UNCRC Strategic Implementation Board minutes: November 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 22 November 2022.

Attendees and apologies

Attendees, members of the Board

  • Gina Wilson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland (CYCPS)
  • Laura-Ann Currie on behalf of Gayle Gorman, Education Scotland
  • Maxine Jolly on behalf of Gayle Gorman, Education Scotland
  • Jennifer Davidson, Institute for Inspiring Children’s Futures
  • Laura Pasternak, Coalition of Care and Support Providers (CCPS)
  • Dragan Nastic, UNICEF
  • Juliet Harris, Together Scotland
  • Des Murray, SOLACE
  • Rebekah Cameron-Berry, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)
  • Clare Simpson, Parenting Across Scotland
  • Chloe Riddell, The Promise Scotland
  • Katy Kelman on behalf of Kay McCorquodale, Scottish Courts and Tribunal Services

Attendees, Scottish Government

  • Michael Chalmers (Chair), Director for Children and Families
  • Andrew Preston, UNCRC Programme Assistant
  • Carola Eyber, Embedding Children’s Rights in Public Services team
  • Liz Levy, Children’s Rights Joint Unit Head
  • Lyndsey Saki, Embedding Children’s Rights in Public Services Programme Lead
  • Nicola Hughes, Children’s Rights Joint Unit Head
  • Paul Gorman, Empowered Children and Young People Lead
  • Shona Spence, UNCRC Bill Lead
  • Amy Kerr, SGLD
  • Caroline McMenemy, Empowered Children and Young People team


  • Colin Morrison, Children’s Parliament

Apologies, members of the Board

  • Gayle Gorman, Education Scotland
  • Laura Caven, COSLA
  • Ben Farrugia, Social Work Scotland
  • Victoria Morton, SGLD
  • Rachel Nicholson, SGLD
  • David Wallace, Social Security Scotland
  • Michael Cameron, Scottish Housing Regulator
  • Angela Leitch, Public Health Scotland
  • Gayle Devlin, Social Security Scotland
  • Kay McCorquodale, Scottish Courts and Tribunal Services
  • Donna MacLean, Healthcare Improvement Scotland
  • Gary Ritchie, Police Scotland
  • Norma Ruettimann, Care and Learning Alliance (CALA)
  • Craig Morris, Care Inspectorate
  • Richmond Davies, Public Health Scotland

Items and actions

Welcome and apologies

Michael Chalmers (MC) welcomed Colin Morrison from Children’s Parliament to the meeting as guest for item four and noted that Laura-Ann Currie and Maxine Jolly were attending on behalf of Gayle Gorman, Education Scotland.

Minutes and actions from last meeting

The draft minutes of the meeting on 25 October 2022 were shared with Board members on the 3 November 2022. No amendments were requested at that time and a final version was shared with the papers for this meeting.

Liz Levy (LL) highlighted to Dragan Nastic (DN) that she had recorded, in the final version, his comment that it was essential to make adequate time for engagement with the UK Government on the draft amendments to the Bill. He confirmed that he was comfortable with that amendment.

No further comments have been received on the minutes since they were issued so they can now be published on the SIB webpage.

The action tracker, sent out with the with papers for this meeting, listed five actions which are all in hand.

DN asked if the Scottish Position Statement had been shared with the UN Committee. LL explained that the unit are engaging with the UK Government on this to make sure they don’t have any objections to us doing this.

Juliet Harris (JH) provided an update on her action via the chat function about her meeting with the Chief Economist which had taken place a few weeks ago. That resulted in them both taking part in a panel discussion at the Children in Scotland conference with other Together members. They are continuing to work together to bring together stakeholders working on human rights, wellbeing, participatory and gender budgeting and will meet again soon to discuss next steps. JH will also meet with the SG Centre for Expertise in Equalities and Human Rights about how they can work together.

The monthly highlight report was issued with the papers. Members were asked to submit any questions in the chat function so that they could be addressed under AOB if time permitted, and if not, by email after the meeting.

LL highlighted the publication on 18 November 2022 of the Scottish Position Statement on Embedding Children's Rights and an accompanying child-friendly version and provided an update on plans to celebrate World Children’s Day.

The unit had hoped to shine a spotlight on some of the achievements in the Scottish Position Statement through a series of tweets and blogs between now and Human Rights Day on the 10 of December 2022. However, the Digital team advised that the material that had been prepared wasn’t suitable for blog format. Unexpected staff absence meant that there was insufficient capacity to rework the material, and clear it with relevant policy areas.

