UNCRC Implementation Embedding in Public Services Group minutes: 15 May 2023

Attendees and apologies

  • Lyndsey Saki, Scottish Government (Chair) (LS)
  • Eilidh Walker, Scottish Government (minutes) (EW)
  • Gita Sharkey, Scottish Government (GS)
  • Lesleyann Russell, Scottish Government (LR)
  • Abbie Montgomery-Fox, Children’s Hearing Scotland (AMF)
  • Darren Little, Dumfries and Galloway Council (DL)
  • Eloise Di Gianni, Observatory for Children’s Human Rights Scotland (EDG)
  • Felicia Szloboda, The Improvement Service (FS)
  • Jane Donaldson, Police Scotland (JD)
  • Lucinda Rivers, UNICEF (LR)
  • Maria Doyle, Together Scotland (MD)
  • Rebecca Spillane, The Improvement Service (RS)


  • Alison Sutherland, Social Work Scotland
  • Alistair Stobie, SOLAR
  • Cathy Asante, Scottish Human Rights Commission
  • Deborah Davidson, ADES
  • Ian McKinnon, Police Scotland
  • Joanne Glennie, Right There
  • Julie Williams, Quarriers
  • Juliet Harris, Together Scotland
  • Kenny Meechan, Glasgow City Council/SOLAR
  • Morag Driscol, Law Society Scotland
  • Nancy Fancott, Coalition of Care and Support Providers Scotland
  • Nicola Hogg, SOLAR
  • Rebekah Cameron-Berry, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)
  • Sarah Rodger, SOLAR
  • Suzanne Brown, Quarriers

Items and actions

1.    Welcome and introductions

Lyndsey Saki (LS), Programme Lead for Embedding Children’s Rights in Public Services, introduced herself as chair of the meeting. LS welcomed Abbie Montgomery-Fox, the new member for Children’s Hearings Scotland.

2.    Actions from previous meeting

Minutes from the previous meeting on 20 February 2023 have been circulated with members and will be made available on the group page shortly.

There were four actions from the previous meeting. 

Eilidh Walker to share three documents with the group after the meeting:
Rebecca Spillane’s presentation. 
Reporting paper.
Paper on initial mapping exercise to identify existing sources of data that could be used to assess the extent to which each of the articles in the UNCRC are embedded in Scotland. 

Lesleyann Russell to invite Corra to the next meeting of the Embedding Group to discuss the Innovation Fund.

The first three actions are complete and Lesleyann will provide an update on the Innovation Fund at item 4 of the meeting.

3.    Update on remedial work on the Bill

The First Minister set out his ambition to make Scotland the first UK nation to incorporate the UNCRC into domestic law, ensuring we are a country that respects, protects and fulfils children’s rights. 

It is critical to get this Bill right for children now and for generations of children to come. The Scottish Government is committed to bringing the UNCRC Bill to Parliament for reconsideration as soon as practicable.

Work to achieve this is well underway, including engagement with UK Government lawyers to try to reduce the risk of another referral to the Supreme Court on a revised Bill. 

We have made clear to the UK Government that we intend to move towards reconsideration of the Bill soon. 

Legal issues around the Bill are complex and consideration of these issues has taken longer than hoped. It is however important to get the Bill right for children now and for generations of children to come.

The provisions in the Bill would automatically commence 6 months from Royal Assent. To commence the public authority compatibility duty any earlier than that would be extremely challenging because we cannot consult on the statutory guidance until the Bill receives Royal Assent.

4.    Update on key projects within Embedding strand of UNCRC Programme 

Statutory guidance and consultation
The aim of the Guidance is to help public authorities to understand and comply with their duties under the UNCRC Bill. 

Section 10B(1) of the Bill states that statutory guidance may, ‘promote child rights-respecting practice in relation to the implementation and operation of this Part’. To ensure the Statutory Guidance is as clear and concise as possible, we have stripped this back to only introduce the main elements of a child rights based approach. 

However, we intend to update our non-statutory guidance to provide support and guidance to public authorities and others on how to take a child rights based approach across all service delivery, and the intention is that this will be available ahead of the statutory guidance. 

Statutory guidance would be subject to a formal 12 week consultation as soon as practicable after Royal Assent, followed by analysis and updates. Therefore, it is possible that the statutory guidance may not be published ahead of commencement of the section 6 duty. An updated version of the non-statutory guidance will not require a formal consultation process and so we intend to make this available to stakeholders prior to commencement of the section 6 duty.

Skills and Knowledge Framework

Work is ongoing, the suppliers are working with a Professionals panel and a Children and Families panel to inform the resources, framework and training plan. We hope to make the first resources available in Summer 2023.

