UNCRC Strategic Implementation Board minutes: 26 August 2021

Minutes from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) Strategic Implementation Board meeting held on 26 August 2021.

Attendees and apologies

  • Michael Chalmers, Director for Children and Families, Scottish Government
  • Teja Bapuram, UNCRC Programme Manager, Children’s Rights Unit, Scottish Government
  • Kavita Chetty, Scottish Human Rights Commission
  • Jaci Douglas, CALA Childcare
  • Helen Fogarty, Joint Head of Children’s Rights Unit, Scottish Government
  • Gayle Gorman, Education Scotland
  • Louise Halpin, Human Rights Bill Team Leader in Scottish Government
  • Juliet Harris, Together
  • Louise Hunter, WhoCares? Scotland
  • Chantelle Lalli, Programme Lead - Scottish Government Leadership in Children’s Rights
  • Jill Laspa, CoSLA
  • Donna McLean, Healthcare Improvement Scotland
  • Kay McCorquodale, Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service
  • Fi McFarlane, The Promise
  • Craig Morris, Care Inspectorate
  • Dragan Nastic, UNICEF
  • Natalie Nixon, UNCRC Programme Officer - Minute Taker
  • Andrew Preston, UNCRC Programme Assistant
  • Gary Ritchie, Police Scotland
  • Gita Sharkey, Programme Lead – Children’s Rights Resolution
  • Lesley Sheppard, Deputy Director for Children’s Rights, Protection and Justice, Scottish Government
  • Clare Simpson, Parenting Across Scotland
  • Kay Tisdall, University of Edinburgh, associated with the Observatory of Children’s Human Rights Scotland (substituting for Jennifer Davidson)
  • Grace Vickers, SOLACE
  • David Wallace, Social Security Scotland
  • Gina Wilson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland
  • Deborah Watson, Public Health Scotland


  • Michael Cameron, Scottish Housing Regulator
  • Lynsey Cleland, Healthcare Improvement Scotland
  • Jennifer Davidson, Institute for Inspiring Children’s Futures
  • Ben Farrugia, Social Work Scotland
  • Eddie Folan, CoSLA
  • Will Kerr, Police Scotland
  • Angela Leitch, Public Health Scotland

Items and actions

1. Welcome by Michael Chalmers, Director of Children and Families and Chair

Michael Chalmers welcomed the group to the third meeting of the UNCRC Strategic Implementation Board.

2. Minutes and Actions from 29 July 2021- Michael Chalmers, Director of Children and Families and Chair

The Minutes from the 29 July 2021 meeting were approved with no amendments suggested.

Updates from the action points detailed in the minutes were given as follows:

  • members were invited to submit agenda items for future meetings to the Board Secretariat. No items have been submitted so far.
  • the Terms of Reference have been published and can be found on the Board webpage: UNCRC Strategic Implementation Board - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)
  • a discussion was to be tabled for a meeting on monitoring and evaluation proposals for the programme. The 25 November meeting was suggested for this. This will be combined with a session of Quality Improvement and will look at how we can measure and report in relation to our four aims.
  • members were asked to send any ideas to Juliet Harris on effective support and engagement of children and young people. No ideas have been suggested so far.

3. Children and Young People’s Participation- Update and Future Considerations, Juliet Harris, Together

Work is underway to set up an interim Children and Young People’s Consortium. Together is working alongside member organisations who already work closely with children and young people around their rights. This work is being done as fast as possible to make sure children and young people are involved in the ongoing work of the Strategic Implementation Board (SIB).

This participation needs to be meaningful and provide feedback to the children and young people involved. This will allow them to know that their input leads to change. What commitments can the Board make to ensure this happens?

The interim Consortium will be piloting working methods (including child protection and safeguarding policies and ongoing evaluation frameworks) that can be used as a model for the ‘ultimate consortium’ which Scottish Government plans to put out for tender in 2022.  The ultimate Consortium will ensure the long term involvement of children and young people in the work of the SIB.

It is important that children and young people from a broad range of backgrounds and experiences are involved. Work is needed to ensure the experiences of those children whose rights are most at risk are central to the board’s decision-making. This should include children with care experience and experience of the criminal justice system. A model that puts children and young people at the heart of implementation is being developed. The consortium’s work for the next 6 months will be interrelated with the work of the Board.

For the next 6 months the 5 main elements to the interim consortium are:

  • children and young people’s involvement: Recruitment has started for children and young people aged 5-18. By the end of August a decision will have been reached as to which organisations will work on this.
  • training and awareness: Training sessions will make sure everyone has the knowledge and understanding to take children and young people’s views into consideration. For the children and young people involved, adults will need to have the right knowledge and expertise.
  • child-friendly accessible information: All information should be child friendly such as notes.
  • best practice governance and evaluation: Everything should be transparent. The aim is to come out with a model of best practice at the end.
  • peer mentoring: Children and young people involved in this interim work could have the opportunity to mentor those involved in the future.

