UNCRC Strategic Implementation Board minutes: December 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 20 December 2022.

Attendees and apologies

Attendees, members of the board

  • Michael Chalmers (Chair), Director for Children and Families
  • Ben Farrugia, Social Work Scotland
  • Chloe Riddell, The Promise Scotland
  • Clare Simpson, Parenting Across Scotland
  • Des Murray, SOLACE
  • Dragan Nastic, UNICEF
  • Eleanor Kerr, Healthcare Improvement Scotland
  • Gayle Gorman, Education Scotland
  • Henry Mathias on behalf of Craig Morris, Care Inspectorate
  • Katy Kelman on behalf of Kay McCorquodale, Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service
  • Laura Caven, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)
  • Laura Pasternak, Coalition of Care and Support Providers (CCPS)
  • Nicola Russel on behalf of ACC Gary Ritchie, Police Scotland
  • Norma Ruettimann, Care and Learning Alliance (CALA)
  • Richmond Davies, Public Health Scotland

Attendees, Scottish Government

  • Michael Chalmers (Chair), Director for Children and Families
  • Amy Kerr, SGLD
  • Andrew Preston, UNCRC Programme Assistant
  • Carola Eyber, UNCRC Capacity Building Manager
  • Gita Sharkey, Joint Unit Head, Children’s Rights Unit
  • Liz Levy, Joint Unit Head, Children’s Rights Unit
  • Lyndsey Saki, Embedding Children’s Rights in Public Services Programme Lead
  • Paul Gorman, Empowered Children and Young People Lead
  • Susan Revie, UNCRC Capacity Building Manager
  • Eilidh Walker, UNCRC Programme Assistant (minutes)

Apologies, members of the board

  • Angela Leitch, Public Health Scotland
  • Craig Morris, Care Inspectorate
  • David Wallace, Social Security Scotland
  • Gary Ritchie, Police Scotland
  • Gina Wilson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland (CYCPS)
  • Jennifer Davidson, Institute for Inspiring Children’s Futures
  • Juliet Harris, Together Scotland
  • Kay McCorquodale, Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service
  • Michael Cameron, Scottish Housing Regulator
  • Gayle Devlin, Social Security Scotland

Apologies, Scottish Government officials

  • Dean Snape, UNCRC Project Manager

Items and actions

Welcome and apologies

Liz Levy (LL) started the meeting while the chair (Michael Chalmers) was delayed. She welcomed: new member Eleanor Kerr from Healthcare Improvement Scotland; Nicola Russell, attending on behalf of Gary Ritchie, Police Scotland; Henry Mathias attending on behalf of Craig Morris, Care Inspectorate and Katy Kelman attending on behalf of Kay McCorquodale, Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service.

LL explained that, in advance of setting the agenda for this meeting, the Children’s Rights Unit looked back through the minutes of all of the meetings this year to make sure that they have not lost sight of any issues that we agreed to progress. The intention was to use this meeting as an opportunity to return to some themes the board had already discussed this year to make sure we are giving them the focus they deserve as we move into a new year.

Minutes and actions from last meeting

The draft minutes of the meeting on 22 November 2022 were shared with board members on 29 December 2022. Requests for amendments were received from Chloe Riddell, Katy Kelman and Laura Pasternak.

A final version was shared with the papers for this meeting. No further comments have been received since they were issued so they will be published on the webpage.

The action tracker was sent out with the papers for this meeting listing four actions. One of these was an action that the secretariat omitted to record in the tracker from the August meeting. This was about listing the range of groups that have been set up to support the implementation programme. That will be actioned when our programme manager is back at work.

Two actions can now be closed: one on taking views from the UK Government (UKG) on whether to share the Scottish Position Statement with the UN Committee and another on discussing a case study on Education Reform with Maxine Jolly from Education Scotland.

The other open action is about engaging with a sub-group on the UNCRC monitoring and evaluation strategy. That action is underway and there is a meeting on 13 January 2023.

The monthly highlight report was issued with the papers on 14 December 2022. Members are asked to submit any questions in the chat function so that they can be addressed under AOB if time permits, and if not, by email after the meeting.

