Publication - Consultation analysis

Regulation of child contact centre services consultation: analysis

This report provides an analysis of the consultation responses to the consultation on the regulation of child contact centre services. This relates to the Children (Scotland) Act 2020.

Regulation of child contact centre services consultation: analysis
Staff and volunteer training standards

Staff and volunteer training standards

91. This part of the consultation paper sought views on what minimum standards should be laid down in regulations for the training that contact centre staff and volunteers should receive. This will help to ensure staff and volunteers have the appropriate training to facilitate contact services safety and help ensure the best outcomes for children and families using child contact centre services.

92. Currently, there is a diverse range of child contact services, in terms of size, structure, staffing and the types of services that are offered. The number of full-time members of staff at child contact centres will vary and many staff and volunteers will work on a part-time or temporary basis. There are also a range of different roles that staff and volunteers may undertake.

Minimum standards for training of child contact centre staff and volunteers

93. The regulation being proposed under the 2020 Act seeks to introduce national standards that will apply consistently across the sector and ensure all services operate to the same minimum standards in relation to staff training. The Scottish Government would expect child contact centre staff to undergo regular training to ensure they are aware of the latest understanding in key areas. The costs estimated for staff training in the Financial Memorandum that accompanied the Children (Scotland) Bill were based on child contact centre staff requiring on average four days paid training a year. The consultation paper laid out a number of key areas for training of staff as well as some other areas that would be desirable, and some other areas staff would be expected to have an understanding and awareness of.

94. Question 10 of the consultation asked:

Q10: ‘These are the key areas we consider staff and volunteers in child contact centres working with children and families should be trained in under the proposed standards (other than staff or volunteers carrying out administrative or maintenance roles). Please rate each on whether you feel it should be Required for all staff (except those in administrative roles); Desirable for some staff to complete, but not required for all staff; or Not required for any staff to complete

  • Child protection
  • Understanding domestic abuse, particularly the dynamic of coercive control
  • Understanding the ways adults can influence a child
  • Working with families in conflict
  • Responding to children’s needs and behaviour
  • Child development, including learning disabilities and developmental disorders
  • Risk assessments
  • Parental mental health
  • Drug and alcohol misuse
  • Awareness of other services that are available for children and young people
  • Proficient recording of contact
  • Reporting on contact
  • Observing supervised contact
  • Complaints handling

95. As illustrated in table 11, of those answering this question, a large majority felt that all of these areas are ‘required’, and almost all respondents felt that all of these areas should be either ‘required’ or ‘desirable’. The key areas which were felt to be ‘required’ by the greatest numbers of respondents were:

  • Child protection.
  • Proficient recording of contact.
  • Responding to children’s needs and behaviour.
  • Working with families in conflict.
  • Risk assessments.
  • Observing supervised contact.
  • Reporting on contact.
  • Understanding domestic abuse, particularly the dynamic of coercive control.

96. The areas felt to be ‘desirable’ by the highest numbers of respondents were:

  • Awareness of other services available for children and young people.
  • Parental mental health.
  • Understanding the ways adults can influence a child.
Table 11: Q10: Key areas for training
Number (%)
Required Desirable Not required No answer
Child protection 53 (90%) 1 (2%) 1 (2%) 4 (7%)
Understanding domestic abuse, particularly the dynamic of coercive control 47 (80%) 7 (12%) 1 (2%) 4 (7%)
Understanding the ways adults can influence a child 41 (69%) 11 (19%) 2 (3%) 5 (8%)
Working with families in conflict 48 (81%) 6 (10%) 1 (2%) 4 (7%)
Responding to children’s needs and behaviour 49 (83%) 5 (8%) 1 (2%) 4 (7%)
Child development, including learning disabilities and developmental disorders 44 (75%) 10 (17%) 1 (2%) 4 (7%)
Risk assessments 48 (81%) 7 (12%) - 4 (7%)
Parental mental health 36 (61%) 18 (31%) 1 (2%) 4 (7%)
Drug and alcohol misuse 43 (73%) 10 (17%) 1 (2%) 5 (8%)
Awareness of other services that are available for children and young people 34 (58%) 19 (32%) 2 (3%) 4 (7%)
Proficient recording of contact 50 (85%) 4 (7%) 1 (2%) 4 (7%)
Reporting on contact 47 (80%) 7 (12%) - 5 (8%)
Observing supervised contact 48 (81%) 7 (12%) - 4 (7%)
Complaints handling 42 (71%) 13 (22%) - 4 (7%)