Juliet discussed the timeline for this work.

  • the aim is to know the children and young people by September and to have some input from them for the next Board meeting.
  • we will need some consideration and creativity in order to involve children and young people. The Board currently meets on Thursdays at 3pm. This may not be the best time for children and young people take part.
  • by Winter, work will have been done to see how children and young people inform the work of the consortium.
  • there will be a final report and evaluation on this in January 2022.

This work is being done with the Children and Young People’s Consortium (interim); Together members with existing trusting relationships with children and young people with a diverse range of experiences; broader Together members who provide strategic advice and input into the project; and expert advisors such as Professor Laura Lundy from the Observatory for Children’s Human Rights Scotland and other expert advisors.

Professor Lundy’s 'Model of Participation' has been at the heart of children and young people’s governance. This model will shape the framework used by the Consortium.

Juliet discussed the four main components to this:

  • space: Spaces must be safe and inclusive to allow those involved to express and inform. This has suit them so must fit with their lives and interests.
  • voice: Creating child friendly materials will help those involved understand the scope of the Board and how they can influence it.
  • audience: The audience must be supportive and empowering.
  • influence: The audience must allow those involved to have influence.

Juliet asked members to consider what needs to be done meaningfully involve children and young people:

  • how will children and young people get feedback on how they influenced decisions?
  • how can we ensure that the children and young people involved know who Board members are? Juliet suggested that child friendly biographies and introductory meetings could help with this. Questionnaires were also suggested as a way to do this.
  • are there any commitments that can be made to children and young people such as attending their meetings?
  • with regards to influence, what is the scope of influence we expect for children to have?
  • how can the Board explain what influence children have around what is and what is not possible?
  • how will we let children know their views are heard and the reasons for decisions taken? Juliet stated that child friendly minutes may be useful for this.

There were a few comments from the Board:

  • Michael said he was happy to feedback on children’s meeting he attends.
  • biographies were raised as something the Board could do early on. Video biographies and formats for children with additional support needs were raised as possibilities. Juliet was asked whether she had any support for this work, given the time constraints. Juliet informed Board that she would have support for this work.
  • a few questions were raised with regards to influence: Is the process finite or iterative? How might these spheres of influence may change over time? What do children want from this? How do we put forward this complex information to children?
  • one member stated they may not know how best to describe the Board to children and young people. Chair said that this meeting should provide some clarity on what is expected of the group.
  • the importance of clear about what we can do from the outset was raised. The Board must understand the priorities and motivations of children and young people. It needs to be clear that the work is about governance and not individual rights and must be clear what incorporation means for their rights.
  • one member asked whether there would be a child friendly version of the Bill produced. It would be useful to explain the constitutional limitations around the Bill, such as the difference between reserved and devolved issues, in a way children could understand.
  • Juliet mentioned that those involved in peer mentoring could share their knowledge of the Bill which may be a good way of passing this knowledge on.

4. Work stream Priorities – Scottish Government Leadership for Children’s Rights Work-stream Priorities and Q&A, Chantelle Lalli, Programme Lead - Scottish Government Leadership in Children’s Rights

Chantelle presented on the aims and priorities of the Scottish Government Leadership in Children’s Rights workstream. This workstream aims to ensure that the Scottish Government is a leader for children’s rights and is a role model to others in upholding children’s rights. It aims to ensure that Scottish Government is prepared for its duties under the forthcoming UNCRC Bill, subject to the outcome of the Supreme Court case.

Chantelle outlined the 4 strands of this work stream:

  • Scottish Government Capacity Building: Work is underway to develop a strategic plan for raising awareness and training for the UNCRC and children’s rights across the Scottish Government and its agencies. This work is being done closely with the Embedding Children’s Rights in Public Services strand. This is to ensure consistency between capacity building within the Scottish Government, as well as with public authorities and others delivering public services. This work will likely be in two phases:
    • First- general awareness raising on rights and the UNCRC. A policy network on Children’s Rights within the Scottish Government is being scoped. The goal of the network is to raise awareness of rights and share knowledge and learning across policy areas. The aim is to have this set up by the end of the year.
    • Second- focus on implementing the specific provisions under the Bill in relation to duties on Ministers, consistent with the case being before the court. Training resources will be developed to ensure that Scottish Government officials understand children’s rights and how to consider them as part of their decision-making.
  • Children’s Rights Scheme and Reporting: The UNCRC Bill requires that Scottish Ministers consult on and publish a Children’s Rights Scheme which sets out how it will give better and further effect to the rights of children in Scotland, and, as soon as is practicable after the end of each yearly reporting period, review the scheme and publish their findings. This must include a summary of actions taken by Ministers to secure the better and further effect of the rights of children. 