Update on the Bill

It was explained that dialogue between lawyers in the Scottish Government (SG) and  UKG about the amendments to the Bill is at a critical stage. The frustration about lack of timescales for bringing the Bill back to Parliament was recognised and shared but communication with UKG is ongoing and constructive. The purpose of the communication is to try and assess whether the respective governments can agree how the Bill should be amended for legislative competence. The engagement is expected to conclude in the near future. 

It was suggested by Dragan Nastic (DN) that face to face dialogue might be a way to quicken the process if needed but he recognised that written exchanges provide a useful record.

LL explained that once the lawyer to lawyer engagement has concluded the intention is that the official position will be confirmed in an exchange of letters. LL explained that the UK Government is unlikely to take a final position until after the Bill has made its way through Parliament and been subject to further amendments. The current engagement will therefore not rule out the UK seeking a further referral to the Supreme Court but we expect that it will reduce the risk of this. SIB will be kept informed of progress.

Support for public authorities

Lyndsey Saki (LS) shared impact chains for two workstreams on screen, detailing the package of work to provide support for public authorities.

The first workstream is to support public authorities to act compatibly with the UNCRC Bill. To support this, SG will provide statutory guidance for public authorities which will include a compatibility framework. We are also providing support and training, such as Improvement Service resources for local authorities, and working with the Children and Families National Leadership Group to embed culture change. We intend to undertake stakeholder engagement to further scope on capacity building requirements and offer targeted training and support.

We will work with the Improvement Service to build child rights-based practice considerations into existing frameworks such as the Public Sector Improvement Framework and are also scoping work with inspectorates and regulators to further embed child rights into inspection frameworks.

As raised by Nicola Hughes at the meeting on 25 October 2022, there was a call from public services for more tailored support to work in collaboration to address potential issues of incompatibility. We are scoping work to support a collaborative group to map areas in practice and service delivery that may be incompatible. This group would identify pilot issues to be discussed, and test an approach with input from experts to provide support in identifying and addressing issues.

Our second workstream aims to ensure that SG, executive agencies and public authority workforce take a child rights-based approach and challenge breaches. To support this, we are developing a Child Rights Skills and Knowledge Framework and will provide further support to ensure consistency of approach across workforces, such as embedding child rights into external workforce guidance and advice and a capacity building programme with priority public authorities. We are currently scoping whether there may also be potential to further embed UNCRC considerations into professional standards.

To ensure that duty bearers are accountable and responsive to children and young people, parents and carers, we will share intelligence on good practice and areas for improvement. We will also support strategies to collect, analyse and make available timely data on child rights-based practice such as supporting listed authorities to meet their child rights reporting duties.

Finally, to ensure that people whose work impacts children act with greater confidence to champion, model and pose challenge to defend children’s human rights we will run child rights and CRWIA training across SG.

DN noted that some of the timings for this work will be dependent on the timeline for the Bill receiving Royal Assent. The timelines on the document reflect this, however, this will be kept under review.

Henry Mathias (HM) noted that there is a great deal of work underway by regulators to embed child rights into inspection frameworks, and offered the Care Inspectorate’s support in progressing this.

Ben Farrugia (BF) suggested that further thought be given to different levels of leadership in the planned work, beyond the National Leadership group, and also noted the need to consider the capacity within different sectors to engage meaningfully in this work.

Laura Pasternak (LP) asked for more information around the connection between these impact changes and the Monitoring and Evaluation Framework – particularly the last column of the paper around impact (outcome indicators) for children, young people and families. LL responded that the Theory of Change (ToC) underpins both documents which is the key link and that the Monitoring and Evaluation Framework includes a strand of work to explore whether the drivers in the Theory of Change are operating.

Chloe Riddell (CR) asked if the delay to the Bill is having an impact on this preparatory work with local authorities and if the work around compatibility is being connected to the work to keep the promise locally? Laura Caven (LC) noted that local authorities are in a good position and continuing, where possible, to prepare as  expected. She also noted that at a local level connections are being made not only in relation to Keeping the Promise but a wide range of other areas of priority. She offered to share, in the new year, a timeline from 2021 to the end of this Parliament term of anticipated national policy and legislative changes which showed the crossover and linkages .

