Publication - Advice and guidance

Statutory Guidance on Part 3 (Children's Services Planning) of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014

Published: 23 Dec 2016

Guidance for local authorities and health boards on exercising the functions conferred by Part 3 (Children's Services Planning) of the Act.

Statutory Guidance on Part 3 (Children's Services Planning) of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014


23. Scottish public services are facing a number of challenges, with pressure growing for them to do "more with less", and in ways which require new partnerships and cultures. Changing demography and persistent inequality are fuelling demand for support, while at the same time public spending is increasingly constrained. [4] In the foreword to his 2011 report on the future delivery of public services in Scotland, Dr Campbell Christie noted that: [5]

"If we are to have effective and sustainable public services capable of meeting the challenges ahead […]:

  • Reforms must empower individuals and communities receiving public services by involving them in the design and delivery of the services they use;
  • Public service providers must be required to work much more closely in partnership, to integrate service provision and thus improve the outcomes they achieve;
  • We must prioritise expenditure on public services which prevent negative outcomes from arising;
  • And our whole system of public services - public, third and private sectors - must become more efficient by reducing duplication and sharing services wherever possible."

24. Part 3 (Children's Services Planning) aims to facilitate the shift to this future state, requiring local authorities and health boards to take a strategic approach to the design and delivery of a wider view of services used by children and families than those set out in the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. The duties set out in Part 3 establish aspects of the framework within which public bodies will work, with partners, to ensure services are organised and equipped to get it right for every child, no matter what their start in life or current circumstances.

25. A Children's Services Plan should "tell a story" so that communities can clearly see how people's wellbeing will be improved in that local area. Although the legislation does not prescribe a complete "strategic commissioning" [6] process (restricting itself to duties related to the aims, preparation, implementation and review of a plan), children's services planning should be seen as a driver towards the development of local commissioning processes which are based on robust information about needs, costs and quality, and ongoing engagement with service users and the wider community. [7]

26. In order to do this, children's services planning will need to incorporate a number of distinct but interdependent processes, all of which sit within the "analyse-plan-do-review" cycle of good strategic planning. These include:

(i) undertaking a detailed, joint, strategic assessment of the current position (population needs, community assets, service resources, etc.); [8]

(ii) identifying and agreeing a manageable number of priorities, linked clearly and explicitly to the population need assessment;

(iii) establishing a clear, ambitious, shared vision of what will be achieved by the end of the plan (i.e. the outcomes you aim to deliver);

(iv) developing sets of outcome indicators (i.e. how progress will be measured);

(v) agreeing what activities (services, interventions, etc.) will be delivered in order to realise that vision, on the basis of detailed cost-benefit analysis (including of existing services);

(vi) deciding, through a coherent and transparent process, how those activities will be resourced over the course of the plan (specifying which areas will see disinvestment in order to facilitate the shift of resources towards preventative and early intervention options);

(vii) presenting this information in an easily accessible format, for consultation with service users, staff, service providers and other stakeholders. Following feedback, publishing a plan which details, clearly, the actions which will be taken, by whom, and when; [9]

(viii) holding persons to account for delivery of activities, with governance over implementation of the plan embedded in existing structures (for example through Community Planning Partnerships); and

(ix) monitoring progress through a structured process of review and refinement, making sure the plan (with its outcomes and deliverables) continues to fit the context (needs, resources, etc.) which it seeks to affect.

27. Children's services planning will, therefore, be an ongoing process, within which the "plan" is only a component, not the end in itself. At various stages of the planning process, local authorities and health boards will want to provide staff, service users (particularly children themselves) and the wider community, with opportunities to participate, providing their insight to help inform decision making, and facilitating a sense of shared ownership of the plan.

28. Planning alone will not, of course, bring about the transformational change needed in the design and delivery of public services in Scotland. As the Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services ("the Christie Commission") noted, that will require an investment in people and the empowerment of communities too. But joined-up, evidence-based, strategic planning is the catalyst; without it, effective and sustainable public services will remain always the ambition, and not the reality.

29. Local government and public bodies have long understood this, and have already built extensive networks of collaboration and partnership between themselves, and with other sectors. Part 3 seeks to build on these networks, strengthening and clarifying the arrangements through which partners will work together to understand the needs of their populations, and develop the services and approaches proven to have the most significant positive impact for communities.