As the UNCRC Bill has not yet received Royal Assent, the intention is for the final report of the Progressing Human Rights of Children in Scotland Action Plan to be published this year, under the Part 1 duties of the 2014 Act. Currently there is scoping work being done around the different aspects of the Children’s Rights Scheme with relevant stakeholders.

In terms UN reporting requirements, the UK will be publishing its response to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child List of Issues in February 2022. It is likely this response will have minimal inclusion in the final report due to it covering other devolved administrations as well as crown dependencies and territories and having a word limit. However, the plan is to publish this full response to the list of issues as a Position Statement on Children’s Rights in Scotland, likely in the Spring of next year.  

  • Children’s Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessments (CRWIA): As part of the CRWIA process, templates, guidance and training materials will be updated and published on the Scottish Government website, hopefully by Autumn.

Others will be encouraged to use CRWIAs as a way to implement children’s rights in their work. We will go as far as we can to incorporate the suggestions from stakeholders, being consistent with the case being before the court.

Once published, the focus will be on awareness raising across the Scottish Government and it’s agencies on the future statutory duty under the Bill, subject to the case being before the court.

Under the UNCRC Bill, Scottish Government by law will be required to complete a CRWIA for any legislations that Scottish Ministers intend to introduce to Parliament, Scottish Statutory instruments made by Scottish Ministers other than those that bring a provision of an Act of Parliament into force; and decisions of a strategic nature, relating to the rights and wellbeing of children.

CRWIAs will also be required for any decisions to restrict in-person education in schools due to coronavirus Scottish Statutory instruments made by Scottish Ministers other than those that bring a provision of an Act of Parliament into force; and decisions of a strategic nature, relating to the rights and wellbeing of children.

Under the Bill, there will be no statutory requirements on public authorities in relation to CRWIAs and will instead by promoted as a helpful tool by other bodies and organisations.

  • UNCRC Implementation Programme Office: We’ve set up an internal Programme Office within the Children’s Rights Unit to manage the Implementation Programme; which will be responsible for maintaining the risk register and reporting issues to the Strategic Implementation Board. The Programme Office will also report on progress across the four strands of the Implementation Programme through the use of highlight reports.

There were no questions for this strand but a member commented on how great the completed List of Issues report was and how well it had been received.

5. Work stream Priorities -  Children’s Rights Resolution and Q&A, Gita  Sharkey, Programme Lead - Children’s Rights Resolution

Gita presented the aims and priority actions within the newest workstream. The main aim is to target those areas which we know could make a real difference in furthering children’s rights and ensuring children and young people receive the support they need to access their rights when they are not being met.  The strand is currently being developed but we have currently identified advocacy, access to justice and child friendly complaints as priority areas requiring targeted support beyond the activity that will be delivered through other implementation strands.  Some of this work will support the Children’s Rights Scheme

The four main components to this so far are:

  • aAdvocacy:. Stakeholders have raised the importance of advocacy for children and young people in accessing their rights.  We recognise that advocacy may be provided in a number of ways – dependent on the context and situation and wishes of the child e.g. by a parent, a trusted friend or other relative, youth worker or through independent advocacy services.   While the overall aim might be for all children to have access to advocacy services when they need it – irrespective of the issue - the Together advocacy and  access to justice sub group were clear on that - we recognise that this is a significant and longer term goal.  Mapping work will be done to identify the gaps for this longer term ambition.  We know that there is some good practice out there to learn from e.g. areas piloting boundary–less advocacy For commencement we intend to focus on advocacy in relation to accessing children’s rights under the Bill.
  • access to Justice: this area might cover a number of things and could arguably include advocacy.  The immediate priority here is Court Rules and to work with the Lord Presidents Private office, the Scottish Courts Tribunal Service, Scottish Civil Justice Council, Justice and legal colleagues and others to progress policy papers for civil and criminal court rule changes as far as we can while we await the Supreme Court judgement.  These papers, once finalised will be presented to the Scottish Civil Justice Council and the Criminal Court Rules Council for consideration.  It can take a number of months following clearance of papers for new court rules to be in place so it is important to continue with this work as far as we can.  We will also continue to work with colleagues responsible for Tribunal Rules in considering those that require to be amended in light of the Bill.

The intention is also to explore with partners how we might be able to provide support for the courts on children’s rights and working directly with children – including hearing their views.  We also intend to work with colleagues on issues around accessing legal aid.

