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The Children & Young People (Scotland) Bill received Royal Assent on 27 March 2014. The Act's wide-ranging provisions will have implications for many of the services we inspect and regulate.
The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 is designed to further the Scottish Government's ambition for "Scotland to be the best place to grow up in by putting children and young people at the heart of planning and services and ensuring their rights are respected across the public sector". The Act’s key provisions, and related guidance, are detailed below.
Key documents related to the Bill’s passage include:
The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act:
- Places requirements on local authorities and health boards to prepare a three-year 'children's services plan' for each local authority area, reporting on this each year. These should be in place from April 2017, covering the period up to 2020.
- Establishes a 'Child’s Plan' for every child that is deemed to need one, to be prepared by the health board for pre-school children and the local authority for school-aged children.
- Establishes a 'Named Person' for every child up to age 18, to be provided by the health board for pre-school children and the local authority for school-aged children.
- Places a definition of 'wellbeing' on a statutory footing, referring to the SHANARRI indicators.
Getting It Right For Every Child
Designed to be threaded through all existing policy, practice, strategy and legislation affecting children, young people and their families, GIRFEC is founded on ten core components which can be applied in any setting and in any circumstance:
- A focus on improving outcomes for children, young people and their families based on a shared understanding of wellbeing
- A common approach to gaining consent and to sharing information where appropriate
- An integral role for children, young people and families in assessment, planning and intervention
- A co-ordinated and unified approach to identifying concerns, assessing needs, and agreeing actions and outcomes, based on the wellbeing Indicators
- Streamlined planning, assessment and decision-making processes that lead to the right help at the right time
- Consistent high standards of co-operation, joint working and communication where more than one agency needs to be involved, locally and across Scotland
- A Named Person for every child and young person, and a Lead Professional (where necessary) to co-ordinate and monitor multi-agency activity
- Maximising the skilled workforce within universal services to address needs and risks as early as possible
- A confident and competent workforce across all services for children, young people and their families
- The capacity to share demographic, assessment, and planning information - including electronically - within and across agency boundaries
The wellbeing of children and young people is at the heart of GIRFEC. The approach uses eight areas of wellbeing, SHANARRI indicators, which represent the basic requirements for all children and young people to grow and develop and reach their full potential:
The indicators are used to record observations, events and concerns and as an aid in putting together a child’s plan.
Named Person and Child's Plan
One of the Act’s main provisions is to introduce a Named Person for every child or young person, to "promote, support or safeguard” their wellbeing through a number of activities. More information on the planned role of the Named Person is available here.
Parts 4 and 5 of the Act, on the Named Person provision and the Child’s Plan, did not come into force as planned in August 2016 as a consequence of a UK Supreme Court judgment on information sharing aspects of Named Person and anticipated changes to the Act. In July 2016 the Scottish Government laid orders before Parliament in order to stop commencement of Parts 4 and 5.
In September 2016 the Scottish Government announced a three month period of engagement on the Named Person scheme. Practitioners who will undertake the role, those who support the policy and those with concerns were consulted as part of the Government's wider engagement work.
Other GIRFEC provisions
The Scottish Government has published statutory guidance on Part 3 (Children's Services Planning) which provides local authorities and health boards, working in partnership with other public bodies, with information and advice about how they should exercise the functions conferred by the Act. The guidance notes that compliance with the duties will be monitored in part through joint inspections of children’s services. Included in the appendices is information on the joint inspection process and the Care Inspectorate’s 10 Steps to Successful Children’s Services Planning.
An analysis of the consultation on Guidance on Children’s Rights (Part 1, section 2) and Children’s Services Planning (Part 3) is also available and the Scottish Government has responded to the issues raised.
Children and Young People (Information Sharing) (Scotland) Bill
In a speech to Parliament in March 2017, the Deputy First Minister John Swinney announced plans for a Scottish Government Bill to include new provisions around information sharing so as to comply with all data, confidentiality and human rights legislation.
The Children and Young People (Information Sharing) (Scotland) Bill was introduced on 19 June 2017. Under the proposals, Ministers are under a duty to issue a code of practice about the provision of information.
The Bill will also:
- introduce a duty on public and other services to consider if the sharing of information will promote, support or safeguard the wellbeing of a child or young person;
- bring consistency, clarity and coherence to the practice of sharing information about children’s and young people’s wellbeing across Scotland; and
- makes changes to Part 5 of the 2014 Act in order to keep the information sharing provisions of Parts 4 and 5 in alignment.
A Policy Update from the Scottish Government’s Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) team, published in July 2017, provides further detail on the implementation of both the 2014 Act and new information sharing Bill. It confirmed that all draft statutory guidance on Parts 4, 5 and 18 (section 96) of the Act would be revised and subject to consultation prior to commencement of the amended legislation. However, the substance of the draft statutory guidance on Parts 4, 5 and 18 (section 96) of the Act issued in December 2015, including on complaints procedures, was still believed to be reflective of the Scottish Government’s expectations in terms of the delivery of GIRFEC.
Views on the Bill were gathered by the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee. The Committee sought written evidence on any aspect of the Bill, including comments on the approach taken by the Scottish Government to address the recent Supreme Court ruling. The written evidence was published and the Committee gathered oral evidence from a range of stakeholders in Autumn 2017.
The Scottish Government’s SPICe Information Centre published two briefings on the Bill. One paper discusses possible themes for discussion with regards to the effectiveness of the proposed Bill and the other gives the results of a survey on the Code of Practice on information sharing. Around half (49%) agreed “to some extent” that the Code would “make it easier for me to decide whether to share information.” However, over three quarters (77%), agreed “a great deal” or “to some extent” that there should be further guidance provided by their organisation about when information can be shared.
