UNCRC Strategic Implementation Board minutes: February 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 28 February 2023.

Attendees and apologies

Members of the board

  • Michael Chalmers (Chair), Director for Children and Families
  • Ashleigh Pitcairn on behalf of Kay McCorquodale, Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service
  • Ben Farrugia, Social Work Scotland
  • Craig Morris, Care Inspectorate
  • Dragan Nastic, UNICEF
  • Eleanor Kerr, Healthcare Improvement Scotland
  • Gina Wilson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland (CYCPS)
  • Juliet Harris, Together Scotland
  • Laura-Ann Currie on behalf of Gayle Gorman, Education Scotland
  • Laura Pasternak, Coalition of Care and Support Providers (CCPS)
  • Margaret Gibb, Parenting Across Scotland
  • Noel Rehfisch, on behalf of Kay McCorquodale, Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service
  • Norma Ruettimann, Care and Learning Alliance (CALA)
  • Rebekah Cameron-Berry, on behalf of Laura Caven, Convention of Scotland Local Authorities (COSLA)
  • Richmond Davies, Public Health Scotland

    Members of Scottish Government

  • Ian Donaldson, Deputy Director for Children’s Rights, Protection and Justice
  • Andrew Preston, UNCRC Programme Assistant
  • Anna Munro, SGLD
  • Ceri Hunter, CRWIA and Internal Capacity Building Lead
  • 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
  • Shelly Coyne, Children’s Rights Unit
  • Eilidh Walker, UNCRC Programme Assistant (minutes)


  • Matt McDonald, Scottish Youth Parliament
  • Ellie Craig, Scottish Youth Parliament

   Apologies, members of the Board

  • ACC Gary Ritchie, Police Scotland
  • Chloe Riddell, The Promise Scotland
  • Gayle Gorman, Education Scotland
  • Laura Caven, COSLA
  • Gayle Devlin, Social Security Scotland
  • Jennifer Davidson, Institute for Inspiring Children’s Futures  

Apologies, Scottish Government officials

  • Carola Eyber, UNCRC Capacity Building Manager
  • Shona Spence, UNCRC Bill Lead

Items and actions

Welcome and apologies

Michael Chalmers (MC) welcomed the group, noting apologies.

Minutes and actions from last meeting

The secretariat received one amendment request from Chloe Riddell which has been incorporated in the finalised minutes sent to members on 21 February 2023.

Dean Snape (DS) advised members that there were two outstanding actions from previous months as follows:

  • Liz Levy (LL) 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
  • Children’s Rights Unit (CRU) to develop a risk register for the drivers in the Theory of Change for Making Rights Real (ToC), starting with one branch and bringing that back to SIB to consider its value before progressing further

The first of these actions will be progressed once the Monitoring and Evaluation Strategy has been approved by SIB. Work is underway on the second action and a sample risk register covering one branch of the ToC will be brought to a future meeting for discussion. DS also highlighted that, in response to a previous action, a paper had been shared with members outlining the range of groups that have been set up to support UNCRC Implementation.

Juliet Harris (JH) asked that it be made clear in the February highlight report that her feedback on the first draft of Children’s Rights Scheme (CRS) was provided in a personal capacity rather than on behalf of Together’s members. 

Action: Dean Snape to update the highlight report accordingly.

Gina Wilson (GW) noted that paper six for the meeting on groups supporting UNCRC, lists CYPCS under membership for the UNCRC Parents Network. GW noted they are not part of that group.

Action: Dean Snape to amend paper six to reflect GW’s comments.

Update on the bill

LL explained that in her closing speech for the members debate in Parliament on the UNCRC Bill on 7 February 2023, the Minister for Children and Young people explained that the focus of our current engagement with the UK Government (UKG) is on how the compatibility duty can apply when a public authority is acting under powers conferred by a UK Act in a devolved area. The Supreme Court judgment means that the compatibility duty 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’s incompatible, even where the Act relates to a devolved power. However, we hoped that, where a UK Act in a devolved area gave public authorities some discretion about whether to act in a way that’s compatible, the Bill could require a public authority to do so. Discussions with UKG are focused on whether the Supreme Court judgment does indeed enable us to achieve this. This is also important for our incorporation of other human rights treaties in the proposed Human Rights Bill.

The Minister met with key stakeholders from CYPCS, the Scottish Commission for Human Rights, Together and UNICEF UK on 23 February 2023 to provide them with reassurance about the Scottish Government’s (SG) commitment to the Bill; provide more information about the nature of our discussions with UKG and to give them an opportunity to raise any concerns. GW and JH confirmed that they had found the meeting very helpful and understood the importance on preserving the confidential space for engagement with the UKG but expressed frustration about the continued lack of clarity about the timescale for reconsideration stage.

