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UNCRC Strategic Implementation Board minutes: 27 January 2022

Minutes for the seventh meeting of the UNCRC Strategic Implementation Board on the 27th January 2022.


Attendees and apologies

Board attendees:

  • Michael Chalmers, Chair, Scottish Government
  • Michael Cameron, Scottish Housing Regulator
  • Laura Caven, CoSLA
  • Jennifer Davidson, Institute for Inspiring Children's Futures
  • Ben Farrugia, Social Work Scotland
  • Gayle Gorman, Education Scotland
  • Juliet Harris, Together
  • Louise Hunter, Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland
  • Angela Leitch, Public Health Scotland
  • Fi McFarlane, The Promise
  • Craig Morris, Care Inspectorate
  • Dragan Nastic, UNICEF
  • Carol Potter, NHS Fife
  • Clare Simpson, Parenting Across Scotland
  • Gina Wilson, Children and Young People's Commissioner's Scotland

Other attendees:

  • Teja Bapuram, UNCRC Programme Manager
  • Colin Convery, Police Scotland
  • Jacqui Dunbar, Together Rights Right Now! Strategic Lead
  • Ben Gaston attending to observe the meeting on behalf of SGLD
  • Ashleigh Pitcairn, Lord President’s Private Office
  • Lesley Sheppard, Deputy Director, Children's Rights, Protection and Justice
  • Liz Levy, Joint Unit Head Children’s Rights Unit
  • Lauren Sorrell, UNCRC Programme Office Team Leader
  • Shona Spence, Bill Legacy Team Leader in Children’s Right Unit. Attending for the first time.
  • Natalie Nixon (minute taker) UNCRC Programme Officer       
  • Andrew Preston UNCRC Programme Assistant
  • Poppy Prior attending to observe the meeting on behalf of SGLD
  • Eilidh Walker from Children’s Rights Unit (observing for professional development)

Apologies:

  • Jaci Douglas, CALA Childcare
  • Amy Harron, Joint Unit Head Children’s Rights Unit
  • Will Kerr, Police Scotland
  • Des Murray, SOLACE (Des Murray, Chief Executive North Lanarkshire Council, will now represent Solace on the UNCRC Board.)
  • David Wallace, Social Security Scotland

Items and actions

Welcome and apologies, Michael Chalmers

Michael Chalmers (MC), Chair, welcomed everyone to the seventh meeting of the UNCRC Strategic Implementation Board, especially new attendees and guests. MC welcomed:

  • Jacqui Dunbar attending from ‘Rights Right Now’ (Interim Consortium) as their strategic lead
  • Shona Spence, leading on UNCRC Bill Legacy work attending for the first time
  • SGLD Colleagues attending to observe
  • Eilidh Walker, attending as part of her professional  development

Item 2. Minutes and actions from 28th October 2021, Michael Chalmers

The minutes from the 25th November meeting were shared with the other papers on Monday 24th January.

MC gave an update on the actions from the last meeting.

  • MC thanked those who helped to disseminate the video message from the DFM
  • We are still not in a position to begin targeted engagement on next steps on UNCRC incorporations but there will be an update at item 4
  • MC provided a video update ahead of the January meeting of the Interim Consortium

Item 3. UNCRC implementation update - Highlight report, Lauren Sorrell

Lauren Sorrell (LS) provided a brief update on the Highlight Report in this item. A paper (Paper 4) was shared with the Board ahead of this meeting which set out the work undertaken by the programme since the last meeting in November.

LS discussed the recent restructuring of the Unit. Work previously undertaken by the SG Leadership Team has now been merged with the workstream on embedding children’s rights in public services to improve opportunities for collaboration. Currently, additional staff are being recruited to support work on Rights Reporting and the Children’s Rights Scheme.

At the most recent Rights Right Now (Interim Consortium) meeting, the group restated the importance of children and young people being informed about how their views would lead to meaningful change. They also expressed interest in attending SIB meetings in the future. Both these points are being carefully considered.

LS stated that we are keen to schedule feedback sessions with the Board on the Skills and Knowledge Framework/Innovation Fund projects to gather more in-depth insights and that we would be in touch in the next few weeks regarding this. Amy and Liz have been recently meeting with stakeholders as part of their introduction. Any introductory meetings that haven’t yet happened will be scheduled soon.

LS mentioned that Liz will say more about the incorporation of the UNCRC in the next agenda item. LS then invited the board to ask questions.

There was a suggestion that there should be a child friendly summary of the highlight report made available online.

Action: Paul Gorman will discuss with Juliet Harris and Jacqui Dunbar how best to develop a child friendly summary of the highlight report.

A question was asked about whether a range of stakeholders will be involved in the policy initiatives under the Right Resolution workstream i.e. UNICEF UK in developing the child-friendly complaints system. Liz Levy (LL) mentioned that work that the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman (SPSO) will be developing guidance on a child complaints system.

