Scotland's Children - The Children (Scotland) Act 1995 Regulations and Guidance: Volume 1 Support and Protection for Children and Their Families

Guidance and regulations on the Children (Scotland) Act 1995

Scotland's Children
The Children (Scotland) Act 1995 Regulations and Guidance
Volume 1 Support and Protection for Children and Their Families

Chapter 2 Planning Children's Services

1. One of the major proposals in the White Paper "Scotland's Children" (Cmd 2286) was that local authorities should adopt strategic planning, in order to improve the quality of services and the use of available resources to meet the needs of children in their areas. This proposal, which was subsequently enacted in section 19 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, requires local authorities to prepare and publish plans for children's services.

Section 19

2. This guidance conveys the directions by which the Secretary of State directs local authorities to prepare and publish, review, modify and substitute plans under the Act. It also provides guidance on the corporate preparation of children's services plans by local authorities. The guidance sets out a framework on which authorities should prepare their initial plans and subsequently develop them. It is issued in terms of section 5(1A) of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 as amended by sub-paragraph (3) of paragraph 76 of Schedule 13 to the Local Government etc (Scotland) Act 1994 and sub-paragraph (4) of paragraph 15 of Schedule 4 to the Children (Scotland) Act 1995.

Legislative Provisions and Power of Direction

3. Section 19 lays a duty on local authorities to prepare and publish plans for relevant services for children within their areas. The definition of such services extends widely to those provided under Part II of the Act or under the enactments mentioned in section 5(1B)(a) to (o) of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968. Plans should focus on the needs of vulnerable children who may now or in the future require the support of relevant services. These include services for children "in need" which is defined in section 93(4)(a) as well as for children who are not so defined and whose welfare will be promoted or enhanced by the provision of such services.

Section 19

4. A range of authorities and organisations provide services for the welfare of children and their families. It follows that services plans require contributions from them. This is recognised by the requirement on local authorities set out in section 19 of the Act to consult in the preparation of children's services plans with Health Boards and Trusts, voluntary organisations, the Principal Reporter, the children's panel chairmen, housing agencies and "such other persons as the Secretary of State may direct". The requirement to consult is complemented by a duty in section 21 on other local authorities, health boards and trusts and "any person authorised by the Secretary of State" to co-operate with a local authority in the discharge of their child care functions under Part II of the Act.

Section 19

Section 21

5. In exercising his power of direction under section 19 the Secretary of State has prescribed the following matters in the attached directions

  • local authorities should produce and publish the first plans for 1998-99 by 1 April 1998, having carried out the necessary preparation in 1997-98, following full implementation of the Act
  • plans should indicate the volume of services and expenditure planned in relation to provision by the authority (and collaborating authorities), by voluntary organisations and by the private sector.

Section 19

6. A number of former regional and islands authorities produced plans for children's services which have varied considerably in scope and in detail. In addition, all those authorities had the benefit of carrying out reviews of provision for pre-school children under the Children Act 1989 which have provided useful experience in planning for the future. When preparing services plans under the 1995 Act unitary Councils will wish to build upon the broad experience accumulated by their predecessors. They will also wish to ensure that they are consistent with other areas of planning, for example, in housing and criminal justice services.

Planning - Aims

7. The Secretary of State envisages children's services plans as serving five strategic aims

  • to ensure the welfare of children
  • to clarify strategic objectives in relation to services
  • to promote integrated provision of services and effective use of available resources
  • to ensure a consistent approach to planning by local authorities
  • to establish a high standard of co-ordination, co-operation and collaboration between service departments within local authorities, between different local authorities and with other agencies and organisations which have a contribution to make to effective provision of local services.

Planning - Significance and Process

8. Planning is not an end in itself; it represents an important part of the management task of local authorities. Their plans for children's services should be the basis for providing services to meet the systematically assessed needs of children and their families in the area. Plans are a means to providing better services and to making better use of available resources. The exercise of planning should result in a strategic and authoritative view of the priorities for provision of children's services and the objectives for meeting these priorities.

9. Plans should cover three financial years, with the first aligned to the authority's budget planning. Thereafter they should be rolled forward and reviewed each year, with a full review of plans every three years.

10. Priorities and objectives should be related to a realistic view of the resources likely to be available, reflecting the budgets determined by individual authorities for the year ahead and an informed assessment of resources for the two years beyond that.

