UNCRC Strategic Implementation Board minutes: January 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 24 January 2023.

Attendees and apologies

Attendees, 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
  • Chloe Riddell, The Promise Scotland
  • Claire Dobson, on behalf of ACC Gary Ritchie, Police Scotland
  • Des Murray, SOLACE
  • Dragan Nastic, UNICEF UK
  • Eleanor Kerr, Healthcare Improvement Scotland
  • Gayle Devlin, Social Security Scotland
  • Gayle Gorman, Education Scotland
  • Gina Wilson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland (CYCPS)
  • Jennifer Davidson, Institute for Inspiring Children’s Futures
  • Juliet Harris, Together Scotland
  • Laura Pasternak, Coalition of Care and Support Providers (CCPS)
  • Margaret Gibb, Parenting Across Scotland
  • Norma Ruettimann, Care and Learning Alliance (CALA)
  • Rebekah Cameron-Berry, on behalf of Laura Caven, Convention of Scotland Local Authorities (COSLA)

Attendees, Scottish Government

  • Ian Donaldson, Deputy Director for Children’s Rights, Protection and Justice
  • Andrew Preston, UNCRC Programme Assistant
  • Anna Munro, SGLD
  • Carola Eyber, UNCRC Capacity Building Manager
  • 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
  • Shona Spence, UNCRC Bill 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
  • ACC Gary Ritchie, Police Scotland
  • Kay McCorquodale, Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service
  • Michael Cameron, Scottish Housing Regulator
  • Richmond Davies, Public Health Scotland

Apologies, Scottish Government officials

  • Dean Snape, UNCRC Project Manager
  • Gita Sharkey, Joint Unit Head, Children’s Rights Unit

Items and actions

Welcome and apologies

Michael Chalmers (MC) welcomed Ian Donaldson to the meeting as the new Deputy Director for Children’s Rights, Protection and Justice. He also welcomed:

  • Margaret Gibb who replaces Clare Simpson as Interim CEO of Parenting Across Scotland
  • Claire Dobson attending on behalf of ACC Gary Ritchie, Police Scotland
  • Rebekah Cameron-Berry attending on behalf of Laura Caven, COSLA

Minutes and actions from last meeting

Liz Levy (LL) reminded members that the draft minutes of the meeting on 20 December 2022 were shared with Board members on 22 December 2022. The secretariat received one amendment request from Chloe Riddell (CR) which has been incorporated in the finalised minutes sent to members on 17 January 2023. Ben Farrugia (BF) noted that in relation to his point in the last meeting around unaccompanied children, the minutes noted ‘detention’ centres where it should say ‘reception’ centres.

Action: Eilidh Walker to update minutes to reflect BF’s point and then publish on the SIB webpage.

The action tracker was sent out with the papers for this meeting listing five actions.

One of these actions can now be closed – Laura Pasternak (LP) has shared with Lyndsey Saki (LS) the UNCRC resources that have been developed by Who Cares? Scotland.

LS provided an update on action five around what parts of the internal CRWIA templates can be shared with members. She noted that under the Bill Scottish Ministers will have a statutory duty to publish CRWIAs. However, there will be no statutory duty for public authorities to publish. LS confirmed SG are able to share the internal CRWIA template and hope to do so with the papers for this meeting. SG are unable to share guidance for internal CRWIAs as it pertains to duties on Ministers. LS noted she is happy to take further questions after the meeting. This action can now be closed.

Action: Eilidh Walker to send revised internal CRWIA template with papers after the meeting.

Three actions remain open:

  • Dean will set out the range of groups that are being set up to support the programme when he's back in February. 
  • Laura Caven is still to share the timeline of national policy and legislative changes that link to children’s rights. 
  • Liz Levy to contact Gayle Gorman for relevant academic contacts who might be interested in undertaking research on the extent to which children’s rights are shaping policy decisions. This will be progressed after the Monitoring and Evaluation Strategy has been approved by SIB and Carola Eyber (CE) has settled into her new role as team leader for UNCRC Reporting and Monitoring.

The monthly highlight report was issued with the papers on 17 January 2023.

Dragan Nastic (DN) asked for clarification around whether Scottish Ministers will have a duty to publish full CRWIAs or solely a summary, as practice varies amongst countries.

Action: Lyndsey Saki to clarify whether Scottish Ministers’ duties under the Bill will be in relation to publication of full or summary CRWIAs.

Juliet Harris (JH) noted the highlight report states that SG are working towards sharing a paper with secretariat for Criminal Courts Council for the next meeting in February 2023. JH asked for clarification around who will develop and share this. LL clarified that this was being prepared by the Children’s Rights Unit and that it will propose the practical arrangements for dealing with compatibility issues rather than  set out the compatibility issues that could arise.

