UNCRC Strategic Implementation Board minutes: March 2024

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 26 March 2024.

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

  • Margo Williamson, SOLACE
  • Helen Fogarty, Social Security Scotland
  • ACC David Duncan, Police Scotland
  • Norma Ruettiman, Care and Learning Alliance
  • Craig Morris, Care Inspectorate
  • Laura Pasternak, Who Cares? Scotland

Items and actions

Welcome and apologies

Andrew Watson (AW) welcomed the Board. Apologies were given for those not in attendance.

Minutes and actions from previous meeting

Andrew to invite Dean to provide an update on the minutes and actions from the previous meeting.

Minutes were circulated on 6 February 2024. No amendment requests have been received from members. Once minutes have gone through the relevant clearance process with SGLD they will be published on the group page.

There were five actions raised at the January meeting as follows:

  • Future highlight reports to include a list of project that have been delivered.
  • LS to check what is possible in terms of the disaggregation of consultation responses and to confirm if a child friendly  version of the analysis will be available.
  • LS to email SIB when the consultation process is live.
  • PG to share documents that will inform the ‘Pathways Publication’
  • LL to consider how the highlight report could make clear which actions were addressing risks in the risk register

All actions have now been closed as detailed within the action tracker circulated on 19 March 2024.

Highlight Report

The programme Highlight Report was shared with members on 19 March 2024 and sets out progress against previous activities, upcoming priorities for the next 2 months and the current status of deliverables associated with the implementation programme. Members were asked to consider this report ahead of the meeting. Projects that have now been delivered have been moved to a new section of the report for completed projects as previously agreed.

Amendments to the UNCRC Act

Liz will explain 4 amendments that we are hoping to make the UNCRC Act to strengthen legal coherence and practical operation. These are:

  1. Restricting the application of section 8 of the Act in cases where a criminal court has determined that the decision to prosecute a child was incompatible with the UNCRC requirements. The proposal is that the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service should be given the opportunity to reconsider its decision to prosecute, in a UNCRC compliant way, before the court considers whether it's necessary to desert the case.
  2. Reducing the frequency with which Scottish Ministers need to review and consider new actions for the Children’s Rights Scheme. (Already highlighted to SIB at Nov and Jan meetings)
  3. Limiting the requirement to undertake CRIWAs and make statements of compatibility to legislation (public Bills and SSIs) “of relevance” to children's rights and wellbeing. This would include excluding temporary road orders made under the road traffic legislation from both requirements.
  4. Adding an exemption to the compatibility duty where either: the Scottish legislative provision that confers a duty on a public authority cannot be read in a way that’s compliant with the UNCRC requirements; or where the function conferred by the provision must be delivered in an incompatible way.

Together, UNICEF UK, CYPCS and SHRC have been made aware in writing and given the opportunity to provide feedback, which we are still awaiting.

Support for public authorities on commencement

Lyndsey will provide an update on ongoing work to support public authority readiness for commencement. 

The main focus of her update will be a summary of the support provided to date by the Improvement Service to Local Authorities and the NHS Education for Scotland (NES) support to health boards.  This will provide an overall sense of readiness in relation to the two largest public authority sectors.

Lyndsey will also give a brief update on the Skills and Knowledge Framework – where we have had some concerns about the framework and training plan being ready for sign-off before the end of the initial contract period (end March 2024). We have initiated an optional contract extension. This extension can run for up to 6 months, to ensure that the outputs fully meet the objectives and meet publication standards. [The Team are in regular contact with JRS Knowhow as the contract period draws to a close and have just received what should be final versions of the products – we will update this brief once we have had a chance to consider].  [In addition the Team have been in discussion with SG digital about hosting the products.  We may require to go out to tender – Lyndsey may refer to at SIB dependent on discussions – the brief will be updated]  Any update will need to be handled sensitively as Together are one of the partners taking forward the project.

Lyndsey will also update on progress around consultation on the draft statutory guidance – procurement of consultation analysis and engagement with children and young people

Exploring gaps and barriers in the pathway to remedy

Paul will provide an update of the work to map and strengthen advocacy provision and set out future plans to explore gaps and barriers to seeking remedy for a rights issue.  

He’ll explain that while there does seem to be specific advocacy support across Scotland for children and young people experiencing particular challenges in their lives, general advocacy support for all children and young people is not available in all local authorities. Before we can make recommendations about further investment in general advocacy provision it will be important to establish whether and to what extent there is an unmet demand for this.

Rather than focusing on advocacy provision in isolation we propose that the next phase of our investigation focuses on the whole ‘pathway to remedy’. The aim would be to develop our understanding of CYP’s experience of raising rights issues (formally and informally) to identify if and where they encounter barriers and gaps in support and how CYP and their families could be better supported to claim their rights. This could be through: better information and advice to the adults in the child’s life who provide informal advocacy; service providers being better equipped to respond when a concern is first expressed to them; more accessible and better informed formal advocacy provision;  complaints processes that are more child-friendly; and/or easier access to legal and professional advice.

Children’s Rights Unit Business Plan

A draft of the CRU business plan for 2024/25 was provided in the papers for the meeting. It sets out what the Children’s Rights Unit propose to deliver as well as what it hopes to fund partner organisations to deliver in the coming financial year. Liz will introduce this item. We’ll ask members to read this in advance and to come to SIB ready to provide feedback. (There’s unlikely to be time for us to walk them through the plan in the meeting.)

The business plan has not yet been cleared by Ms Don and so we will make that clear. The intention in sharing it with SIB is to invite feedback to help us refine it in advance of it going to the minister and/or to highlight to the minister where there’s any difference in opinion between the CRU and SIB about what work should be taken forward.

Although the draft indicates who we’d like to fund and for what purpose, it doesn’t provide the value of funding and makes clear that this is ‘subject to budget’. We’ll emphasise that the programme budget has not yet been finalised.

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