UNCRC Implementation Embedding in Public Services Group minutes: 21 August 2023

Attendees and apologies

  • Lyndsey Saki, Scottish Government (Chair) (LS) 
  • Luiza Leite, Scottish Government (minutes) (LL) 
  • Shona Spence, Scottish Government (SS)
  • Gita Sharkey, Scottish Government (GS)
  • Carola Eyber, Scottish Government (CE)
  • Caroline McMenemy, Scottish Government (CM) 
  • Sarah Booth, Scottish Government (SB)
  • Laura Crossan, Police Scotland (LC)
  • John McDiarmid, Police Scotland (JM) 
  • Lucinda Rivers, Unicef UK (LR)
  • Maria Doyle, Together Scotland (MD) 
  • Eloise Di Gianni, Observatory for Children’s Human Rights Scotland (EDG) 
  • Colin Grant, ADES (CG) 
  • Kenny Meechan, Glasgow City Council/SOLAR (KM)


  • Juliet Harris, Together Scotland
  • Rebekah Cameron-Berry, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)
  • Abbie Montgomery-Fox, Children’s Hearing Scotland
  • Rebecca Spillane, The Improvement Service
  • Darren Little, Dumfries and Galloway Council
  • Felicia Szloboda, The Improvement Service
  • Alison Sutherland, Social Work Scotland
  • Alistair Stobie, SOLAR
  • Cathy Asante, Scottish Human Rights Commission
  • Deborah Davidson, ADES
  • Joanne Glennie, Right There
  • Julie Williams, Quarriers
  • Nancy Fancott, Coalition of Care and Support Providers Scotland
  • Nicola Hogg, SOLAR
  • Sarah Rodger, SOLAR
  • Suzanne Brown, Quarriers

Items and actions

1.    Welcome and introductions

LS welcomed attendees and introduced Laura Crossan from Police Scotland, followed by any apologies received. 

2.    Actions from previous meeting

Minutes from the previous meeting on 15 May 2023 have been shared with members and will be made available later on the group page 

Outstanding actions: 

There were three actions captured at the May meeting which are now complete: 

Action 1: LS to connect Dragan Nastic and Jane Donaldson with Ceri Hunter.

Action 2: LS to consider Embedding guidance sub group input into the statutory guidance update.

LS explained that this will depend on the response to the consultation and the issues it may raise. Where the analysis raises questions that we need further advice on, we will take it to that group and other relevant stakeholders.

Action 3: LS to consider suggestions when developing future agendas.

LS noted that future agendas will be informed by members suggestions. Some of them go beyond the input of our team and Unit and some of them are dependent on timing. 

We are currently engaging with Community Planning Partnerships and will be able to update in future. We will have a short update on child friendly complaints today, but we could potentially schedule further input on that.

There was interest in analysis of child rights reports for 2020-23, LS asked EDG for an update on the potential research project by Dr Kasey McCall-Smith.

EDG confirmed there’s a LLM student doing a dissertation on rights reports which should be complete at the end of the month. The aim of the dissertation is to show the 2014 Act guidance wasn’t detailed enough and led to a mix of quality in reporting. EDG agreed to keep the group updated as this work develops. 

3.    Update on remedial work on Bill

SS provided a brief update on the UNCRC Bill. The Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Ms Somerville provided a statement to Parliament on 27 June 2023. Work is continuing to complete essential checks with Parliamentary Clerks on admissibility and drafting of amendments. 

There are three principles informing the drafting of amendments:

  • Bringing the UNCRC Bill within legislative competence
  • Reducing risk of further Supreme Court reference by UK Law officers
  • Accessibility for users

Amendments will focus on the compatibility duties only when public authorities are delivering duties under powers in an act of the Scottish parliament.

Next steps will be for amendments to be checked. Then our aim is for the initial motion to Parliament to be scheduled as early as possible after the parliamentary recess to allow the reconsideration process to commence. Ms Somerville indicated in her statement her hope that the Bill will be passed this year, but this will be dependent on the Parliamentary process and timescales.

Upcoming amendments will come with explanatory notes. These will help inform the statutory guidance that will be provided later. We will share the amendments and explanatory notes once they are publicly available.

Members asked if the proposed Bill amendments could be shared. SS explained it can’t be shared with the group before it goes to Parliament. The Committee may take evidence so there will be time for people to input ahead of that. 

4.    Update on Implementation Programme 

LS provided an update on the following areas of the Implementation Programme: 

Non-statutory and Statutory Guidance
With thanks to the guidance subgroup, we have a draft of the statutory guidance which is as complete as possible at this time. It contains placeholders for content on the section 6 and section 15 duties, to be updated once amendments are agreed. 