Ashleigh Pitcairn (AP) stated that the Criminal Court Rules Council would welcome instructions on the practical arrangements that have to be put in place to deal with compatibility issues. She also asked about progress in drafting rules for tribunals. LL said that the Children’s Rights Unit (CRU) were aware of the need to engage with relevant tribunals and would welcome advice about how to ensure we identified all relevant tribunals.

Action: LL to contact AP for advice about how to ensure the CRU identifies all relevant tribunals to contact to make them aware of the need to plan for addressing incompatibility issues.

Update on the Bill

Shona Spence (SS) explained that discussions with the UK Government currently focus on what the Supreme Court judgment means for the application of the UNCRC compatibility duty when a public authority is acting under powers conferred by UK Acts in devolved areas.

The Secretary of State for Scotland had confirmed, in Parliament on 17 January 2023, his commitment to working with Scottish Government to bring back a reconsidered UNCRC Bill. 

Overall, the Board expressed a strong desire for greater clarity on a reconsideration timetable and information on any potential plan B approach.

Juliet Harris (JH) asked some questions on behalf of Together members:

  • what impact, if any, will developments in relation to the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill have on incorporation work, and could it cause additional delay?
  • what is SG’s planned timeframe for finalising the amendments to the Bill with UKG colleagues and introducing them to the Scottish Parliament? 
  • what is SG’s fallback option if UKG doesn’t agree to the amendments?
  • what would SG’s timeframe be for triggering any fallback option if the UKG causes further delay?
  • seeking confirm that the UNCRC Bill won’t be incorporated into wider HR Bill?

MC responded that:

  • developments in relation to the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill will have no known adverse effects on the UNCRC Bill
  • officials are not able to provide a specific timeframe for finalising the amendments but continue to work to progress this as soon as possible
  • it would be premature to discuss a fallback position at this stage due to the ongoing and constructive engagement with the UK Government
  • we are not at the stage of triggering a fallback option
  • there are no known plans to incorporate the UNCRC using the forthcoming Human Rights Bill

Juliet highlighted three important opportunities to advocate for progress on the Bill: Children and young people’s representation in the shadow constructive dialogue session in Geneva in two weeks; the two year anniversary of the Bill being passed on 16 March; and the constructive dialogue session in Geneva in May 2023.

MC recognised the frustration that the delay was causing but hoped that members understood the need to secure as much clarity as possible before we proceed. He would ensure as rapid progress as possible.

Chloe Riddell (CR) thanked officials for their hard work behind the scenes and offered the support of The Promise Scotland in progressing the Bill. She emphasised that The Promise was clear that “Scotland must fully incorporate and uphold the UNCRC” and that the Oversight Board would be expecting an update on this as part of general monitoring of the implementation of The Promise. She reminded the group that The Promise received cross-party support and supported a further discussion about timeframes being put in place for finalising amendments to the Bill.

Ben Farrugia (BF) recognised that setting deadlines could appear threatening in the context of ongoing constructive engagement with UKG but requested further involvement of the SIB in the process of furthering the Bill. CR endorsed this request.  

Gina Wilson raised that lack of visible progress on the UNCRC Bill reflects poorly on Ministerial leadership and that the lack of transparency of what is happening was disappointing and children were becoming frustrated.

Monitoring and Evaluation Strategy

LL brought the revised paper on the Monitoring and Evaluation (M and E) Strategy back for discussion. The M and E paper had been circulated and discussed in previous SIB meetings (September and November 2022).

In the November 2022 meeting it had been decided that a smaller subgroup would be set up to advance discussions on the M and E work might give them a conflict of interest if the Children's Rights Observatory were to bid for elements of the M and E in the future. It had been agreed that they should provide general feedback as part of the full SIB instead. JD had provided some written feedback on the paper. These were clarification points rather than any change to the approach so LL had been very comfortable addressing them. 

LL had met with DN on 13 January 2023. They had discussed what the UN Committee might expect of the indicators sets and reached the conclusion that the Committee would understand that Scotland was on a journey with this and that prioritising some of the rights was a sensible way of approaching that, without over-committing.

LL drew attention to three questions she had posed for discussion in the paper, one of which was the question about starting the identification and/or development of indicators for rights that had been identified as critical. JH noted that the prioritisation of specific rights or issues as starting points should be guided by two factors: the list of issues highlighted in the pre-session of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child as part of the preparation for the Constructive Dialogue in Geneva in May this year and the issues and rights identified by children and young people themselves. LL acknowledged that the development of the strategy and subsequent framework constitutes a journey during which decisions about which indicators and rights to include would be made.

