Appendix D: Care Inspectorate's 10 Steps To Successful Children's Services Planning
Based on learning from joint inspections of services for children and young people, the Care Inspectorate has identified ten steps to successful children's services planning:
Step 1: An ambitious and compelling shared vision
An ambitious and compelling vision for children and young people underpins effective leadership of children's services planning. A vision which is understood and shared by the senior leaders across the partnership reflects shared values, and which contains within it a challenge, directed at all partners, to deliver transformational change. This vision should inspire and energise staff across the partnership to work together to achieve their common goals.
Step 2: Carrying out a strategic "needs" assessment
Children's services planning needs a solid foundation in data and evidence. Partners should have a shared approach to assessing the needs of children and young people, with systems and processes in place to gather and analyse relevant quantitative and qualitative information, providing indicators of current and future need across different localities, ages and groups (e.g. looked after children).
Based on the evidence of need, children's services planning partners should agree "priority" objectives. A good plan will have no more than 3 - 5 priorities in total. These can change for the next three-year plan, but over any planning cycle the focus should be on a small number of priorities, towards which resources can be clearly allocated, and on which progress can be measured.
(Support for carrying out such strategic assessments is available from the Scottish Government's Realigning Children's Services programme.)
Step 3: Strategic mapping of services
Extensive and detailed mapping of existing services supports effective planning. This should include robust cost-benefit analyses of all services provided by, or commissioned by, the planning partners. Assessment of their impact in improving the wellbeing of children and young people, informed by feedback from service users, is particularly important. This oversight of services should enable leaders to take informed and effective decisions, applying best value principles.
Step 4: Identifying the totality of the resource
Plans should detail the totality of the resource (to deliver services for children and young people) available over the three-year period. Information on finance, staffing and assets should be clearly stated, broken down and attributed to specific activities. Moreover, the plan should be explicit about the percentage of resources which are being directed towards prevention and early intervention over the life time of the plan.
Step 5: Matching needs and services
Children's services planning partners should show how services will deliver improvements in wellbeing across the shared priority objectives already agreed. Any mismatch identified between existing services and priorities is an opportunity for collective decision making about commissioning and decommissioning.
Step 6: Developing sets of local outcome indicators
It is necessary for partners to agree from the outset what measures they will use to assess progress. From this they can establish baselines and set stretching targets linked to priority areas for improvement. Milestones can be identified to support annual public reporting on progress. It can also be helpful to think about outcome indicators covering each of the SHANARRI wellbeing indicators, for specific groups of vulnerable children and young people (for example children in need of protection, looked after at home, looked after and accommodated, care leavers, etc.). Identifying a set of 8 measures, one per SHANARRI, can be a helpful starting point for conversations with stakeholders. Benchmarking of local outcome indicators can helpfully be achieved through working with comparators to adopt some of the same outcome indicators.
Step 7: Informed consultation
Stakeholders, and in particular children and young people, should be involved in evaluating the strengths of existing services, and identifying the activities / services most likely to make a difference over the course of the plan. This discussion with stakeholders should be informed by the evidence (including from academic research) about what works to improve wellbeing, and information from steps 2 - 6 above. Planning partners should indicate how they have made full use of stakeholders' ideas and suggestions.
Step 8: Developing a SMART delivery plan
A Children's Services Plan is turned into activities leading to change and improvement through a clear and concise delivery plan. This details the specific actions linked to each priority. SMART delivery plans are: Specific, Measurable, Assigned (to someone or team), Realistic (but stretching) and Time-bound. Importantly, a Plan cannot be SMART if it is not adequately resourced. Components of the plan may increasingly be delivered through co-production with children, young people, families and communities.
Step 9: Governance and accountability
A strategic planning group who report directly to the Community Planning Partnership (or an executive group within the CPP, such as a Chief Officers Group) should be responsible for the delivery plan. The strategic planning group is made up of senior managers who control budgets. Representatives come from community child health, education and children and families social work, housing, community learning and development, and the third sector.
Moreover, simplifying the planning landscape for children's services supports more efficient and effective planning arrangements, and reduces the number of separate and sometimes disconnected planning forums. This can be done, for example, by including children's rights, child protection, corporate parenting etc. as discreet sections within the Children's Services Plan, and having a manageable number of groups (including the child protection committee) reporting to the strategic planning group.
Step 10: Annual performance reporting
Reporting to stakeholders annually on the progress of the plan and improvements in wellbeing (or outcomes indicator measures) is an important discipline, keeping the focus on delivery and facilitating the accountability of senior managers and elected members. Reporting should not be restricted to describing the volume and frequency of service delivery (the "outputs"), but also to what has changed as result of the planning partners' activities (the "outcomes"). It can help partners to prepare for public reporting by describing at the start of each year what success would look like. Developing meaningful ways of communicating key achievements to children and young people is an important part of this process.