Section Two: Part Three - Children's Services Planning
Part Three of the Act relates to children's services planning and seeks to improve outcomes for all children and young people in Scotland by ensuring that local planning and delivery of services is integrated, focused on securing quality and value through preventative approaches, and dedicated to safeguarding, supporting, and promoting child wellbeing. To this end, Part Three guidance sets out a legal (statutory) framework for children's services' planning, including its scope and aims.
Seven questions were asked about Part Three of the guidance. The questions examined key concepts within the guidance including: the purpose and objectives (1); the roles and responsibilities of different public agencies (2); consultation of the plans and the associated process (3); the clarity of key terms (4 and 5); the links between Part Three duties and other planning requirements (6); and, any other comments (7). Five of the questions (1, 2, 3, 4 and 5) also invited suggestions for further improvement or changes.
On the whole, the guidance for Part Three was well received. Many respondents commented that it was clear and welcomed the collaborative approach outline, but did raise concerns around how it will work in practice. In particular, the role of smaller and third sector organisations in service planning was seen positively but concerns regarding capacity and potential neglect were raised. The recurring theme of engaging with children and young people in consultation was also replicated. Additionally, a number of respondents provided suggestions for improvements and changes to enhance the guidance. Each question will now be discussed in turn.
Is the guidance sufficiently clear about the purpose and objectives of Part Three? How could this be improved?
Forty-six responses were submitted to this first question regarding Part Three of the guidance. Thirty-seven respondents considered the guidance to be sufficiently clear around its purpose and objectives. All of the public bodies who responded  and all but one of the local government respondents deemed the guidance was clear. Whereas, the third sector responses were more mixed, with only marginally more finding the guidance clear on Part Three's purpose and objectives. Of the 37 responses, 31 provided additional comments. Details of the responses are shown in Table 7.
Table 7: Question One response breakdown
|Yes||No||To an extent ||Not answered||Comments|
Many of the commenters:
- Felt the guidance was clear (14 mentions).
- Welcomed the flexibility (3 mentions), although one commenter also cautioned this over the need for consistency across local authorities.
- Felt the guidance was explicit (2 mentions).
- Felt the guidance was useful (2 mentions).
- Thought there was an appropriate level of detail (2 mentions).
A small number of commenters however found the guidance to be jargon-laden (1 mention), challenging (1 mention), and overly explicit and instructive (1 mention).
Five commenters felt more was needed to incorporate children and young people's role in the development and production of plans to ensure that their voices were heard. Children in Scotland stated that this involvement was "largely absent throughout the guidance for Part 3, as the first mention of children and young people's participation is not until paragraph 120 and at that, it is vague in its meaning". One commenter did welcome the duty to publish the children's services plans in appropriate formats to make them accessible to all. These are both recurring themes in the consultation.
Furthermore, five commenters wished to see increased attention in Part Three of the guidance to children's rights and outcomes associated with it. As one organisation stated: "there is a need to be more specific about the role of children's services planning in relation to different aspects of UNCRC". Youthlink Scotland also said that: "it is important that Part 1 does not sit in isolation, but rather that child rights permeate the thinking, approach and implementation of all parts of the Act". Similar to this, Police Scotland feared that if the guidance for Part Three is viewed in isolation it could narrow the focus towards outputs rather than outcomes.
Further comments regarding improvements covered a range of topics:
- A need to link the guidance to other reporting and planning legislation  (4 mentions). A recurring theme throughout the consultation.
- Concerns that the timescales put forward will be challenging to meet (3 mentions), specifically in terms of how it links (or fails to link) to other planning timescales.
- The guidance will require cultural and practice changes at the level of service planning which could prove difficult (2 mentions).
- Play is not mentioned as a service within the guidance, which should be amended (2 mentions).
- Concerns regarding missing data on those with disabilities and how they will be captured accurately within the plans (1 mention).
- A need to highlight transitions as a key aspect of children's services planning (1 mention).
Is the guidance clear about the roles and responsibilities of different public agencies with respect to Part Three duties? How could this be improved?
Forty-five responses were received regarding this question, with 31 responding that the guidance was clear. All of the health boards considered the guidance to be clear about the different roles and responsibilities contained in Part Three duties. Similarly all but one of the local government respondents agreed. The local partnership and third sector responses demonstrated more mixed views of the guidance. Details of the responses are shown in Table 8.
Table 8: Question Two response breakdown
|Yes||No||To an extent ||Not answered||Comments|
Seven of the commenters found the guidance around the roles and responsibilities to be clear (7 mentions), with Appendix B (a list of the duties outlined in Part Three by person(s) and organisations; page 78) and the interpretation of frequently used terms (page 4) being particularly useful and clear (2 mentions each). Two commenters felt that it was a major step forward to see services working together with the focus of improving children and young people's wellbeing.
However, more detail and clarity was sought regarding how public agencies should engage with children, young people and their families in the process of developing and reporting on Children's Services Plans, including their obligation to do so (6 mentions). One third sector organisation felt that children, young people and their families voices should be front and centre in the creation and implementation of the plans, as well as incorporating those with additional needs and vulnerabilities. This replicates other comments from throughout the consultation. The Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland also reflected that there was a lack of detail around parental involvement in service consultation and planning.