(Percentages might not all to 100% because of rounding)

97. Respondents were also given the opportunity to provide comments on their selections. 35 opted to do so.

98. A key theme emerging, albeit only from a few organisations, was that all staff, including administrative and volunteers, should be well trained across all areas; for example, two third sector / advocacy organisations noted that administration staff should be trained if they are working in the centre or speaking directly to children and families. A few respondents focused on the importance of training on domestic abuse and felt that centre staff need to be able to recognise this as it often continues after separation and can happen at centres during contact time. A third sector organisation commented:

“That this is an arena ripe for emotional reactions, stressors, exploitation, conflict and manipulation. Good training, support and supervision is required. It is always better where possible to have processes that prevent situations arising however we also need people well able to manage a variety of anticipated and probable risks.”

99. A minimum standard of training was considered important by a few respondents, for example, all staff and volunteers should be trained in basic child and adult protection processes, how to communicate and provide a safe response in situations of anger, aggression or conflict or how to deal with issues affecting the families they deal with. Then, depending on a specific role, further training would be needed, for example, those in managerial or co-ordinating roles will need a more developed understanding across all areas as well as how to support others.

100. A distinction between paid staff and volunteers was noted by a few respondents; again, some comments noted that volunteers should have any relevant training necessary to carry out their role, while others noted it is inappropriate to expect volunteers to have the widest range of training as they will be supervised by trained staff.

101. Some respondents outlined other areas in which they felt training should be offered. These included:

  • A basic understanding of the legal process as a majority of cases will be at the contact centre due to solicitor or court instructions.
  • Trauma.
  • First aid / emergency marshal training.
  • Understanding of children’s rights (with references to UNCRC).
  • Communication with children and being able to anticipate the needs of a child.
  • Building effective relationships.
  • Adult protection.
  • Anxiety / Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) / Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) / pathological demand avoidance (PDA).
  • How to provide a welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ and families.
  • Cultural sensitivity.
  • Sign language.

102. A small number of respondents referred to specific areas of training that were cited in this question. There was a view that risk assessment or recording, reporting and supervision of contact do not need to be understood by all staff; just those who are required to undertake these tasks. In terms of the ways in which adults can influence a child, a third sector / advocacy organisation requested that, if this refers to one parent seeking to alienate a child or children from the other parent, it should not be included in ‘the ways adults can influence a child’.

103. Question 11 then asked about a number of other areas:

Q11: ‘These are the areas we consider that it may be desirable for certain staff at the child contact centre to have training in depending on their role, but wouldn’t necessarily be required as minimum standards under the regulations. Please rate each area on whether you feel it should be: Required for all staff as a minimum standard (except those in administrative roles); Desirable for some staff to complete, but not required for all staff; or Not required for any staff to complete.

  • An introduction to trauma
  • Adverse childhood experiences
  • Positive transitions
  • Attachment theory in child development
  • Brain development
  • Working with families where English is not their first language

104. As demonstrated in table 12, almost all respondents felt each of these areas was either ‘required’ or ‘desirable’.

Table 12: Q11: Do you have any further comments regarding your selections?
Number (%)
Required Desirable Not required No answer
An introduction to trauma 38 (64%) 15 (25%) 1 (2%) 5 (8%)
Adverse childhood experiences 35 (59%) 17 (29%) 1 (2%) 6 (10%)
Positive transitions 34 (58%) 18 (31%) 1 (2%) 6 (10%)
Attachment theory in child development 30 (51%) 22 (37%) 1 (2%) 6 (10%)
Brain development 24 (41%) 26 (44%) 2 (3%) 7 (12%)
Working with families where English is not their first language 36 (61%) 17 (29%) 2 (3%) 4 (7%)

