UNCRC Strategic Implementation Board minutes: July 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 23 July 2023.

Attendees and apologies

Members of the board

  • Andrew Watson (Chair), Director for Children and Families
  • Dragan Nastic, UNICEF UK
  • Gina Wilson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland (CYCPS)
  • Juliet Harris, Together Scotland
  • Margo Williamson, SOLACE
  • Helen Fogarty, Social Security Scotland
  • Jennifer Davidson, Institute for Inspiring Children’s Future’s
  • Craig Morris, Care Inspectorate
  • Chloe Riddell, The Promise
  • Megan Moffat, Who Cares? Scotland (Deputising for Laura Pasternak)
  • Margaret Gibb, Parenting Across Scotland
  • Michael Cameron, Scottish Housing Regulator
  • Laura Caven, COSLA

Members of Scottish Government

  • Ian Donaldson, Deputy Director: Children’s Rights Protection and Justice
  • Dean Snape, UNCRC Project Manager
  • Andrew Preston, UNCRC Programme Assistant
  • Carola Eyber, Children’s Rights Reporting and Monitoring 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
  • Shona Spence, UNCRC Bill Lead
  • Sarah Booth, SGLD
  • Kavita Chetty, Scottish Government (Observing)

Apologies, members of the board

  • Norma Ruettiman, Care and Learning Alliance
  • Ben Farrugia, Social Work Scotland
  • Nicola Anderson(LIT), replacing Noel Rehfisch, Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service
  • Ashleigh Pitcairn, Scottish Courts
  • Eleanor Kerr, NHS
  • Kay McCorquodale, SCTS
  • ACC Gary Ritchie, Police Scotland


  • Katie Logie, Children’s Parliament
  • Matt McDonald, Scottish Youth Parliament
  • Holly Owens, Scottish Youth Parliament
  • Arden, Children’s Parliament
  • Daisy, Scottish Youth Parliament
  • Omima, Children’s Parliament

Items and actions

Welcome and apologies

Andrew Watson (AW) welcomed the board, including Megan Moffat from Who? Cares Scotland who was deputising on behalf of Laura Pasternak. Apologies were given for those not in attendance. AW noted that members from Children’s Parliament and Scottish Youth Parliament would be joining the meeting later so he was keen to keep the agenda to time.

Minutes and actions from last meeting

Dean Snape (DS) advised members that minutes from the previous meeting were circulated on 31 May 2023. No amendment requests have been received from members.

There was 1 outstanding action from previous meetings noted below:

  • LS and JH to discuss how to raise awareness with the private, voluntary and independent (PVI) providers of public services

LS confirmed that she would get in touch with JH as soon a practicable after the meeting to arrange a discussion.

Highlight report

DS noted that the programme Highlight Report was shared with members on 18 July 2023 and sets out progress against previous activities, upcoming priorities for the next two months and the current status of deliverables associated with the implementation programme. AW opened the floor for questions or comments

Jennifer Davidson (JD) asked whether incorporation of children’s rights formed part of any other network agendas across SG or in meetings with external stakeholders, given the relevance of children’s rights in other policy areas. Liz Levy (LL) noted that the secretariat to the Children and Families National Leadership Group have been mapping groups and networks that are relevant to their remit and that this analysis would be shared with the Children’s Right Unit. LL also asked that SIB members get in touch with the team if they are aware of any groups the Children’s Rights Unit could engage with on UNCRC implementation. However, she noted that the unit’s capacity to attend meetings is stretched with attention focused on the Bill and implementation support for public authorities (PAs). If members could help strengthen the approach to children’s rights as part of their membership of other groups, that would be appreciated.

JH asked which public bodies are piloting the child friendly complaints materials and if it’s possible to know more about what is being done about child friendly complaints with Police and the courts. In reference to the ‘Right Way’ resource, JH also queried whether any more is being done for younger children to ensure they have similar accessible resources.