Action: Laura Caven to share timeline of national policy and legislative changes that link to children’s rights.

Programme update for public authorities

LS explained that the Children’s Rights Unit issues a programme update to over 800 stakeholders. The newsletter includes a Bill update, shares new UNCRC resources and highlights examples of good practice and positive initiatives on children’s rights.

The next edition will go out in January 2023 and we intend to share:

  • an update on the Bill
  • content shared around World Children’s Day by the Children’s Rights Unit and partners, including the Scottish Position Statement
  • a resource created by the Improvement Service for Elected members
  • information on an event planned with the Improvement Service in February to support listed authorities with their child rights reporting duties under Section 2 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014

LS invited member proposals for future content, particularly to showcase how public authorities are planning for incorporation and/or taking a child's rights based approach.

LP noted that Who Cares? Scotland have developed UNCRC training and resources which could be highlighted in the programme update. She will contact LS with further information.

Action: Laura Pasternak to share UNCRC resources that have been developed by Who Cares? Scotland with Lyndsey Saki.

SIB's role in diriving cross-sector systems leadership

Michael Chalmers (MC) explained that we have made some space in the agenda to consider how we can encourage other strategic leadership groups to highlight the importance of taking a child rights-based approach and to help drive forward the change we would like to see.

MC explained how the remit of the Children and Families National Leadership Group is changing to ensure that it is helping to drive cross-sector systems leadership for children's rights.

LL asked in the chat function what other groups could be encouraged to include children's rights in their remit.

Case studies of how children's rights are featuring in key policy developments

LL reminded members that over the last year we have touched on developing case studies of how children’s rights are featuring in key policy developments – most recently when discussing aspects of the monitoring and evaluation framework, where there was broad agreement that case studies would be helpful.

LL explained that she has been considering how we might find someone to embed themselves, as an observer, in some key strategic policy developments to capture: how considerations of children's rights shape policy decisions and where there were missed opportunities to give children's rights better and further effect.

LL met with Maxine Jolly from Education Scotland recently to discuss this in the context of Education Reform. Maxine suggested exploring whether we could support some PhD students to do this from autumn next year. LL has spoken to the SG Deputy Chief Researcher about this and it may be possible. However, there are some risks. One is that PhD students are funded for three and a half years so it would take a long time for final findings to emerge. We could however, build in briefing papers along the way but it would still take some time for the student to immerse themselves in the research. Secondly, the memorandum of understanding that funded PhD students have to sign gives them the flexibility to take their thesis in any direction they want so there is no guarantee that we would get a thesis on children's rights at the end of the period of study.

LL explained that another option is to fund a research fellowship. That would give us 18 months of an established academic researcher and would cost only a little more than a PhD studentship. The advantage of funding a research follows is that we could be far more prescriptive about what we want, they would be able to hit the ground running and they would be better able to provide 'learning into practice' sessions to policy makers towards the end of the project. It might also be possible for a research fellow to look at more than one policy development during the fellowship.

Gayle Gorman agreed that case studies would be helpful and suggested speaking directly to universities to explore options. She offered to provide some relevant contacts.

Action: Liz Levy to contact Gayle Gorman for relevant academic contacts with whom she could explore interest in a research project on the extent to which children’s rights are shaping policy decisions.

LL highlighted that she’d also need the Board’s help to identify the policy areas to focus on. Relevant strategic policy development within SG might include the development of the National Care Service, The Promise or Education Reform. It would also be good to focus on policy development outside of SG - perhaps in a local authority. She would also need to ensure that the relevant policy leads were comfortable with this and the access they would need to give to a research fellow.