(Percentages might not all to 100% because of rounding)

105. A total of 29 respondents provided supportive comments, some of which echoed points made in response to the previous question. The key theme was that staff should be provided with the appropriate training to be able to undertake their role. The intensity and complexity of training may need to vary according to individual roles but that all staff and volunteers should be encouraged to develop their skills, although there were a small number of calls for a basic level of training across each of these areas to be provided to all staff.

106. A few respondents – primarily within third sector / advocacy organisations – commented that all staff should have mandatory training in trauma and / or working with families where English is not their first language.

107. As at the previous question, some respondents outlined additional areas for training. These included:

  • Support for families with additional support needs.
  • Managerial skills.
  • Neurodiversity.
  • Infant / child mental health.
  • Attachment theory should include separation and loss.
  • Sign language / British Sign Language.
  • Language delay and the nuances of body language.
  • Knowledge of family and parenting issues in other cultures and religions; to be culturally sensitive and inclusive.
  • Children’s experience with same-sex parents.
  • How to support parents who may be restricted to video contact due to distance or Covid.
  • How to handle disclosures and concerns of ongoing domestic abuse experiences.
  • How to support children’s participation and create child-friendly environments.

108. Question 12 then asked:

Q12: ‘These are the areas we would not plan to lay down as minimum standards under the regulations, but we would expect providers to ensure that members of staff have an awareness and understanding. For each area, please indicate whether you Agree or disagree with the proposed approach.

  • Health and safety
  • Equality and diversity
  • Confidentiality / data protection / disclosure of information
  • Anti-harassment
  • Anti-bullying
  • Mediation and nutrition
  • Disciplinary / whistleblowing
  • Practicalities of child contact centre management / admissions

109. As demonstrated in table 13, a majority of respondents agreed that each of these areas would not have to be laid down as minimum standards under the regulations, although providers should ensure that members of staff have an awareness and understanding.

Table 13: Q12: Do you agree / disagree with the proposed approach?
Number (%)
Agree Disagree Not answered
Health and safety 41 (69%) 9 (15%) 9 (15%)
Equality and diversity 42 (71%) 8 (14%) 9 (15%)
Confidentiality / data protection / disclosure of information 39 (66%) 11 (19%) 9 (15%)
Anti-harassment 42 (71%) 8 (14%) 9 (15%)
Anti-bullying 40 (68%) 10 (17%) 9 (15%)
Medication and nutrition 36 (61%) 10 (17%) 13 (22%)
Disciplinary / whistleblowing 40 (68%) 10 (17%) 9 (15%)
Practicalities of child contact centre management / admissions 40 (68%) 8 (14%) 11 (19%)

(Percentages might not add to 100% because of rounding)

110. 24 respondents then went on to provide further commentary. The key theme from a significant minority of these was that all, or some, of these areas should be laid down as minimum standards. Other comments, while not committing to whether they should be laid down in minimum standards, noted that these are important in the protection of children, or providers would be expected to demonstrate they have policies in place that comply with their legal obligations in these areas.

111. As at the previous question, there were a small number of comments that not all staff would need to have training across all of these areas and that it would depend on their role within the service. That said, the same number of respondents commented that all staff would need an awareness and understanding of all of these areas or that most are part of the standard operating procedure for all new and existing employees as they are covered by policies and procedures.

112. The final question in this section of the consultation paper then asked:

Q13: ‘Are there any other areas that should be considered for child contact centre staff training standards?’

113. 31 respondents provided comments, and many of the areas they suggested for staff training standards reiterated those made at earlier questions. In addition to those, there were calls for:

  • What to look out for in a child’s behaviour towards their parent.
  • Working with other professionals involved in the case.
  • Dealing with non-engaging families and disguised compliance.
  • Working online, for example, facilitating contact and meetings.
  • Complaint handling.
  • Taking contact to outdoors situations.
  • Supporting parents to progress independent contact.
  • Managing handovers.