Paul Gorman (PG) advised that SPSO delivered a soft launch of the pilot child friendly complaints resources in June and around about 12 public bodies have taken up the offer to pilot it. PG will follow up with SPSO and see if there is a definite list of public bodies that are taking part in the pilot. He also noted that, the Children’s Rights Unit are speaking with Children’s Parliament to ensure that they have resources for the under 12 age group and will feedback on these discussions.

Action: PG to contact SPSO for a list of public bodies taking part in the pilot and share details with members.

Action: PG to feedback to members following discussion with Children’s Parliament on resources for under 12s

SIB feedback on Ms Sommerville’s statement to parliament on 27 June

LL invited members of the board to share any feedback they had following Ms Sommerville’s statement to Parliament setting out next steps for the UNCRC Bill.

AW thanked the team and SIB for the work done to get us to this exciting stage, acknowledging that any approach will have a degree of complexity requiring more to be done but significant progress has been made with the Bill.

 DN noted that UNICEF UK are very much behind the approach being taken. DN asked if the dialogue with UKG lawyers was ongoing. LL advised that the Cabinet Secretary has written to the  Secretary of State for Scotland in the terms set out in her statement to Parliament but haven’t yet received a response. . Engagement between lawyers is concluded for now, however, final amendments will be shared with the Office of the Advocate General for information.

DN also noted that UNICEF UK is fully behind pursuing an audit of legislation and highlighted work done in Norway, Sweden and Iceland, but noted that an audit cannot assist with the complexity of the Bill and emphasised the need for absolute clarity for duty bearers and rights holders in view of the Supreme Court’s decision and necessary remedial action. He stressed that the UK is signatory to the UNCRC and PAs should be seeking to act compatibly even if UNCRC is not part of the domestic law .

Margo Williamson (MW) noted the statement was very helpful. SOLACE are very supportive of UNCRC but there is some confusion around how the duties will work in practice due to the possible difference in legal duties depending on the legal source of PA powers e.g. whether from a UK or Scottish Act. Determining this is likely a capacity issue, if scenarios need to be looked at on a case by case basis by legal teams.

LL shared an extract from the forthcoming UNCRC programme update that might be helpful: The UK Government is already a signatory to the UNCRC, albeit it has not incorporated it into domestic law. Regardless of the scope of the legal duties in the Bill, the UNCRC is at the heart of the Scottish Government's commitment to ensuring that all children and young people have the best possible start in life, regardless of their circumstances. As such, PAs are encouraged to do all they can to implement the Convention and uphold children’s rights.

She recognised that having to make a distinction between powers derived from UK Acts and Acts of the Scottish Parliament will make it difficult to identify when children and young people can seek redress for UNCRC incompatibilities using the powers in the Bill. However, an important point to make is that PAs shouldn’t be using this distinction to decide when to seek to act compatibly.

Chloe Riddell (CR) pointed out that the UNCRC is also fundamental to the delivery of The Promise and Craig Morris (CM) also highlighted acting compatibly with UNCRC is in line with being a good corporate parent.

LC asked what is in/ out of scope of the UNCRC Bill and what it will mean if PAs are required to act in a way that is incompatible with the UNCRC and that requirement derives from legislation outwith the scope of the UNCRC Bill. She also highlighted that there is likely to be a lot of duplication of effort, with PAs considering what is in and not in scope, and asked if there is a way to combine resources.

She recommended that, as well as an audit, it might be helpful to give scenarios/examples of what it might look like in practice for duty bearers and children’s rights. SOLAR/SOLACE/SWS/ADES are looking at scenarios.

Concern is that the workforce will be confused and concerned due to the number of changes they are facing currently on a number of fronts or are anticipating.

LL stated that while individual PAs will be best placed to identify the source of their own powers and whether they are in scope for the compatibility duty, it may be possible to share analysis to reduce the need for duplication of effort.

JH pointed out PA’s should already be working compatibly with UNCRC. What is more complex is to work out when children will be able to use the powers in the UNCRC Bill to seek remedy and redress. It would be useful to look at some case studies and what remedies might be available as there may be other remedies that can be accessed that do not rely on the issue being within scope of the UNCRC Bill.

