows that the gap has narrowed. Looked after children are less likely to be in positive destinations nine months after leaving school than children who are not looked after. However, a higher proportion of looked after children were in positive destinations in 2016-17 than in any previous year since 2009-10.[64] The Scottish Government continues to focus on improving outcomes for those with care experience, through Developing the Young Workforce, its youth employment strategy, and the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission on Widening Access.

“The Scottish Government should commit to making the experience of being in care a story of love, stability and care.”

Ryan, MSYP, Rights Review Event, 2018

5.5 Independent Review of the Care System

Scottish Ministers established an independent root and branch review of the care system for children and young people in Scotland, to help identify how to change the future of the care system for the better and to improve both the quality of life and outcomes of young people in care. The Review, which commenced in mid-2017, and which is due to conclude around spring 2020, has put children and young people with care experience at the heart of shaping its scope and vision. It has integrated the 1,000 Voices project, delivered through the organisation Who Cares? Scotland, to ensure relevant participation on what the Care Review should include, what the best care system in the world would look like as well as to guide the deep dive work the Review is undertaking through its Journey stage. It will also ensure a young people’s collaborative – known as the Go To Group – has the opportunity to scrutinise its work until the Review’s conclusion. The Review intends to co-design improvements in the care system with children and young people. Fiona Duncan, Chief Executive of the Corra Foundation is the Review Chair and the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland at the University of Strathclyde, provide Secretariat support to the Review.

As part of the Review’s engagement and participation work, it is ensuring that a diverse range of babies, infants, children and young people with experience of care have the opportunity to feed into its work including, for example, children and young people who are care experienced and who: have disabilities; are/have been homeless; are from black and ethnic minority groups; and identify as LGBT.

5.6 Missing Persons

Going missing is a clear sign that something is wrong in a person’s life. In 2017-18, almost 23,000 investigations into missing people were carried out by Police Scotland, with 64% of those involving a child or young person. The National Missing Persons Framework for Scotland (May 2017), seeks to prevent people from going missing and to limit the harm associated with people going missing. The Framework, the first of its kind in Scotland, sets out the roles and responsibilities of respective agencies, as well as key national objectives and supporting commitments on which to focus efforts. Relevant parts of the Framework, were developed in consultation with children and young people who were previously missing.

The Scottish Government has provided £60,000 to Missing People, Barnardo’s and Shelter Scotland to develop and deliver training to improve and standardise practice for return discussions across Scotland. The input of children and young people who were previously missing also informed the development of this training.

5.7 Young Carers

There are an estimated 788,000 unpaid carers in Scotland, including 44,000 under 18 years of age. The Scottish Government recognises the valuable contribution that all carers make in our communities and the need to ensure that they are supported at an early stage to enable them to better cope with the stresses and demands of their role and to ensure their wellbeing.

The Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 (2016 Act), which came into force on 1 April 2018, seeks to make a meaningful difference to the lives of unpaid carers, including young carers, and those that they care for. For young carers, provisions in the 2016 Act include the right to a young carer statement (YCS) to identify each young carer’s personal outcomes so that their eligible needs are supported. Personal outcomes may include their wish to, for example, work or undertake studies or training. Local authorities must also consider whether the support provided to a carer should take the form of, or include, a break from caring. When a young carer turns 18 years of age, their young carer statement will continue until they are provided with an adult carer support plan.

Other provisions in the 2016 Act include duties on local authorities and health boards to jointly prepare a Local Carer Strategy; duties on local authorities to establish and maintain an Information and Advice service for relevant carers, as well as to involve carers in decisions about carer services; and a duty on health boards to ensure carers are involved in the hospital discharge of cared-for persons. The Scottish Government has also prepared and published a Carers’ Charter, setting out the rights of carers as provided for under the 2016 Act, and continues to work with a range of partners, including the Scottish Young Carers Services Alliance, to ensure successful implementation of the 2016 Act. A post commencement implementation plan for 2018‑2020 has been agreed with the Implementation Steering Group, with shared actions to maximise the benefits of the 2016 Act.

The Scottish Government is also continuing to work with the national carer organisations and other stakeholders to ensure that young carers’ voices are heard. A number of other initiatives have been taken forward to further support the needs of young carers. For example, over £2m has been provided since 2008 for an annual young carers festival. The 11th festival took a new structure of two one-day events, located in the Highlands and Fife during July and August 2018. They provided an opportunity for around 400 young people to enjoy valuable time away from their caring responsibilities, participating in different leisure activities, spending time with their peers, discussing matters important to them as young carers and sharing their ideas. This year’s the Carers Parliament has a focus on young carers, with many contributing to events throughout the day, in recognition of the Year of Young People.

Between 2010 and 2019, over £26m has also been provided for the voluntary-sector Short Breaks Fund, administered by Shared Care Scotland and the Family Fund. The Fund comprises of programmes which enable carers, including young carers, and people with support needs to arrange the break of their choosing, and for third sector organisations to develop additional, responsive and creative short break opportunities for disabled children, young people and their families.

Measures have also been taken forward to assist young carers in schools and colleges. For example, the Scottish Government is working with the General Teaching Council (GTC) and Education Scotland to raise the profile of young carers in schools so that a consistent approach to support is achieved. Furthermore, Carers Trust and the Scottish Young Carers Services Alliance have received funding to raise awareness of young carers in schools, work with others to produce Carers Act information targeted at head teachers and to identify existing resources that could be disseminated to support teachers’ awareness and support of young carers in schools.

Young carers moving into employment can benefit from the Carer Positive initiative, which helps to raise awareness of the growing numbers of people juggling work and caring responsibilities, and encourages employers to understand the business case for supporting carers in the workplace. This can be through, for example, flexible working hours, carers’ leave or peer support networks. As of September 2018, there were 130 employers in Scotland recognised as being Carer Positive, covering nearly 300,000 employees.

Moving forward, the Scottish Government will undertake ongoing data collection on all carers accessing support under the Carers Act, including children and young people. This will help to build an evidence base to forecast demand under the legislation and associated resources required.

Young Carer Package of Support

The Scottish Government ran two phases of activity in summer 2017 to promote the uptake of Carers’ Allowance amongst young adult carers aged 16-24, and raise awareness of the rights of young people under the 2016 Act. This work was delivered in partnership with Young Scot and involved young carers themselves. The evaluation of this work demonstrated that it achieved strong engagement and awareness among young carers.

From autumn 2019, a new Young Carer Grant of £300 will be paid to young adults, aged 16 and 17 (and 18, if still at school) who care for 16 hours or more each week and do not currently qualify for Carer’s Allowance. The Scottish Government established the Young Carer Panel to ensure young people with lived experience can help to shape the new Young Carer Grant with, and for, the young people of Scotland. The consultation on Young Carer Grant regulations ran from 17 September until 10 December 2018.

Recipients of the Young Carer Grant will also be eligible for free bus travel from 2020-21, subject to successful piloting. Young carers aged 11-18 will also benefit from a new bespoke carers element to the Young Scot card, providing non-cash benefits and rewards, which will be rolled out in 2019. The rewards and benefits will be co-produced with young carers.


Email: Rights and Participation Team

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