LS noted that members will be aware we decided alongside the Guidance Subgroup, to develop non-statutory guidance on taking a children’s human rights approach. This will complement the statutory guidance on the Bill. The intended audience is those involved in public service delivery in Scotland. That can be drawn quite widely, including public authority workforces who work directly with children and those who don’t, senior leaders in public authorities preparing for the commencement of the UNCRC Bill and workforces of other organisations that may not have duties under the Bill, but still aspire to take a children’s human rights approach.  
A draft version of this non-statutory guidance has been shared with the guidance subgroup for comment and updated based on feedback. 

With thanks to the Improvement Service, we then ran a helpful session with local authority UNCRC leads, with a specific focus on what they would find useful to support improved practice. 

We are currently reviewing the feedback received, which we are using to inform an updated version of the non-statutory guidance. Some of the key inputs included the need to reassure people that a lot of current work is underpinned by the UNCRC, so many people will be considering UNCRC to some extent already. 

We intend to publish the non-statutory guidance on taking a children’s human rights approach in advance of the public consultation on the statutory guidance on the UNCRC Bill.  

Innovation Fund 
The UNCRC Innovation Fund closed to applications on 28 June 2023. The purpose of the fund is to support public bodies and local authorities to develop new and creative children’s human rights approaches. There is £500,000 available to support around 10 -15 projects.   
We received 33 eligible applications which passed initial checks and are being assessed. LS provided a brief summary on the applications received:

Geographically there’s a good spread, with all local authorities except Shetland, Orkney and Clackmannanshire represented, and four nation-wide proposals. Applications mainly came from local authorities. There are 23 from local authorities, seven from NHS Boards and three from other types of listed bodies. 

Applications generally prioritise children requiring additional support, including care experienced children, those experiencing disadvantage or poverty, or in poor health. However, there’s a fair spread across groups of children most at risk of not having their rights met  - only LGBTQI+ children were not included in any of the applications.

Generally, there is more focus on secondary school age children, where there are larger numbers foreseen to directly benefit in the first year than primary or pre-school children. 

SG delivery partner, the Corra Foundation, are currently reviewing applications. A group of young people from Youth Scotland will help to guide the decision-making process. The young people will be making recommendations to Scottish Government on the projects they believe will have the most impact. 

Our hope is that the projects funded will result in changes in culture, policy and practice to support UNCRC implementation and give further or better effect to children's rights. Learning from these projects will be shared more widely as part of the longer-term process of embedding children's rights.  

New resources from the Improvement Service 

We are working with the Improvement Service to provide advice and guidance for Local Authorities in preparing for UNCRC incorporation and in taking a children’s human rights approach. 

As part of this work, the Improvement Service developed training and resources for elected members and a Getting ready for UNCRC framework. We funded them to update these resources, to make them applicable to all public authorities. 

The Guide for public services in Scotland on understanding children’s human rights is a resource aimed at those working in public bodies in Scotland, including local authorities and health boards who are interested in learning more about children’s rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

The Getting ready for UNCRC framework is also now available. This is a practical resource for public authorities in Scotland to prepare for UNCRC Incorporation. 

Skills and Knowledge Framework

Work on the Skills and Knowledge Framework is ongoing. Suppliers are working with a Professionals panel and a Children and Families panel to inform the resources, framework and training plan. A website with information on the work has gone live.

Regulation and Improvement working group 
We have set up a Regulation and Improvement working group, to support regulators to embed child rights considerations into their practice and the practice of the organisations they reach.  We shared the Terms of Reference after the last meeting. 
An initial meeting has taken place to agree the Terms of Reference and consider themes to prioritise in future meetings. The group is interested in discussing:  

  • the connection with wider equality and human rights 
  • CRWIAs, particularly on how to integrate with EQIA 
  • child rights budgeting  
  • the connection between child rights and other priorities, such as corporate parenting and the promise 
  • lessons learned and good practice 

There is a lot of interest in participation – particularly the tension between a children’s human rights approach within regulatory bodies, which may have limited public facing work, and supporting participation in inspection processes and reform of inspection processes. 
The group will meet every two months for a year, and we’re currently developing a forward plan for these meetings. 

Participation Framework Agreement

Caroline McMenemy from the Empowered Children and Young People Team provided an update on the new Children and Young People’s Participation Framework Agreement.