11. Social work departments' services will inevitably constitute a major part of plans, but their effectiveness in addressing the needs of vulnerable children depends also on contributions of other services - particularly those provided within other departments of local authorities (for example education, housing and recreation and leisure), those provided by the Police and those provided by Health Boards. Education services in particular have an essential role in providing services for vulnerable children and should do this in partnership with social work departments. In the formulation of draft plans therefore education departments should work very closely with social work departments.

12. Each local authority should produce a plan which is a corporate document, including contributions and commitments by the departments concerned with children and similar contributions and commitment by other collaborating agencies and voluntary organisations as planning partners. The process of producing a plan should promote joint policies and practice in the delivery of services to children and their families.

13. The preparation of plans will therefore require a deliberate effort in collaboration and joint working. This is not however new to child care - it has been increasingly adopted in child protection and fostered in local areas by Child Protection Committees. In relation to community care, joint working is an established feature of business carried out by social work departments and Health Boards and Trusts.

14. Planning on such a scale calls for leadership and direction at the highest level within local authorities. There would be considerable advantage in Chief Executives assuming overall corporate responsibility for plan preparation. In practice they will normally assign to social work departments a lead role in developing plans and discharging the executive tasks of consulting, co-ordinating and drafting. In carrying out these tasks they would act in the name of the Chief Executive.

Plans - Form and Style

15. As important strategic documents children's services plans should be clear and comprehensible not only to providers of and contributors to services but also to users and others within the area. They should represent a comprehensive and coherent view of services, not an inventory for consultation by users. It follows that they should not be over-detailed, bulky or cumbersome. Plans should represent an overview; the lengthier the document the more difficult to present a clear overview. Chief Executives may wish to bear in mind relevance, overlap and proportion in gathering and presenting the material which goes into the formulation of plans.

16. In some aspects, the plan may need to be backed by short descriptions, definitions, explanations or tables, as necessary to understanding its main text. These would be prepared by the appropriate agencies and departments. Wherever possible they should be consigned to supporting annexes.

17. Local authorities are asked to consider developing analyses of local needs and services in order to complement children's services plans and to demonstrate how services are distributed to meet needs within their areas. Such analyses would show the distribution of services accessible to local people and would be consistent with action to decentralise the management of various services.

Needs and Services

18. At the centre of planning is identification of needs, their main features, diversity and relative priority for services. Assessment of needs will include needs not presently met, gaps in service provision and opportunities for developing partnerships. As an aid to local authorities in formulating plans Annex A sets out needs, expressed in terms of children and their families, which local authorities may find useful as a starting point, to identify the full range of local needs which they have to meet and their relative significance. Authorities may well decide to include other categories of need or they may wish to combine some of those listed.

19. From needs, authorities will wish to define, redefine or develop the services which will figure in action programmes. Annex B lists services which may also be useful to authorities, with a brief definition attached to each. Some are identified with social work departments, but others are associated with other services - notably health and education. Others may be developed by voluntary and private organisations. Authorities are already required to review day care services for young children under the Children Act 1989. It would be appropriate to incorporate into their plans a summary of the main conclusions of the statutory reviews of services for young children. They should draw on their reviews in making the necessary references to day care in their plans.

20. Authorities and their planning partners may wish to adopt formulations and groupings of services which seem more suited to their areas for the future. Annex B is offered as a generally useful starting point.


21. The Secretary of State sets great store by the consultation which should be followed in preparation of the plan and which should enable each local authority to take full opportunity of what other agencies and organisations have to contribute to local services. Consultation should be seen as a significant part of preparation and development of plans.

22. It is also necessary for authorities to take into account views of users - and potential users - on existing services, their adequacy and quality and perceived gaps in provision. Children and their families who are currently using or receiving services should be consulted, together with those who have been previously in receipt of services. The Act also required the authority to consult with "such voluntary agencies as appear to the authority to represent the interests of persons who use or are likely to use relevant services".

23. It is for each authority to decide how to discharge its duty to consult about plans and to take views of users and potential users. The collection of user views and consultation on present and perceived future needs should form an everyday part of service delivery. In analysing views of users, authorities should make use of information received from the analysis of complaints, inspections, Children's Rights Officers, advocacy services, contacts with voluntary agencies involved in representing children and their families' views and any surveys undertaken. Before consulting on content, they may wish to consult first on the form of the plan; the balance of provision between public, voluntary and private sectors; the means of taking views of children and their families; and how to take account of racial, religious and cultural issues. Meetings, questionnaires and surveys may be considered for this purpose. After completing its plan, the local authority is required to publish it. How best this can be done is for each authority to decide, in the light of its consultations and the process of preparing the plan.