JH also highlighted that members are making strong calls for a legislative audit for two purposes:

  • to identify UK Acts covering devolved functions that may be in breach of UNCRC
  • to identify UK Acts in devolved areas that impact on children’s rights but will not be in scope of UNCRC

In either case SG could then act to bring the legislation within the scope of UNCRC Bill.

JH also raised the desire for the amendments to the Bill to be made available in good time for stakeholders to respond to the Human Rights Bill consultation. AW reassured members that there was awareness across SG of the connections and amendments would be shared as soon as possible.

Public Authority support for commencement

LS shared an update on key UNCRC implementation projects.

A decision was taken with the guidance sub-group to develop non statutory guidance on taking a children’s human rights approach. This will complement the statutory guidance on the Bill and the intended audience is those involved in public service delivery in Scotland. A session will be held with local authority UNCRC leads on Thursday 27 July, to inform the non statutory guidance, with a specific focus on what they would find useful to support improved practice. This non statutory guidance will be published in advance of the public consultation on the statutory guidance on the UNCRC Bill.  

The Innovation fund closed to applications at noon on the 28th of June. The purpose of the fund is to support public bodies and local authorities to develop new and creative children’s human rights approaches. There is £500,000 available to support around 10-15 projects. LS advised members that 33 eligible applications were received which passed initial checks and are being assessed.  

A group of young people from Youth Scotland will be helping to guide the decision making process and make recommendations to the Scottish Government on the projects they believe will have the most impact.

Work is underway with the Improvement Service to provide advice and guidance for local authorities in preparing for UNCRC incorporation and in taking a children’s human rights approach. The Getting ready for UNCRC framework is now available. This is a practical resource for PAs in Scotland to prepare for UNCRC Incorporation.

A Regulation and Improvement working group has been set up, to support regulators to embed child rights considerations into their practice and the practice of the organisations they reach. An initial meeting was held to agree the Terms of Reference and consider themes to prioritise in future meetings. The group will meet every 2 months for a year, and we are currently developing a forward plan for these meetings.  

Reflections from children and young people who attended the State Party Examination by the UN Committee

SIB were joined by 2 members of the Children’s Parliament and one member of the Scottish Youth Parliament to discuss their experiences attending the State Party Examination by the UN Committee in Geneva. They set out:

  • why they went to Geneva
  • what the experience was like
  • their expectations of next steps from Scottish Government and how they’d like us to engage children and young people in this
  • some ‘stand-out’ concluding observations that are important to children and young people

The children and young people (CYP) explained that they felt heard by the Committee, privileged to be there, and were cognisant of the responsibility of representing all children and young people. They reflected on the impact of having to take time out of their school schedule to attend during exam time and importance of the Committee visiting young people in their own space. They stated that they would like SG to inform CYP of how they will respond to the Concluding Observations and requested that there was more communication from SG in relation to important children’s rights issues.

LL noted that the Children’s Rights Unit had not yet communicated properly with CYP around the recent statement to Parliament and asked for views on how to better keep CYP informed moving forward.

Children’s Parliament suggested that while an open letter to CYP would be good, not all CYP would be aware of it. In order to extend the reach of communications it would be good if such information could be shared via schools and other organisations working with CYP.

DN noted that Scotland should be proud of the CYP who attended Geneva and that moving forward Governments need to engage with CYP on timescales for future reporting cycles to ensure things like exam pressures are taken into account. ID confirmed that Scotland was indeed proud of the role and influence of the CYP in Geneva as they were able to influence the Committee to include specific rights issues in their examination and the Concluding Observations.

All other business

The Children’s Rights Unit will be considering what the future role of SIB should be once the duties in the Bill commence and implementation support is in place. 

The board was originally convened in July 2021 to provide strategic and collaborative leadership for the three-year programme to implement the UNCRC and the provisions in the Bill. However, there will be more work to be done post July 2024 and we foresee a role for a board.

This would be a focus of a future SIB meeting but in the meantime, members were asked to make the secretariat aware of any thoughts on what should be included in the terms of reference for a post-implementation board.

The next meeting of the UNCRC Strategic Implementation Board will be held on Tuesday 26 September, 3:30pm – 5:30pm

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