We are waiting final confirmation on the content of the first resources, however, they are likely to include case studies or worked examples of how children and parents would like to experience rights respecting engagement with public services.

Scottish Government Internal Capacity Building Programme

To support the roll out of the internal capacity building programme, an Introduction to Children’s Rights e-learning module is currently in development. The platform which will host the e-learning module is only accessible to Scottish Government and Executive Agency Staff. If possible, we would like to explore options to host it on a platform which can be accessed externally. This would allow us to replace the current 20 minute training tool with a more interactive option. 

We are currently considering whether the NHS Education Scotland TURAS platform would facilitate this. However, we are open to suggestions from the group for other sites which may be more effective e.g. Open University Open Learn website

DN indicated that UNICEF would have resources that may be useful. JD indicated that Police Scotland would also be interested in hosting the content.

Action 1: LS to connect DN and JD with Ceri Hunter.

Innovation Fund

The Scottish Government UNCRC Innovation Fund launched on the 11th of May. The fund forms part of the National Improvement Programme that supports Embedding UNCRC within the work of public bodies and local government. 

Applications are invited for project funding to initiate improvement and innovation activity that will support public bodies and local authorities to develop a child’s rights-based approach and embed children’s rights into culture, policy and practice.

The fund is valued at £500,000; we anticipate 10-15 grants will be awarded for work in the current financial year. Further information about the fund, eligibility criteria and application process can be found on Corra Foundation’s webpage.

In line with Article 12 we will be working with children and young people from Youth Scotland to support decision making and project evaluation.

An online information event about the fund will take place at 10 am on 23rd May. The registration link for the session can be found on the UNCRC Innovation Fund webpage under the “Can I apply?”  section. Deadline for applications is 12 noon on 29th June 2023

5.    UNCRC resource update 

Rebecca Spillane shared an update on new resources the Improvement Service are about to launch including an update of their Getting ready for UNCRC framework and a guide for public services in Scotland to understand child rights.

The Getting ready for UNCRC framework was originally created for local government and is being adapted for a wider public authority audience. Rebecca shared how local authorities have used the framework to date.

DN asked if the guide is available in any other language e.g. Gaelic. The resources are currently only available in English, but IS would consider any request.

LS asked if there are themes arising from use of the framework on potential areas of concern where rights may not be met. RS advised that the self-evaluation discussion is leading to discussions about cross-service considerations; issues including safe places to play, road safety, housing, and access to child and adolescent mental health services and speech and language support, frequently come up in discussion. Reflective discussions are also surfacing concerns about potential budget cuts on children’s rights.

DN asked if there were any concerns raised about the scope of s.6 duty in relation to non-devolved issues such as refugees. RS advised that the framing of the conversation does not tend to throw up legal issues, therefore, this has not been raised to date.

6.    Group discussion on future agenda items 

To inform this discussion, LS gave a summary of the purpose and focus of the group, as stated in the terms of reference. She invited comment and reflections with a view to inform future meetings.

DL requested a timeline leading up to UNCRC Bill commencement, setting out resource delivery and key Bill dates. He felt public authorities would benefit from an analysis of rights reports for 2020-23, including lessons learned, good practice and areas for further development. It would also be helpful to understand future reporting timescales and links to other forms of reporting e.g. Children’s Services Plans.

DN suggested some future agenda items: hearing the new Children and Young People Commissioner’s views on public authority readiness; a summary of Together’s State of the Nation report and views on public authority readiness; input on child friendly complaints. He also noted that we may wish to consider how best to link with Community Planning Partnerships.

EdG shared that Dr Kasey McCall-Smith is potentially undertaking a research project on children’s rights reporting. The scope is more likely to be legalistic but could potentially draw out some lessons learned. The Observatory are currently in discussion with the Children’s Commissioner office over funding for research. Child rights reports gathered under the Freedom of Information process will be published as a list for reference.

DN asked if there is a role for the Embedding group as part of the update to statutory guidance post public consultation.

RS raised that it would be helpful to discuss monitoring and evaluation of rights progress. It would also be useful to understand how the courts are thinking about UNCRC interpretation or issue based approaches.

DL noted that it would be good to discuss cross border issues. It is a particular issue for local authorities on the English border that children and young people may be moved back and forth across the border for school or care. DS flagged that this is likely to be raised in the UK State Party examination on UNCRC.

RS felt it would be good to have some further discussion about influencing the leadership space e.g. Heads of Planning Scotland. IS may be able to support with development of discussion papers or other IS funded work.

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

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

7.    Any other business and date of next meeting

The date of the next meeting is Monday 21 August, 10 AM to 12 noon.

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