24. Plans will be of particular use for management purposes. However section 20 places a responsibility on local authorities to publish information about the range of services they provide in respect of children. This latter duty places equal importance on users being informed about the services that are available. Users are children and families who currently call on services or are likely to do so.

Section 20

Plans - Scope and Content

25. The time-span for each plan should be three years; it should be reviewed and rolled forward each year; and every three years it should be fully reviewed. In rolling forward plans, Chief Executives will have to relate them to the budgetary decisions made for successive years by the local authority. The local authority is required by the Secretary of State's direction to produce its plan by 1 April preceding the three year period to which they relate.

26. There is no ideal form of plan suited to every local authority. But to assist authorities in preparation of their plans Annex C is attached as a template which they may find useful and which endeavours to list the main elements which a plan should cover as a strategic management document.

27. A plan should begin to address " Where are we?" with summaries of local needs; of the services provided for children directly or indirectly by the local authority; and of the current policy and service priorities.

28. Then it should address " Where do we want to be?" by setting out forecast needs for the three year period of the plan; the services to be changed or developed to meet this forecast; and any revisions of policy and service priorities.

29. Next, " What do we need to get there?". The plan should set out proposed action for each year of the plan period; the resources needed to be devoted to that action; and the objectives or targets which authorities are to meet. This part should also deal with the workforce, personnel development and training, IT and other resource requirements in which the local authority will need to invest in order to implement their action programmes successfully.

30. The final part of the plan should be directed to answering " How will we know where we have got to?". This should set out the databases from which management information is drawn to monitor and review progress in action programmes and to define the performance indicators by which past and future progress to achievement of objectives can be measured.

31. In preparing their plan each local authority should constantly view children and their families as the focus of provision and in doing so should ensure that it both influences and incorporates the strategies which have been or are being adopted by other departments and services, for example, child health strategies and employ-ment strategies for sixteen to eighteen year olds.

32. To underpin the development of plans local authorities should ensure that they have in place sound management information systems which relate wherever possible to systems maintained for example by Health Boards. These should embrace effective data collection, processing capacity and analysis.

33. The key information which both local authorities and The Scottish Office are likely to require with the introduction of the Act is currently being examined by a joint working party whose proposals will set out a standard approach to management information. But local authorities are free to collect additional information which seems necessary to meet their particular needs and circumstances.

Supply of Services

34. Authorities may plan to provide a service directly, in association with other authorities or by purchase from voluntary organisations and private concerns, depending on the view which they take of what best meets local needs and what constitutes best value for money. Where purchasing constitutes a significant part of their plans for provision of children's services, they should supplement their plans with a statement of their purchasing strategy.

Collaboration between Authorities and Agencies

35. Children and their families have needs which call for services from a range of different local authority departments, including social work, education, and housing, and other agencies, such as primary health care and hospital services, the Benefits Agency, police and voluntary organisations. Local authorities, Health Boards and Trusts and any person authorised by the Secretary of State have a duty to comply with a request by a local authority for help in the exercise of any of their functions under Part II of the Act, unless to do so would be incompatible with its own statutory or other duties and obligations, or would unduly prejudice the discharge of any of its functions.

Section 21

36. Some authorities will need to consider how best to make sure that families have access to specialist services which are not available locally or which would not be cost-effective for the local authority to provide directly itself. They may undertake to provide or commission some services jointly with other authorities or agencies, or purchase particular resources from other authorities. Authorities should co-operate with each other and involve the voluntary and independent sector in planning specialist provision which is likely to cross local boundaries. This should help to make available, cost effectively, a range of specialist services to support children in need and their families with complex problems, for example where parents suffer from mental illness or children present behavioural difficulties.

37. Local authorities have a range of duties and powers under the Act and their effective discharge depends upon corporate responsibility and co-ordination across departments. Departments providing services to the public should be aware of the functions and responsibilities of other departments and ensure that their policies and practice are consistent and well co-ordinated. In particular they should avoid making repeated requests for, or verification of, information which they have already given to staff in other departments.

Annex A Needs of Children

1. The list which follows outlines the main needs of children which call for services and which should therefore be identified as a first step in planning services. The list is expressed in terms of children but they are as a rule associated with their families of which other members may also have needs and individual children may span more than one category of need.

2. The children listed will include children who are and who are not in need in statutory terms. If they do require assistance their needs may be special and require particular planning which should have regard to religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background.