Action: LL to ask Gita Sharkey (who is  the SG lead on the Rights Resolution workstream) for a summary of how stakeholders will be engaged in this work.

Item 4. Update on progress in addressing the Supreme Court’s judgment, Liz Levy

Since the last meeting of group, at the end of November, DFM wrote to the convenor of the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee and the Convenor of the Education, Children and Young People Committee.

LL shared a link to the DFM’s letter to the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee that was issued in mid-December and highlighted key points.

The purpose of the letter was to reiterate DFM’s commitment to the incorporation of the UNCRC into Scots law "to the fullest extent possible as a matter of urgency. The letter explained that the Scottish Government’s preference is to address the Supreme Court’s judgment by returning the Bill to Parliament via the Parliamentary ‘reconsideration stage’.

The letter went on to say, that as soon as it is possible to do so, the Scottish Government will explain our proposed response to the Supreme Court judgment and invite responses from targeted stakeholders to a small number of questions. This will focus on the technical means by which we propose to effect incorporation to the fullest extent possible, in light of the judgment, and we will not be revisiting the broader principles of the model of incorporation. MC added that the Supreme Court challenge is significant, as is the gravity of having the Bill challenged a second time. It is therefore absolutely critical for Ministers to consider this very carefully before going back to the Parliament with next steps.

This generated some discussion about the best way to navigate this challenge.

  • Dragan Nastic (DN), UNICEF, stated that our preference for reconsideration stage is welcomed but expressed concerns around the delay
  • members noted the need for proactive communications on next steps to eliminate uncertainty
  • there was a suggestion that it would be useful to minute the helpful response that it's the technical fix that is being explored rather than the mechanism through which the technical fix will be brought about (which DFM has confirmed as being using the 'reconsideration stage')
  • there was an ask about what engagement is happening with the UK Government on resolving their concerns. LL reiterated that there are mechanisms in place for discussions with the UK Government to minimise these risks

Action: LL to ensure that future highlight reports and updates make clear that it's the nature of the technical fix that is being explored rather than the mechanism through which the technical fix will be brought about.

Item 5.  Update on commencement order, Liz Levy

LL mentioned that there was an accompanying paper shared with the Board that lists the provisions in the Bill and sets out some initial thoughts about the sequencing of commencement and which sections of the Bill may be suitable for early commencement. LL said that substantive provisions in the Bill would automatically come into force at the end of a period of six months after Royal Assent. There is an opportunity to commence certain provisions earlier than six month after Royal Assent and wanted to explore potential for this with the Board.

LL opened up the discussion and invited member’s views on:

  • how prepared their organisation is for commencement of Part 2 of the Bill - the duty of public authorities not to act incompatibly with the UNCRC requirements
  • suggestions about sections of the Bill that may be suitable for early commencement

Gayle Gorman from Education Scotland raised concerns around the continued pressure within the education sector due to pressures from COVID and the risk that UNCRC would be seen as an additional burden on the sector in this context. Laura Caven (LC) agreed that it might be viewed as a challenge and wanted to speak with local authority colleagues including SOLACE and SOLAR before offering comments on the paper.

Action: LC agreed to pick up with local authority colleagues on readiness and share any questions raised in the discussions with the Children’s Rights Unit by 10 February 2022.

DN highlighted that the most important thing is to get it right rather than commencing the Bill early. Continued uncertainty about the provisions in the sections subject to the Supreme Court judgment (especially in section 6) mean that it’s not yet clear what duties are in scope. That clarity will need to be provided before early commencement can be properly considered.  Guidance on those duties, training, raising awareness, etc. will need to be developed in detail before commencement to provide clarity for public authorities on their duties under the Bill.

Angela Leitch (AL) asked a point about sharing the learning from engagement with children and young people with other relevant policy areas and not fatiguing the children’s rights stakeholders. AL noted the strategic work on establishing a National Care Service and on the National Performance Framework would be a useful opportunity to explore how a focus on children’s rights helps to shape decisions.

Action: LL to explore with Empowering Children’s team how we share learning from engagement in a way that respects permission received from children and young people.

Ben Farrugia (BF) noted that while more time preparing the ground may be helpful for the professionals in social care, we should be asking if we’re ready to manage the challenges rather than assessing if there is complete system readiness. That view was echoed by Fiona McFarlane. Clare Simpson commented that no matter when the duties commence there will be challenges (for example, around education and ASN provision). This will be part of the part of implementation - it is a process and about learning, redress and redesign of services where necessary rather than being something that is completed simply by being commenced.

Craig Morris (CM) noted that the Care Inspectorate is in a good place for commencement, and work is ongoing.

Juliet Harris (JH) noted that Together will be publishing its State of Children's Rights report which includes a collection of case studies, learning and top tips from across Scotland in how to implement the UNCRC and take forward the anticipated Bill. This can be shared with SIB members to help address some of the issues raised by AL around not duplicating each other and encouraging the sharing of promising practice.

