UNCRC Embedding in Public Services Guidance Sub-group minutes: February 2023

Minutes of the meeting of the group on 21 February 2023.

Attendees and apologies

In attendance

  • Lyndsey Saki (Chair), Scottish Government – LS
  • Luiza Leite (Minutes), Scottish Government – LL
  • Gita Sharkey, Scottish Government – GS
  • Lesleyann Russell, Scottish Government – LR
  • Susan Revie, Scottish Government – SR
  • Anna Munro, Scottish Government – AM
  • Rebecca Spillane, Improvement Service – RS 
  • Felicia Szloboda, Improvement Service – FS
  • Darren Little, Dumfries and Galloway Council – DL
  • Rebekah Cameron-Berry, COSLA – RCB


  • Dragan Nastic, UNICEF UK
  • Debby Wason, Public Health Scotland 
  • Fraser Gorn, Scottish Government
  • Tamar Jamieson, Police Scotland
  • Grant Trainer, Police Scotland 
  • Julie Williams, CCPS
  • Juliet Harris, Together Scotland
  • Vicky Wan, Children’s Parliament 
  • Sarah Rodger, SOLAR

Items and actions

Welcome, apologies and introductions of first-time attendees

LS welcomed members and introduced Gita Sharkey as the new Joint Head for the Children’s Rights Unit.

Review of minutes and action points

Members approved the minutes from the meeting held on 24 January 2023 which will later be published on the group page.

Update on remedial work on Bill

LS confirmed that there is no timescale for the Bill coming back to Parliament as yet, we are continuing to engage with UK Government lawyers.

There was a Members’ debate on the Bill in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 7 February 2023. Ms Haughey confirmed the Scottish Government’s (SG) commitment to the UNCRC. She explained that the Supreme Court judgment means that the duty to act compatibly with the UNCRC requirements set out in the Bill cannot apply when a public authority is acting under powers conferred by a UK Act and that Act requires them to act in a way that is incompatible.

However, there will be cases where a UK Act in a devolved area gives a public authority discretion about whether or not to act in a way that is compatible. Our hope has been that in those circumstances, the Bill could require a public authority to act compatibly. The discussions with the UK Government are focused on whether the Supreme Court Judgment does indeed enable us to achieve this.

Ms Haughey advised that she will endeavour to be able to provide a further update around the 16 March 2023.

Discussion on drafts circulated ahead of the meeting:

Update following members’ suggestions

LS updated members on some of the helpful suggestions captured at the January meeting. It was noted that SG are currently looking at resourcing a post within the Embedding Team to carry out any amendments to the draft guidance. LS assured members that guidance is still a priority and the work will continue at pace.

LS noted that at the last meeting it was suggested, that it would be useful to centre case studies around areas where PAs might need further clarity, such as children’s rights budgeting. We would welcome case study suggestions. If it is not possible to provide a child rights budgeting example in this iteration of the guidance, a case study on this will be included in future iterations.

Dragan Nastic previously suggested that Child Friendly Cities would be a good case study. LS agreed that this would be very useful to include and will follow up on this.

Action: LS to follow up with Dragan on Child Friendly Cities study.

There were also suggested changes to the guidance sections on advocacy and sources to guide interpretation, which will also be addressed.

Discussion on drafts circulated

The following drafts were shared with members on Tuesday 14 February 2023:

  • links to other policy areas
  • case studies on taking a child rights based approach
  • Part 3, chapter 8 – Use of Children’s Right’s Reports

The following discussion points were captured from members:

Links to other policy areas

  • gaps were highlighted around mental health, child protection, youth justice, and adoption. However, it was noted that there is a balance to be struck with how much information to include in this section, as many policies could be in scope
  • the Public Sector Equality review is currently under way and any developments will apply to this section
  • human rights framework changes may affect the guidance and require updates shortly
  • a suggestion was made around mainstreaming children’s rights through child poverty action plans, and encouraging human rights work to be mainstreamed alongside child poverty work. It would be good to draw more attention to this to promote better mainstreaming of children’s rights
  • digital accessibility is important and it was noted that any rights can be affected by poverty
  • child poverty and Best Start Grant sections could be linked together for clarity

RCB offered to share a copy of her written comments after this meeting. LS welcomed all feedback in any format from members.

Action: RCB to share a copy of her written comments with LS.

Case studies on taking a child rights based approach

  • members felt that the case studies are high level and useful, however different levels of case studies would also be welcomed, i.e. some practical / policy / legislative examples
  • it was suggested a best practice example from a local authority already embedding and mainstreaming children’s rights consistently would be welcome – LS welcomed any examples
  • RCB agreed the case studies are useful, and is aware of colleagues in COSLA who have been really involved in some of the policy areas touched on (i.e. play parks, LGBT inclusive education) – LS agreed that we would be keen to get their thoughts and RCB will pass on any comments by email

Part 3, Chapter 8 – Use of Children’s Right’s Reports

LR noted this paper was already discussed at the Embedding in Public Services Reference Group on 20 February 2023) where members were present and views were captured.

The following additional comments were made:

  • in regards to “child friendly versions” – the draft currently doesn’t make any explicit mention to accessibility. It would be useful to include this
  • LR noted the Bill doesn’t make this a statutory requirement but it is still good practice and we should be mindful of thi

Discussion on statutory and practice guidance

This item focussed on an option that would potentially make statutory guidance clearer for public authorities. The draft statutory guidance currently covers the duties on public authorities to meet the requirements of the UNCRC Bill, and also includes broader considerations for taking a child rights based approach, which will of course support public authorities to meet their duties. LS introduced to members the proposal that we separate some of the elements of the current draft statutory guidance, which support the embedding of a child rights based approach, into practice guidance.

LS highlighted that there would be significant benefits to this, firstly to ensure the statutory guidance aligns directly with the requirements of the Bill and that public authorities are clear on their legal duties. This should make the statutory guidance clearer and more concise.

Secondly, there is an option to create practice guidance on taking a child rights based approach which may better support this work. With practice guidance there are greater opportunities to update, as there is not a requirement to consult on every iteration of practice guidance – although the SG would not do this in isolation. This will provide us with greater ability to update more frequently with case studies as practice develops.

Practice guidance may also support us to share child rights based considerations to a wider audience than may be reached through statutory guidance.

The elements which we may wish to include in practice guidance are:

  • child rights budgeting
  • Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessments (CRWIAs)
  • case studies on taking a child rights based approach
  • links to other policy areas

It had previously been suggested to this group that these additional case studies and the chapter on links to other policy areas could be separated out in this way. LS noted that we have not yet considered this for CRWIAs and child rights based budgeting.

The team are suggesting to briefly introduce a child rights based approach in the statutory guidance, with further detail and support provided in practice guidance. This will allow them to future proof and adapt practice guidance, as new practice is developed around child rights budgeting and the external CRWIA guidance is refreshed.

LS welcomed feedback from members on this proposal.

Initial reaction across the group was generally positive. It was agreed that statutory guidance should focus on legal requirements of the Bill. Practice guidance should supplement this. The opportunity to update practice guidance regularly is helpful in the long term and allows for best practice examples to be shared as they develop.

LS noted a lot of this content already exists but we need some time to separate the two sets and rewrite as necessary.

Practice guidance will be a good opportunity to include upcoming case studies on child rights budgeting and other example areas members suggested.

Linking guidance with the Skills and Knowledge Framework – important that content is linked effectively but information is not duplicated.

LS welcomed any further comments in writing as this work develops.

Any other business and date of next meeting

Members agreed to reschedule the March meeting to Tuesday 21 March 2023.

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