Plans for the final consortium

The Progressing the Human Rights of Children in Scotland: An Action Plan 2021-2024 includes a commitment to establish a Children and Young People’s (CYP) Consortium to support a sustainable, meaningful and inclusive approach to CYP’s participation in decision-making. The implementation programme is almost in the final year of the 21-24 Action Plan. The original concept for the Consortium was to involve CYP in the action plan and SIB. We have successfully managed the involvement of CYP in various parts of the programme – most noticeably Rights Right Now!

After listening to feedback from stakeholders and following extensive consultation with the SG’s procurement team, the Children’s Rights Unit will develop and implement a new internal mechanism called the ‘CYP Participation Framework’.

The approach will address the increasing need for CYP participation across Scottish Government and establish a mechanism that supports quality engagement with a lasting structural legacy. Over the coming months the children’s rights unit will work closely with colleagues from the SG procurement team and stakeholders within the sector to create the new framework.

Paul Gorman agreed that a one page information sheet be shared with the Board after the meeting.

Action: Eilidh Walker to share information sheet with minutes from this meeting.

Other suggestions for agenda items next year and future timings of meetings

LL reminded members that over the last year they had expressed a particular interest in items on what we are doing to ensure adequate support for: child-rights advocacy; children-friendly complaints; and child-rights budgeting. 

LL reminded members that at the September meeting Chloe Riddell, from The Promise, had mentioned the mapping work that's been undertaken by SG to help identify what advocacy and support services are available. She suggested that it would be helpful for the Board to hear more about this. LL suggested that we could also invite in an advocacy service to explain what support they provide on children's rights to help trigger a discussion.

LL invited further suggestions from members. Suggestions are as follows:

  • MC noted his preference that preparedness for commencement become a regular item
  • GS suggested The Promise Scotland could share more about the work they are taking forward in relation to the advocacy mapping work undertaken by SG in April 2022. CR noted The Promise are not yet undertaking mapping work but she would be happy to share some information about the work that The Promise are doing to produce recommendations to SG on a lifelong advocacy model for care experienced children and adults
  • LP suggested a meeting focusing on advocacy, particularly with regards to the definition and standards of this with the opportunity to discuss the unmet need for advocacy for children whose rights are most at risk – she suggested this be a key part of the implementation programme going forward. LP offered to do a presentation on this content of work, noting that advocacy is a key way of measuring how children’s rights are realised across Scotland
  • HM suggested a session looking at the Human Rights Bill and the Scottish National Action Plan would be useful. He also suggested looking at planning for the introduction of Bairns Hoose in Scotland
  • DN asked whether SG intend to conduct an audit of legislation to identify gaps and incompatibilities with the rights in the UNCRC. LL explained that advice to ministers on this is in preparation and SIB will be updated after ministers have been engaged on this.  
  • LC suggested a conversation would be useful around the public sector wide financial and workforce situation and the potential impact this will have on UNCRC implementation. CR agreed with LC, noting that the early help and support section of this work will not be picked up by the work The Promise Scotland are doing because that is focused specifically on care experienced children and adults
  • BF highlighted that it will be important to consider Scotland’s support for asylum seeking children
  • LP requested a discussion around potential rights breaches and secure care at a future meeting, noting the introduction of the Care and Justice Bill and potential increased numbers in secure care as opposed to young offender institutions

Any other business

Referring to the December highlight report, DN asked if the updates to the CRWIA template have been finalised and if they can be shared? LS clarified that the update was in relation to internal CRWIAs and guidance and that the work is finalised. There was conversation around the difference between external and internal CRWIAs and guidance and the ability to share internal CRWIA guidance more widely. LS agreed to check what elements can be shared externally and provide DN with a response.

Action: Lyndsey Saki to check which parts of internal CRWIAs and guidance can be shared externally.

BF raised the issue of unaccompanied asylum seeking children and wished to highlight this as an area of potential tension, noting that current reception centres elsewhere in the UK are the responsibility of local authorities. LL noted it was helpful to flag these issues and that a list of potential compatibility issues was being developed for circulation to colleagues in relevant policy areas in SG.

Due to time constraints, LL agreed to bring back the discussion on a risk register to a future meeting.

The next meeting will be on Tuesday 24 January 2023, from 15:30 to 17:00 PM.

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