Action: JH to share Together’s State of Children's Rights report with the Board in due course.

JH pointed out that if the Bill hadn't been challenged, it would have commenced in its entirety in October 2021. The same point was made by Gina Wilson from CYPCS who also pointed to continued reassurance from both government and public authorities that that referral has not stalled any of the preparatory work to fully implement the Bill.

However, BF cautioned that against assuming that everyone believes UNCRC Bill will become Scottish law. Some supporters of the Bill, do not yet have full confidence in that and attitude will be shaping their 'preparedness'.

Ashleigh Pitcairn raised concerns around the lack of readiness among public authorities until additional guidance and clarity can be provide.

Colin Convery (CC) reiterated points made by others on preparing for the duties of the Bill. Justice sector especially the youth justice will require partnership and stakeholder engagement work to ensure policies are in line with the UNCRC. Police Scotland is well prepared in terms of understanding the challenges but there is work required towards addressing them.

Action: Board Members requested to send feedback on the paper in relation sequencing to uncrcincorporation@gov.scot within a fortnight.

Item 6. Update and feedback from the Interim Consortium,  Juliet Harris and Jacqui Dunbar, Together

Jacqui Dunbar (JD), Together Strategic Lead noted that the Interim Consortium is now called Rights Right Now! It had two meetings since the last meeting of the Board and noted that the grant to do this work was extended to March 2022.

JD and Paul Gorman (PG) from the Empowering Children and Young People team have been working closely to ensure children and young people, and the adults in the space are ready for collaborating and adopting a child’s rights based approach to governance, incorporation, and implementation. Three of the young people from Rights Right Now! are really keen to join the future SIB meeting/s. Jacqui asked the board to think about how we create that space to enable us to all come together to look at governance and decision making where children, young people and adults have parity in their roles.

PG highlighted that it is important as we move forward, for adults to recognise and champion decision making processes with children and young people. The young people have met 6 times and are between the ages of 10 and 17. PG and JD will start to look at how they can bridge the gap and have adults and children and young people in spaces together. JD and JH suggested having a meeting with PG and MC to look at how they can really build on the work that’s been done and put in stronger foundations as we are looking at moving into the ultimate consortium. JD mentioned that they are looking to offer SIB members a learning opportunity led by world experts Professor Laura Lundy and Professor Kay Tisdall which will enable SIB members to explore child rights based influence and governance.

There are now six children and young people who are interested in attending the SIB meetings. JD/PG will look at how best to enable this.

Action: Interested SIB members to attend the next meeting on 17th Feb 2022. JD to share invites via the SIB Secretariat. 

Item 7. Theory of Change, Jennifer Davidson

Jennifer Davidson (JDa) noted that the Theory of Change project is rapidly developing.

Activities to date include: Initial launching presentation to the SIB (November 2021); Core workshops in November and December 2021, to start off the TOC; Workshops with Scottish Government Children’s Rights Team (January 2022), and bespoke workshop for SIB and Collective Leadership Group (January 2022); Interim TOC paper sent out through existing TOC project lists (21 January 2022), and through Together, Children in Scotland and Parenting across Scotland, with responses by February 18th 2022.; The evidence team, led by Public Health Scotland, is: undertaking outcome harvesting, commissioning rapid reviews, arranging to meet with ‘change agencies’, linking with the Scottish Government’s Children and Family Analysis Unit, commissioning implementation webinars.

Key next steps include:

(1) Arranging meetings to discuss the interim TOC paper with key organisations. In discussion/arrangements made with UNCRC Embedding in Public Services Group, Social Work Scotland, Children and Young People Special Interest Group of the Directors of Public Health, Education Scotland, Law Society of Scotland, SOLACE and Children in Scotland’s Strategic Forum (in order of proposed meeting dates)

(2) Workshop with Rights Right Now (formerly the Children and Young People’s Interim Participation Consortium, facilitated by Together) on the TOC, scheduled February 2022. Based on workshop preparation for this group, materials will shortly be available for other organisations to facilitate conversations on the emerging TOC with children and young people

The project is on target to have a TOC and outcomes mapping full report, for internal use, available by end of March 2022. An edited version and accessibly summary, will be made publicly available May 2022. 

JDa opened the discussion by asking ‘how does the board view that theory of change could be most useful in the medium and longer term? And what does that mean that we need to be doing now in order to ensure that theory of change is positioned well, to be able to inform some of those implementation efforts going forward?’

A member noted that this work is of providing a space for us to come together and test our assumptions and is a useful exercise on identifying where the barriers work. Another member found the work useful and questioned how w we might be making financial decisions in the best interest of children and families? LL responding to the point on the rights based budget, pointed that Aidan Flag who is doing a PhD on rights based budgeting and delivered a presentation to the Unit on it. We are already starting to think about this in the unit and this work is still evolving.

Item 8. AOB

Action: Board to share feedback to the Rights Right Now!

The next meeting will be on Thursday 24th February, 3 PM.

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