LL also asked if amendments to the paper had addressed concerns raised around the use of the core wellbeing indicators in the Children, Young People and Families Outcomes Framework. JH commented that indicators had to be rights indicators as opposed to wellbeing indicators and had to include structural and process indicators and not just outcome indicators. This point was acknowledged and wording to that effect has already been included in the revised version of the paper. JH also stressed the importance of involving children in the development of indicators.

Other comments on the paper were an acknowledgement that the recommendations formed the most important aspect of the paper, and that overall it constituted a strong paper. Other comments sent by JD and expressed by DN had already been addressed in the circulated version of the paper.

LL noted that she was seeking sign-off on this paper at this SIB meeting and that CE, who has recently been appointed as Team Lead for the Rights Reporting and Monitoring Team within the Children’s Rights Unit, would be overseeing the development of the strategy thereafter. The SIB approved the sign-off on this paper, subject to suggested amendments being made.

Feedback on public authority commencement support impact chain

LS talked through the impact chains presented at the last SIB meeting which detail the package of current and planned work to support public authorities. She invited comments and questions particularly on potential gaps or where board members may be able to offer help to support the wider public sector in their readiness for commencement.

The work is firstly, to support public authorities to act compatibly with the UNCRC rights and obligations set out in the Bill and, secondly, to ensure the Scottish Government, Executive Agency and Public Authority workforces are skilled, knowledgeable and confident in taking a child rights-based approach.

The discussion covered the limitations of training and awareness raising on changing practice and it was recognised that the capacity building work will need to address this. BF noted that he would be happy to support discussions to identify areas where substantive practice / system change may be necessary.

The current messaging to duty bearers was felt to be too abstract for many to plan implementation effectively, perhaps with the exception of participation. Therefore, the enhanced support for commencement, was felt to be necessary.

It was noted that an update to the key assumptions in the second workstream is needed to reflect the complexity of behaviour change. In addition, given duty bearers will have to act compatibly with a broader range of rights and obligations than UNCRC, we may wish to reflect this in our thinking and consider why some of the vehicles for progressing children’s rights have been successful and others have not.

Juliet Harris (JH) noted the issue of limited resources, and that a focus on rights-based approaches to budgeting, and prioritising rights most at risk will be important. The impact chains and the Monitoring and Evaluation Strategy should consider money and power, as different duty bearers have varying levels of each which impacts their ability to affect change. Without considering these dynamics, there is a risk of not articulating the root of the problems we are seeking to solve. Gayle Gorman (GG) added that given industrial relations this will be a key factor in many sectors.

LP agreed and highlighted the need to consider role level, especially leadership. She included links which may be helpful for developing this:

DN asked a question around the inclusion of the judiciary, citing the example of Sweden giving extra resource to support the judiciary with incorporation in recognition of its importance, and the issue of international Human Rights instruments being considered too broad by some to implement effectively. The Chair noted the method we used for incorporation should mitigate some of this risk, and that we can seek to work with SG colleagues to consider support needed for judges in this regard.

The development of a risk register

LL explained that Dean Snape has been working with colleagues in the unit to identify the risks associated with the programme and the risk mitigations in place. However, she suggested that a more strategic approach would be to try to identify what might prevent us from being able to fire-up each of the drivers of change in the Theory of Change for Making Rights Real. The Theory of Change already sets out ‘assumptions and risks’ but these aren't specific to each of the drivers of change and we haven't identified and put in place mitigations.

She suggested focusing on this, initially within CRU, and then bringing a paper to the SIB with some thoughts. There was broad support for this.

Action: CRU to develop a risk register for the drivers in the Theory of Change for Making Children’s Rights Real, starting with one branch and bringing that back to SIB to consider its value before progressing further.

Together's contribution to the UNCRC Implementation Programme

Presentation from Juliet Harris, Director, Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights). The presentation outlined Together’s Vision: all children and young people growing up in Scotland have their human rights respected, protected and fulfilled; and their Mission: we work to inspire and enable everyone in Scotland to put children and young people’s human rights at the heart of everything they do. JH shared their strategic vision which outlines how they are changing the system to make children’s rights real. She then spoke about child rights-focused law, supporting child-rights based practice, how they work with children, and finally how they connect to international work. 

BF praised Together and the Commissioner for Children and Young People for their work in raising rights issues with Scottish Government.

Any other business

LP asked when the agenda items suggested by members in the meeting on 22 November 2022 will be scheduled, noting she is keen for an item or meeting around advocacy.

LP also highlighted an event on an introduction to independent advocacy hosted in collaboration between Who Cares? Scotland, the Human Rights Consortium, Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance, Partners in Advocacy and the ALLIANCE, taking place 8 February 2023.

Norma Ruettimann highlighted a range of useful e-modules in relation to children’s rights, namely: 'My rights, my say'; 'Children's Rights' and 'Participation with children and young people’.

The next meeting will be on Tuesday 28 February 2023, from 15:30 to 17:00 PM.

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