  • child friendly complaints: Incorporation of the UNCRC will allow children and young people and their representatives to go to court to access their rights. However, we would want to avoid the need for that as far as possible and to allow for issues to be resolved quickly at local level. To allow this to happen complaints procedures must be rights based, accessible to children and young people, easily understood and supported. We intend to take forward discussions already begun with the SPSO and others to deliver a programme that will provide model complaints handling procedures, guidance, capacity building and support. As Sara, discussed last month, children need to know they have rights before they can complain about not getting them.
  • targeted compliance support: In addition to the work just described, we intend to continue to go further on targeted issues. This strand ensures that we are proactively working with colleagues across the Scottish Government on specific issues where more can be done for children’s rights.  We intend to strategically target those issues where we can go further to respect, protect and fulfil children’s rights.  For example, we will explore the treatment of 16 and 17 year olds in a number of scenarios.  It might be argued in some circumstances 16 and 17 year olds rights are better fulfilled by being classed as adults e.g. in relation to voting in Scottish Parliamentary election but we know this is certainly not always the case.  As part of this strand, we will work with SG colleagues and stakeholders on what additional resources are required in these targeted areas to ensure that children’s rights are upheld. This issues will be identified through a variety of means such as:
    • UN Committee on the Rights of the Child concluding observations, general comments, days of general discussion and procedures under the third protocol
    • Together’s State of Children’s Rights report and
    • feedback from stakeholders such as the SPSO, CYPCS and SHRC on children’s rights breaches

Gita opened the discussion to the Board by asking members to consider whether these were the right things to prioritise, and;

  • if not, what would be; and
  • if so, were there any suggestions and thoughts that might be help in delivering on these?

The follow summarises the subsequent discussion:

  • the size of this strand of work was acknowledged and the decision to focus on court rules was seen as important. There will be a lot of scoping work needed to ensure redress and access.
  • a few members highlighted that it is not possible to divorce children’s rights from the rights of their families. Another member commented that given that the rights of children and their families are intermeshed, it was important to consider the positioning of parents as human rights defenders?
  • it is worth considering what these rights journeys may look like for different groups of children. How will this make sense to them?
  • within public services, children’s rights should be central. Does existing guidance need to be revised?
  • an acknowledgement of the cross-cutting nature of this strand and how it makes sense that it ties in with other strands, especially Embedding Children’s Rights in Public Services and Empowered Children and Young People.

Action – Gita to follow up on expressions of interest and offers of further discussion in relation to targeted compliance support and children’s rights journeys.

6. Discussion on Priorities – Led by Helen Fogarty – Head of Children’s Rights Unit

With all four workstreams having been presented on over the last two meetings, an interactive session was led by Helen to reflect on the priorities of the Board. Helen provided a brief overview of the other two strands discussed at the previous meeting. This session was done over JamBoard with the following questions being asked of members:

  • are these the right priorities?
  • what are we missing?
  • how can we work together to deliver these priorities?
  • what are the main risks to delivering these priorities?

The first question on priorities generated the most conversation:

  • there was some interest in various aspects of the Children’s Rights Resolution stand
  • some comments were made about accessibility including: creating a Plain English version of the Bill, or a child friendly version; ensuring that children and young people in rural areas are included; and to ensure children and young people of all ages are included, using appropriate means
  • some comments highlighted the importance of having a theory of change in order to effectively monitor and evaluate these priorities
  • one comment asked whether private companies and initiative would be expected to comply
  • one highlighted the need to focus on some of the more profound rights abuses, such as custody, educational exclusion and temporary housing
  • one commented that the priorities were ‘professional’ but the priorities were developed ‘before the recruitment of children and young people to guide the process’
  • another asked what is needed to embed to ensure effective accountability and oversight? Stating that it is important for the Board to be aware of other ‘big Government priorities’
  • in terms of creating a culture for change, one comment stated the importance of ‘sequencing the hearts and minds activities from the public to professionals

There were no responses for the second question, ‘what are we missing?’. For the third question, one comment about interest in the Rights Resolution strand was raised. The fourth question on risks generated two comments:

  • ‘The wider landscape of transformation - both a risk and an opportunity. The capacity for change important to consider and identify the right priorities.'
  • ‘We have quite a significant number of priorities here and may need to focus down/ sequence them’

7. Any Other Business

The UNCRC Guidance Working Group have developed some introductory guidance notes around general implementation of children and young people’s rights. We would like to test this with those from working backgrounds that don’t traditionally deal with children and young people. We would be grateful for any views on this from members who have such backgrounds.

Board members were reminded that the date of the next Board meeting is Thursday 30 September.

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