In the week preceding World Children's Day, the unit:

  • used the Scottish Government Participation blog to highlight examples of how children and young people and their families are participating in the UNCRC implementation programme
  • published guidance on UNCRC for parents and carers on the Parent Club website
  • launched an animation for children and young people that illustrates how they can enforce and defend their rights

Young Scot also ran their social media campaign to help raise awareness of the UNCRC and on World Children's Day, the Minister for Children and Young People wrote a message to children and young people to: emphasise the Scottish Government’s continued commitment to children’s rights; tell them about the progress we’re making to deliver their rights and to thank them for the part that they play in making human rights real in Scotland.

Update on the Bill

Shona Spence (SS) set out how work in relation to Reconsideration Stage of the UNCRC Bill continues. We are continuing to engage with the Parliament’s Legislation Team and the UK Government over the admissibility of the draft amendments. UK Government lawyers are asking appropriate questions in relation to the approach being taken and we are continuing to engage with them. At this stage we do not know if they are broadly content that the amendments to bring the Bill within legislative competence but they are actively considering draft amendments with questions becoming more specific and technical. SS noted we don’t have a specific timeline yet but a lot of work is being carried out in the children’s rights sphere.

We can’t say whether the amended Bill be will be presented to Parliament before the end of the year but everything is being done that can be in the meantime to prepare.

Gina Wilson (GW) expressed disappointment about the delay. MC explained that there is a delicate balance to be struck between proceeding at pace and allowing adequate time to allow the UK Government to establish if they have any remaining concerns so that we can avoid another referral to the Supreme Court.

Children’s Parliament presentation

Colin Morrison (CM) from the Children’s Parliament (CP) outlined how they are supporting the realisation of children’s rights by: demonstrating a children’s human rights approach in practice; influencing national legislation, policy and practice; working with individuals, organisations and public bodies to build their capacity to support the realisation of children’s rights and helping to drive cultural change across civil society to create a nation that values children and realises their human rights.

He mentioned the Dignity in Schools work (funded by the Gordon Cook Foundation) as an example of how they are supporting system change and their role (along with others) in delivering the UNCRC Skills and Knowledge Framework and Training Plan as an example of how they’re helping to build capacity. They have also been helping to ensure that child’s lived experience helps to shape policy response by, for example, supporting children to share their experience of the harm caused by alcohol to inform the Scottish Government’s alcohol marketing consultation.

CM suggested that the SIB might want to consider the following questions:

  • is there sufficient awareness about who has a role in winning ‘hearts and minds’ to deliver a cultural change about children’s rights across society and in government?
  • do we need to co-create a social marketing campaign to win national hearts and minds?
  • is there a sufficient sense of urgency about making public authorities aware of their duties?
  • are we placing a disproportionate focus on consultation/participation with children and young people, especially when that can sometimes be tokenistic?
  • how do we build coaching and mentoring so that practitioners understand how to work with children and young people in ways that evidence kindness and empathy, that build trust and are grounded in the core idea of human dignity?
  • how does a rights-based approach take us beyond what we’d be doing anyway? The CP view is that the position statement certainly outlines a lot of very positive work that is being developed and delivered to ensure a good childhood

Maxine Jolly highlighted that the Education Reform Programme could be an opportunity to genuinely embed a children’s rights approach.

Action: Liz Levy to discuss with Maxine Jolly how we might capture the Education Reform Programme as a mechanism for embedding a children’s rights approach as a case study.

Clare Simpson asked CM what we’d need to change to deliver a genuine transformational change and JH asked what we need to do to ensure that a children’s rights perspective frames policy development from the outset. CM noted that the Theory of Change gives a plan to achieve transformational change and sets out what this could look like.

CM, who sits on the Education Council, has ensured a focus on article 29 (about what aspects of children’s development should be supported by education) as part of education reform.

JH invited the group to reflect on what more we as the SIB can do to ensure a child’s rights-based approach is fully embedded.

Jennifer Davidson (JD) highlighted that dignity is also at the heart of adult human rights. She also highlighted that training, coaching and mentoring and the selection of staff are key in terms of changing how children are treated by the workforce. In response to CM’s prompt about meaningful participation, she asked what a more strategic approach could look like. CM reflected that participation should be meaningful and always build on what we’ve learned from previous engagement.

GW asked whether Scottish Government (SG) is considering children’s rights in the context of difficult budget decisions that are having to be taken across government currently. LL noted that recent awareness raising on UNCRC incorporation with Directors’ Networks should have sharpened the focus on children’s rights in strategic decision-making. Nicola Hughes (NH) highlighted that CRWIAs are well adopted across SG and should also be sharpening that focus. GW expressed concern about a gap between aspiration and experience (how resource is allocated) and suggested that we come back to this at a future meeting.