3. The list is indicative rather than exhaustive. It is certainly not exclusive. Inevitably it shows areas of overlap and apparent omission. For example, children who have been adopted are included, but no special mention is made of children who may need to be adopted or who are in the process of being adopted. These children would be children looked after. Family conditions, like family breakdown or poverty and deprivation, may be factors underlying the needs in the list which follows.

Children who are looked after by the local authority
Children who need protection
Children/young people who are no longer looked after by the local authority
Young parents
Children who have disabilities/special needs (eg physical or learning disabilities, sensory impairments)
Young carers
Children who have been adopted (and those who are in the process of adoption)
Children/young people who misuse substances/alcohol
Children/young people who are affected by HIV/Aids
Children/young people who are homeless
Children/young people in poor housing
Children who are carers for relatives and who are in households affected by disability
Children who live in violent environments
Children whose parents suffer from a mental illness
Children whose parents misuse substances/alcohol
Children whose health or development is suffering
Children whose educational development is suffering (including those excluded from school)
Children who have emotional, behavioural and mental health problems
Children/young people who are in conflict with the law because of offending behaviour (including those who offend against other children)

Annex B Services for Need

1. Services may be provided directly by local authorities or commissioned by them from the voluntary or private sector. They include supportive and preventive services.

2. The voluntary and private sectors also provide services directly.

3. Other local authority departments and agencies also provide a range of statutory and non-statutory services for children and their families that need to be considered in the planning of services.

4. For convenience services are grouped under broad service headings.

Social Work

Social work and advice services

Advice and information
Counselling for problems, including for drugs and alcohol misuse
Specialist counselling for disability

Placement services

Residential care
Foster care
Post-placement support
Secure care
Respite care
Shared care
Supported accommodation

Family support services

Day care/playgroups/childminders
Family centres
Home care/family aides

Direct services for young people

Group work
Outreach support
Community projects for young offenders


Health surveillance - pre-school and school age
General practice
Health visiting service
District nursing service
Hospital paediatric services
Community paediatric services
Medical care for children looked after by the local authority
Health care in child protection - prevention, assessment, support
Health care for children with special needs - assessment, treatment, therapy services
Specialist nursing services
School nurses
Liaison nurse specialists
Respite care services
Health promotion services
Psychological/Psychiatric services


Pre-school education
Educational psychologists
Educational support for children in hospitals
After and out-of-school care
Community education
Day and residential special schools
Special units for excluded children
Provision for children with learning difficulties
Special needs services
Specialist support technology services
Home liaison teachers
Guidance teachers
Classroom teachers
Designated teachers (child protection)
Learning support teachers
Psychological service
School liaison groups


Child protection
Juvenile justice and young offenders
Community policing and crime prevention
Children absent from home or a placement
Domestic violence

Other Local Authority

Youth workers/community workers
Play services
Employment/career services
Services to minority ethnic communities
Advice and information
Housing accommodation and advice
Supported accommodation

Other Services

Scottish Children's Reporter Administration
The Courts

Annex C Key Elements for Planning

Make it clear to whom the plan is addressed.

Make clear how other local planning documents relate to the main written plan and where they can be found.

Describe how it has been produced and who has been involved in the processes of consultation, collaboration and, where appropriate, joint production of the plan.

Explain what its status is.

State its intended strategic timescale.

Explain its linkages with other plans and reviews (eg community care plan, section 19 (under eights) review.

Be easy to read and follow, with a clear structure and contents list.

Consider how it conveys language and terminology so that it is understood in the same way by all agencies.

Indicate how it is being distributed and the various media through which it is made available (eg which languages, Braille, tape or digitalised form).

Clearly define its purpose in terms of

strategic management of services
business planning
commissioning strategy
quality standard-setting
authority's enabling function.

Be clear as to its scope

services for SWD priority groups
services for children in need
promoting the well-being of children.

Relate the principles and values of the participants in the plan to its purpose and scope.

Review " Where are we now?"

mapping the current needs of the priority populations
mapping the current services to meet these needs
identifying current policies, objectives and strategies for each of the priority populations.

Define " Where do we want to be?" at the conclusion of the current plan

forecasting future needs of the priority population
forecasting priorities for future supply to meet those emergent needs
logically linking the forecasting of future need and the forecast of priority future supply.

Detail " How are we going to get there?" by reference to

policies and objectives
strategies and targets
priority developments.

Detail " What do we need to get there?"

action plans
resource implications
equal opportunities policies.

Identify " How will we know where we have got to?"

monitoring and review structures
define performance indicators by which to evaluate progress
demonstrate how the outcome from monitoring links into subsequent planning processes.

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