114. While not directly related to this question, a few respondents made other comments, including that training needs should be kept under review so they are in line with any legislative and policy changes. There were a small number of suggestions in favour of a professional qualification for child contact centre staff that would allow for career progression, with a suggestion this could be in line with the minimum Scottish Qualifications Authority requirements in other regulated services. One third sector / advocacy organisation suggested that all contact centre staff should have to register with the SSSC as this would ensure professional practice standards. An individual felt that all staff should have a degree level qualification or appropriate work experience.

115. There were a few suggestions for enhancements to be made at centres; these included the provision of contact during evenings and / or weekends or the provision of additional support to parents, for example, in groups or by referral to other organisations.

Monitoring staff training standards

116. It is envisaged that the body appointed to oversee the regulation would be responsible for scrutiny of child contact services to ensure they meet training standards. The consultation paper outlined the process that would be followed in terms of carrying out initial inspections prior to registration and regular inspections after registration. It is expected that routine inspections would be conducted on a three yearly basis, with opportunities to redress any shortfall in training, although ultimately a child contact service could be removed from the register for continued failure. Question 14 asked:

Q14: ‘Do you agree / disagree with the proposed process for monitoring of training requirements?’

117. As shown in table 14, almost all of those answering this question agreed with the proposed process for the monitoring of training requirements (41 agreed and only 4 disagreed).

Table 14: Q14: Do you agree / disagree with the proposed process for monitoring of training requirements?
Number
Agree Disagree Not answered
Child contact service (5) 4 - 1
Legal (3) 1 - 2
Local authority (4) 4 - -
Regulator (2) - - 2
Representative body (2) 1 - 1
Third sector / advocacy (11) 5 1 5
Other (1) - - 1
Total organisations (28) 15 (54%) 1 (4%) 12 (43%)
Individual (31) 26 (84%) 3 (10%) 2 (6%)
Total respondents (59) 41 (69%) 4 (7%) 14 (24%)

(Percentages might not add to 100% because of rounding)

118. 24 respondents then provided further commentary about training requirements; albeit that most comments were made by small numbers of respondents.

119. A few respondents noted their agreement with the proposal or specific elements of the proposal, with comments such as these are proportionate, reasonable, clear and transparent or in line with similar processes in other services. One organisation in the third sector / advocacy sub-group commented that the Care Inspectorate would have sufficient expertise to take on this regulatory role.

120. There were also a few general comments on the importance of suitable training and the need for staff to have a full understanding of their roles and responsibilities and to keep up-to-date with training requirements, although a small number of organisations noted the need for training to be fit for purpose and meet requirements.

121. There were a small number of suggestions that monitoring should be conducted more frequently, with the suggestion of monitoring every 18 months from a third sector / advocacy organisation; this was primarily because of staff and volunteer turnover.

122. The issue of funding was raised by a small number of respondents who noted the need for sufficient funding to be in place to allow staff to participate in relevant training courses; one legal organisation noted that additional costs would need to be covered either by higher fees or by government funding. Another organisation in the legal sector noted there may be opportunities for the same training to be offered to other individuals (safeguarders / curators and so on).

123. Other issues raised by single respondents included the need to strengthen regulation with regards to non-compliance, for example, to provide clarity on a timeframe to meet requirements (the consultation paper referred to ‘an adequate timeframe’ which was felt to be inadequate); or to provide a clearer definition of the process to be followed if there is continued failure to meet training standards.

124. There was also reference by single respondents to training, with comments on the need for some form of assessment within training courses to document that an individual can demonstrate understanding of a specific topic. Additionally, that the amount of training offered online should be restricted and that there is a need to base training on practice development and problem solving to ensure that existing skills are developed, rather than simply repeat training courses that have previously been undertaken.

125. Finally, one respondent felt there should not be a need for all staff and volunteers to have an understanding of all training issues.


Contact

Email: family.law@gov.scot