MC confirmed that SG was very aware of the need to balance pace, the risk of another referral to the Supreme Court and how far we could achieve a maximalist approach.

To help assess the practical implications of any restrictions on the compatibility duty, members were invited to make SG aware of how discretion in UK Acts in devolved areas might impact on children’s rights. SG is aware of Section 1 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 as an example. LL emphasised that this consideration would also be relevant to the incorporation of the range of human rights treaties to be incorporated by the Human Rights Bill.

The value of undertaking an audit of legislation in devolved areas was also highlighted by JH as a way of identifying legislation that could be brought into scope for the Bill by being enacted through the Scottish Parliament.

Ashleigh Pitcairn (AP) asked for clarification around timescales for Reconsideration Stage and when the duties in the Bill will commence. LL noted the Bill states that duties will commence six months after Royal Assent and that duties could commence early. However, it is important to ensure access to statutory guidance as close as possible to commencement of the duties. LL committed to bringing a paper back to SIB in due course about whether any provisions in the Bill could be commenced early, recognising that this would have significant implications for the courts.

Presentation from Scottish Youth Parliament on how they contribute to the UNCRC implementation programme

MC welcomed Matt McDonald (MM) and Ellie Craig (EC) from the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) to present on how their work contributes to the UNCRC program. MM and EC introduced the organisation as the democratic voice of Scotland’s young people. They set the scene and context for the work they are doing around participation and spoke about how their project, the Right Way, and wider work aligns to the UNCRC and ToC. The Right Way project is comprised of the following:

  • three mini research projects with three policy areas at SG: Violence Against Women and Girls; the Scottish Education Exchange Programme and Gambling
  • creating opportunities for senior officials to take part in youth-led article 12 training and shadowing opportunities of members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYPs)
  • provided ad hoc participation support to officials where required – this has been the smallest aspect of the project
  • developed a participation framework and, after consulting with MSYPs, they determined this should take the form of a web hub, which will launch in April/May 2023

Ben Farrugia (BF) asked how to ensure we are supporting local authorities to engage meaningfully with children and young people around funding and budgets. MM noted the SYP participation web hub is available for everyone. One of the MSYPs from Angus is keen to run the Article 12 training within their local authority. They are in the process of setting up local infrastructures through their Rights Champions. EC noted SYP’s relationship with all local authorities provides a great opportunity for culture change. MM highlighted the case studies will be from all different parts of the system not just SG.

BF noted it would be helpful to hear from SYP at a future meeting of COSLA’s Children and Young People Board. Rebekah Cameron-Berry (RCB) agreed to speak to colleagues at COSLA.

Action: RCB to speak to colleagues at COSLA about inviting SYP to speak at a future meeting of the Children and Young People’s Board

Action: Eilidh Walker to share SYP presentation with papers after the meeting.

CRU programme of work and discussion on how SIB can support or wish to be engaged in individual projects

LL introduced paper seven which set out the work that the CRU ‘must’ and ‘should’ take forward: before the Bill receives Royal Assent; between Royal Assent and the commencement of the duties; and post commencement of the duties. Members were asked:

  • if there was anything obvious that was missing from the future programme of projects
  • if there was anything in the paper about SIB support that concerned the board
  • if there were any other ways in which the board might help us with the projects that are listed

Laura Pasternak highlighted that she would welcome more detail in due course about how those delivering duties of a public nature in the private, voluntary and independent sector would be made aware of the compatibility duty and that considering the provision of advocacy support was a ‘must’ rather than a ‘should’.

JH suggested she would welcome a meeting dedicated to the commitments in the CRS; that the development of a risk register should be listed as a project; and that while she recognised that SIB shouldn’t have a role in shaping advice to Ministers, it may have a role in reviewing the output from an audit in due course.

LL reassured JH that if and when a decision is made in relation to an audit, SG will consider how this is brought back to SIB.

Any other business

LL made the board aware that the secretariat to the Children and Families National Leadership Group are preparing a list of groups that are supporting the governance of a range of policies relating to children and families. She suggested that the SIB also consider this when it is ready to consider how we might use these groups to champion and provide leadership on children’s rights. 

AP provided some clarification about comments attributed to her in the minutes of the meeting on 24 January 2023 and agreed to submit a written request for amendments to the version that had been published on the SIB webpage.

The next meeting is on Tuesday 28 March from 3.30 to 5pm.

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