The Empowered team has been working with procurement colleagues to develop a strategic model of participation. The Framework invitation to tender is now live. 

The Framework will enable policy areas to identify, recruit and engage with a pre-agreed list of suppliers. These suppliers will have the skills and expertise required to deliver high quality participation activities with children and young people. 

The application deadline is 28 September 2023, with the launch of the Framework anticipated for December 2023.

The Framework will be categorised into five lots, covering a range of groups of children and young people from various backgrounds.

We’re looking at building capacity within Scottish Government in a number of ways:

  • Ongoing professional learning opportunities for SG staff to develop their understanding of the UNCRC, Article 12, quality participation, CRWIAs;
  • the development of a “how to” guide to support policy areas to engage effectively with the Framework;
  • the development of an Evidence Bank to support policy areas to access existing information and in turn engage in more meaningful participation conversations with children and young people.

Currently the plan is to host the evidence bank on Saltire (which is the Scottish Government staff internet) so policy teams can access it.

Child friendly complaints resource development

The SG is working with the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) to develop a child-friendly complaints process to ensure children and young people can access remedy.  

The SG and SPSO share the ambition to improve the way that children and young people can uphold their rights through accessible complaints handling procedures. 

Our work with SPSO is to create statutory child-friendly complaints handling procedures for use by public bodies under their jurisdiction (and to be shared with other public bodies to support their own considerations around child-friendly complaints process development).

Key principles:

The following key principles underpin how to handle and investigate complaints from or involving children, in a way that respects their rights under the UNCRC:

  • For everyone under 18
  • focused on children’s best interests
  • trusting and inclusive
  • centred on children’s voices
  • kind and supportive
  • confidential
  • educational about rights

CM provided a summary of what has happened so far:
Significant stakeholder engagement to develop the pilot materials and process
Pilot phase is currently underway. SPSO is seeking feedback from stakeholders to support process and material review and identify any issues and areas for development. This includes feedback from children and young people, staff and parents / others who have been involved in a complaint as part of the pilot to give their comments, views and feedback on their experiences.

A brief timeline was also shared with the group: 
Summer 2023 – Consultation phase taking place
Winter 2023 – Soft launch
End of January 2024 – Publication date
Through 2024 – Full launch and implementation 

Action: LL to share Caroline’s presentations and a link to the Participation Framework contract.

5.    Brief overview of the Concluding Observations from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child

Carola Eyber, Team Leader of the Children's Rights Reporting & Monitoring Team provided an update on the UN Concluding Observations. 

CE talked through the UN Committee reporting cycle and explained where we are in the process. The UNCRC Concluding Observations were published on 2 June 2023. Over 200 recommendations were made, of which around 190 are for Scotland / all devolved administrations.

The following six areas where urgent action needs to be taken are identified in the Concluding Observations:
1.    Non-discrimination (C/O 20)
2.    Abuse, neglect and sexual exploitation (C/O 33)
3.    Children deprived of a family environment (C/O 38)
4.    Mental health (C/O 43)
5.    Asylum-seeking & refugee children (C/O 50)
6.    Child justice (C/O 54)

CE provided an overview of the different types of recommendations contained in the Concluding Observations and the approach that SG is currently considering in response to the recommendations, including publishing an initial written response. 

Together Scotland also put together a short summary of the recommendations.

A question was asked about when SG will be publishing its initial written response to the Concluding Observations. CE confirmed that work is progressing but there is no confirmed timeline for this yet. 

MD noted that Together are currently working on a child friendly version of the concluding observations, as well as potentially holding a parliamentary event. This event may take place before the end of September. 

As part of this, Together will ask MSPs to each adopt a concluding observation and commit to take them forward in their work. 

6.    Discussion on integrated impact assessments 

LS noted that recently there have been some discussions on integrated impact assessments e.g. with our regulation and improvement group and SG colleagues. LS asked if any members have experience in undertaking integrated impact assessments within their organisations, or if anyone is aware of good practice in this area. 

MD noted in their State of Children's Rights in Scotland Report that Together members have struggled with different models of impact assessments, and that it would be useful to get more guidance on how to combine models and ensure children’s rights are considered throughout. 

Child Rights Alliance in Ireland are doing some work on joining up resources around this. MD has the contact details from them and noted some initial scoping could be duplicated. LS agreed this is helpful and MD agreed to share the contact details. 

Action: MD to link LS with a contact from the Child Rights Alliance in Ireland in regards to integrated impact assessments.

7.    Any other business and date of next meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for Monday 20 November 2023 from 10:00 – 12:00. 

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