Chloe Riddell raised the importance of the child rights-based approach when looking at support for families with the cost of living crisis. She suggested that links be made between the SIB and the Collective Leadership Group/National Leadership Group, through a joint meeting for example, as UNCRC is a priority area for the group as is the importance of making clearer connections across policy areas. Michael shared that UNCRC will become a priority for the Children and Families National Leadership Group (previously the Collective Leadership Group).

Parts 2 and 3 guidance

Carola Eyber (CE) provided an overview of the production process for statutory guidance for Part 2 and 3 of the Bill. The main aim of the guidance is to provide information to duty-bearers on how to review if their policies and functions are compatible with the UNCRC requirements under section 6 (Part 2 of the Bill), and to clarify the reporting duty under section 15 (Part 3 of the Bill). The guiding principles of the guidance are that they should meet diverse needs of public authorities (PAs) and therefore need to be generic enough to achieve this. In addition, they should be accessible, user-friendly and clear to enable duty-bearers to understand the new duties under the Bill.

To assist in the process of developing the guidance, a Guidance Subgroup was established in March, drawn predominantly from self-nominations from the Embedding Child Rights in Public Services Group (formerly known as the Reference Group). CE noted the main remit of this group is to provide comments, advice and feedback in terms of content, accessibility and user-friendliness. The Guidance Subgroup has met seven times so far this year, and the Terms Of Reference and minutes can be found here. The Guidance subgroup has seen drafts of some sections of Part 2 Guidance and is due to receive an early draft of Part 3 Guidance for review in its December meeting.

CE shared the draft table of contents of Part 2 and Part 3 Guidance with the SIB and made herself available to answer any questions about the content or process at any point via email.

Susan Revie (SR) gave an update on the plans for consultation on the guidance.

We have a duty under the Bill to consult on the statutory guidance, and certain groups must be included in this. SR stated that the purpose of this is to seek views from children, PAs and stakeholders on how useful the content is for supporting PAs with new duties and for strengthening a child rights-based approach. We will aim to promote and encourage joint responses where possible. We had previously explored doing a targeted approach to consultation by only inviting responses from specific bodies, however we are now planning to make it an open consultation to ensure no feedback is missed. In terms of engaging children and young people (CYP), we are planning to engage a range of groups which support a broadly representative cross section of CYP, including parents of younger children.

For the stakeholder consultation, we plan to share a near final draft of the guidance and questions through an online platform. We hope sharing a full draft rather than plans or an outline will ensure feedback is as comprehensive as possible, and strengthen the final published version. We will set it up so that if stakeholders only wish to comment on one section or aspect they are able to do so. For the CYP consultation, we will ask external organisations to facilitate sessions with CYP, providing them with a topic guide which sets out key messages with the guidance and discussion prompts.

Consultation will be launched as soon as possible after the Bill receives Royal Assent. It will be open for 12 weeks – this is standard/best practice. In terms of the work to analyse and incorporate the feedback, we’re estimating this will take three to four months, but this is very dependent on the volume and depth of responses. The aim is to publish Part 2 guidance before commencement of section 6 duties, but we cannot guarantee this.

Along with the publication, we will also respond to the consultation findings via a report and this will clarify where changes have been made and if and why any feedback could not be addressed.

Laura Pasternak (LP) asked if there will be separate guidance in relation to commissioning and procurement. The part 2 guidance will cover contracting out generally and the Children’s Right Scheme will also set out how Scottish Government procedures around procurement and grant management will protect the rights of children in relation to their interactions with persons, other than public authorities, who provide services which affect children.

Maxine Jolly highlighted that support is needed for teachers to understand that rights are separate from responsibilities as there is still a culture persisting that rights only follow when children are behaving responsibly and rights and responsibilities are closely linked in current guidance on Curriculum for Excellence.

The participation of children aged 1-14

This item was added to the agenda at the request of the Children’s Rights Observatory. Paul Gorman (PG) gave an overview of how children aged 1-14 have participated in the development of the UNCRC programme.

The strategic actions included in the 2021 Action Plan reflect the views expressed by children and young people during the 2019 consultation in relation to the UNCRC Bill. Many of the projects within the programme were developed with participation from children e.g. Rights Right Now, the Theory of Change and the animation. There will also be consultation with children on the Children Rights Scheme and the statutory guidance. Children are involved in the Cabinet and Executive team Take-Overs. These are a series of meetings where children have a forum to express views freely – this model offers a strategic framework. We fund to two key stakeholders who ensure Children are connected and aware of the implementation programme: Children’s Parliament and Together.