In November 2017, the Scottish Government announced that an independent GIRFEC Practice Development Panel will be established to ensure the Code of Practice, published alongside the Children and Young People (Information Sharing) (Scotland) Bill, is “workable, comprehensive and user friendly”. Education Secretary John Swinney said the panel would ensure that the experience and expertise of practitioners will inform the Code through dialogue with other stakeholders. It was also confirmed that practical knowledge of information sharing in children’s services and wider public sector will be the basis for the final Code of Practice and supporting guidance. The announcement was made by Mr Swinney as he appeared before the Scottish Parliament’s Education Committee to answer questions on the draft Bill. He also told MSPs that further financial resources will be required to assist the implementation of the legislation, and stakeholders will be consulted on the detail of a “multiyear approach” to funding as the Bill proceeds.
The Education and Skills Committee wrote to the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, John Swinney, in November 2017 with an update on the Children and Young People (Information Sharing) (Scotland) Bill at Stage 1. The letter warns that the Committee could not yet make a decision on whether to recommend that the general principles of the Bill be approved at Stage 1. The letter calls on the Scottish Government to provide the Committee with an “authoritative draft” of the Code of Practice on information sharing.
The Cabinet Secretary responded to the letter commenting that he does not believe a delay to the Stage 1 process is necessary. He also warned that a new draft Code of Practice will not be available until September 2018 at the earliest due to consultation arrangements.
In December 2017, the Scottish Parliament approved a motion to remove the Stage 1 deadline for the Bill.
The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act:
- Places new duties on Scottish ministers and the wider public sector in relation to the rights of children set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in influencing the design and delivery of policies and services.
- Strengthens the powers of the Scottish Children and Young People's Commissioner to enable investigations to be conducted in relation to individual children and young people.
Part 1 of the Act places a duty on a range of public authorities (including the Care Inspectorate) to report, “as soon as practicable” after the end of each 3 year period, on the steps they have taken to secure better or further effect of the requirements of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Scottish Government guidance provides information and advice about how bodies should fulfil the duties and seeks to establish best practice in relation to implementation.
Early Learning and Childcare
The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act:
- Increases provision of mandatory 'early learning and childcare' to 600 hours per year for each eligible child, from August 2014. (Eligibility will include, via regulations, all three and four year olds and looked after two year olds or those in families seeking work. This will be expanded to two year olds in families eligible for free school meals from August 2015.)
- Places duties on local authorities to consult and plan on delivery of early education and childcare once every two years, to ensure flexibility to meet parents’ needs and to also consult and plan in relation to day care and out of school care once every two years.
The Scottish Government has published Statutory Guidance for education authorities in relation to Part 6 (Early Learning and Childcare) of the Act.
The Scottish Government has also published National Practice Guidance on Early Learning and Childcare. 'Building the Ambition' sets the context for high quality early learning and childcare as set out in the Act and aims to support practitioners by looking at the "key areas which make a difference to a child's early learning and childcare experiences and the important role that practitioners play".
A report which draws together the available information on financing the early learning and childcare system in Scotland, focussing on provision of the funded entitlement to 600 hours, is also available. The report provides an overview on the costs and expenditure of providing the funded entitlement, using data collections from local government together with the private and non-for-profit sectors.
Children in Scotland was appointed by the Scottish Government as part of the team managing a new programme of trials in Scotland and is working with secondees from local government and Scottish Government officials. The trials, carried out by local authorities and their partners, will provide insight into which are the most effective models for expanding provision of early learning and childcare entitlement at national level.
In October 2016 the Scottish Government announced its plans to increase the early learning and childcare entitlement to 1,140 hours per year by 2020.
Further information on this topic can be found in the Early Years and Childcare Policy Portal.
Looked After Children and Young People
The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act:
- Establishes a list of public bodies to become 'Corporate Parents' and a definition of what that entails.
- Establishes 'continuing care', allowing looked after young people to stay in their placement beyond the age of 16. (This commitment will apply up to the age of 21 from 2015 and is to be considered by a working group to determine how best to take forward).
- Extends the age up to which care leavers can request support ('aftercare') from local authorities from 21 to 26.
- Places a duty on local authorities to provide services to families with children at risk of becoming looked after, including information, advice and counselling.
- Provides additional support for kinship carers, including a 'kinship care order' and duties on local authorities to provide counselling, advice and financial assistance.
- Puts Scotland‘s National Adoption Register on a statutory footing.
The Scottish Government has published Statutory Guidance for Part 9 (Corporate Parenting) of the Act. The guidance provides information and advice about how corporate parents should fulfil the duties set out in Part 9 (Corporate Parenting) of the Act, which came into force on 1 April 2015.
Guidance has been issued by the Scottish Government on Part 10 (Aftercare) for managers and practitioners, working with looked after children and care leavers, and Part 11 (Continuing Care) outlining the new provision of continuing care.
The Scottish Government has also published guidance on Part 12 (Services in relation to Children at Risk of Becoming Looked After). It is non-statutory guidance which is split into two sections. The first sets out the legal framework that the guidance operates under. The second section describes the relevant services and the persons who must be provided with those services. The guidance aims to support frontline practitioners, managers and strategic leaders who support the children and families facing adversities.
The Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland (CELCIS) published a series of briefings on aftercare and continuing care, corporate parenting and services in relation to children at risk of becoming looked after.
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