The main mechanism for children’s engagement in the programme is the Consortium. Rights Right Now was highly successful in ensuring children were participating in the UNCRC programme and connected to the SIB. All the learning from the final report is being absorbed into current participation work and future planning for the main Consortium. Without the main Consortium in place it has been harder to ensure children are participating at a strategic level in the implementation.  However, we are engaging with Procurement colleagues to get that commissioned. PG committed to updating SIB to explain how the main consortium will strengthen engagement with 1 – 14 year olds and support policy officials to engage meaningfully.

PG also set out how we are ensuring that there’s accessible guidance on engaging 1-14 year olds.

It is our intention, through partnerships working, to create National Participation Guidance to support the Scottish Government’s Participation Framework.  This Guidance would support those looking to engage with people in participatory processes throughout all stages of their lives. The Open Government team, who are leading this work, understand the importance of ensuring that infants, children, and young people are included.

We understand the specific skillset that is needed to engage with children under 14 and there are a variety of resources for those looking to engage with this age group at our main participation resource. The ‘Voice of the Infant Best Practice Guidance’ and the CRWIA resource, Unsure about how to involve children in decision-making? This new guide is for you - The Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland (cypcs.org.uk), will be added. PG invited suggestions for additional resources that could be included.

Next year we will publish new internal Guidance for Policy Makers on Participation and Consultation which will distinguish between different approaches when working with infants, children, and young people. The learning from the Rights Right Now report will be absorbed into this guidance. 

The resource created by the Scottish Youth Parliament, ‘The Right Way’, was designed by young people for policy makers to support them to meaningfully engage with children and young people. There are some key underlying principles that are not defined by age but the website will also be explicit in stating the need to adopt different approaches to engagement dependent on age and will be able to offer a signpost back to our Decision Making page.  

JH clarified that Rights Right Now was a time limited project that took place during the pandemic, so it didn’t include any face to face engagement. The concerns raised through the Observatory about a lack of participation with 1-14 year olds came from Rights Right Now participants. JH welcomed the range of participatory work taking place but shared that there is still a worry that hosting documents on the Youth Parliament website and undertaking awareness raising work with Young Scot excludes younger children.

LP commented that although great guidance exists, seeing that commitment to meaningfully engaging CYP in practice still needs more work. Mainstreaming this practice across SG is essential.

Feedback on Evaluation and Monitoring Framework

LL thanked members for their written feedback on the monitoring and evaluation paper that was shared at the September meeting. A revised paper was issued with the papers for this meeting.

Comments were supportive of making the approach manageable. There was general agreement that, rather than seeking to identify indicators for each of the rights in the UNCRC, a more efficient and manageable approach would be to identify where there are concerns from the children's rights sector about the fulfilment of specific rights.

The Improvement Service who were also invited to comment were very positive about the suggested collaborative approach to working with partners to identify where and how children's rights are not being fulfilled.

Where we've identified, through that engagement, the rights that are being breached recurringly, there was support for the trying to developing indicators on those.

There was some brief discussion about whether we want to frame that as the start of a gradual approach that, would in time, result in the development of indicators for all of the rights or to be more cautious about that. DN highlighted that feedback from the UN Committee in May would help to assess expectation around that. JH suggested that we make a clear distinction between structural, process and outcome indicators.

If we’re focusing on identifying recurring issues that are already on the radar of children's rights sector, we need to be careful not to overlook the experiences of more marginalised groups of children who may not be as vocal at raising their concerns. LL had attempted to capture that risk in the revised paper and suggest mitigations. She invited suggestions about anything else we should be doing to make sure we don't overlook particular groups of children. 

LL had tried to make clearer in the paper that there was no suggestion that the core wellbeing indicators in the Children, Young People and Families Outcomes Framework could be used a substitute or proxy indicator of rights. The intention is to use them to help assess whether the sum of collective actions is improving outcomes for children and families.

There was support for using case studies to explore the extent to which children's rights are being considered in policy making and driving decisions. As well as allowing us to evaluate the implementation, it would provide us with useful learning to share across the wider system and hopefully highlight positive progress.

Finally, LL asked if the recommendations went far enough to support our policy aims of giving better and further effect to children's rights. Members suggested that the issues discussed require a substantial slot at a future SIB meeting in order for a fuller discussion to take place.

Action: LL to set up a sub-group to take this forward and to invite Dragan Nastic, Jennifer Davidson, Juliet Harris and Laura Pasternak and bring the paper back for a more substantial discussion after that.

Any other business

The Board agreed to meet again before Christmas on 20 December.

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