Two commenters felt that the guidance needed further definitions and supporting guidance or practical notes to ensure a full understanding. Concerns were also raised regarding the potential disparity around implementing the guidance across all local authorities and health boards (2 mentions), with one respondent reflecting that this may lead to a postcode lottery:
"If local authorities and health boards are left to make their own determination as to whether such important services have an impact on children's wellbeing a postcode lottery of service provision could result, with very different impacts for children in differing geographic areas". (Children 1st and Barnardo's Scotland)
A number of commenters provided suggestions for improvements to the guidance:
- Add a list of public agencies and named partners and their specific roles and responsibilities (3 mentions).
- Baseline information needs to be provided or supported to enable measurement of progress and directions of travel (3 mentions). This was a recurring theme across the consultation.
- Rather repetitive and could be made more succinct (2 mentions).
- More detail is required on accountability of local authorities and health boards (2 mentions).
- Provide more examples around the involvement of national organisations and their roles (2 mentions).
- Would benefit from further details around planning at transitions (1 mention).
- More education for other professionals e.g. GPs and AHPs around the content of the guidance (1 mention).
- Guidance is unclear about the relationship between public agencies and third sector bodies in the delivery of services to children (1 mention) and in terms of wider working (1 mention).
- Helpful to have a simplification of overlapping national policy requirements (1 mention, again, a recurring theme across the consultation).
- Planning should focus on improving outcomes and wellbeing, rather than simply aiming to promote wellbeing which seems less ambitious (1 mention)
- To highlight the roles and responsibilities of different public agencies perhaps use three headings: universal provision for children; targeted interventions for children; and related services (1 mention).
With respect to the duty on local authorities and relevant health boards to consult in preparation of a Children's Services plan, is the guidance clear about the process which should be undertaken? How could this be improved?
There were 47 responses to this question. Twenty-nine respondents considered the guidance to be clear on the process of consulting in preparing children's services plans, 18, however, disagreed.
All of the health boards, except one, considered the guidance to be clear. Additionally all but two of the local government respondents agreed. The local partnership and third sector responses demonstrated more mixed views of the guidance, with more disagreeing on the clarity of the guidance. Thirty-six respondents provided comments and suggestions for improvements, and 11 did not answer the question. Details of the responses are shown in the table below  .
Table 9: Question Three response breakdown
Six commenters found the guidance to be clear, three commenters welcomed the space for creativity in consultation and engagement. One commenter found it helpful to suggest aligning consultation activity. Other comments praised particular areas of the guidance, including Appendix D containing further information and guidance (2 mentions) and the four-step process in section 8 (1 mention). However, two comments found that more explicit language and greater clarity is needed. One commenter felt the guidance was too prescriptive in this regard.
Of significant note, fifteen commenters considered more was needed to be done to ensure children, young people and their families were involved and engaged in the process of producing plans. Many of these commenters considered the guidance to be weak and should instead be more explicit and emphasised further (13 mentions). For example, Glasgow City Children's Services stated: "more emphasis should be placed on engagement with children and young people and how they can influence the plan". These responses came from a range of respondents across all categories and again replicated comments from across the consultation. Similarly, four commenters felt that a range of services users and organisations should be consulted to ensure community participation.
Other concerns raised included:
- More guidance on the reporting structure and how national agencies fit in to local (potentially very different) plans (4 mentions).
- Concerns around timescales associated with consultation (2 mentions).
- Concerns of consultation fatigue (2 mentions) and the long-term resource implications of ensuring sustaining real engagement with children and young people and families (1 mention).
- Insufficient information regarding issues surrounding consent and parental opting out of the support which could compromise a child or young person's wellbeing (1 mention). A repeated concern from Part One (section two) guidance.
- Concerns over how statutory agencies will take on their consultation duties and whether they will listen to and incorporate the views of third sector organisations (2 mentions).
- Concerned that the plans and process of development is not future proofed (2 mentions).
- Would like to see comprehensive reports and plans, and not simply vague statements of intent or practice (1 mention).
- More direction is needed on how to take account of different communities within each community planning area to ensure plans address varying local needs (1 mention) and concern for how this will be implemented (1 mention).
Many of the suggestions provided to improve the guidance around duties to consult have been mentioned, others included:
- More emphasis should be placed on involving Third Sector Interfaces to aid in mapping local children's services and to ensure collaboration with third sector organisations (4 mentions).
- Examples would be welcomed on best practice (3 mentions, all third sector organisations).
- More links with the Community Empowerment Act and other relevant legislation (3 mentions). A repeated theme throughout the consultation.
- Include, in the appendix, a visual diagram or flowchart of the development process which should be undertaken (3 mentions).
- Would like to see summary and accessible versions of the plan throughout the development process and draft plans made available (1 mention).
- Consider cross referencing aspects of this guidance with Part One (section two) guidance (2 mentions).
- Play organisations and local play forums should be acknowledged in the guidance considering their potential contributions to plans (2 mentions).
- More clarification around what 'effective opportunity' (paragraph 81, page 31) means in terms of the guidance (2 mentions).
- Include a schedule of consultation timescales within the appendix of the guidance (1 mention).
Is the guidance sufficiently clear about what "information, advice and assistance" is in the context of preparing and implementing a children's services plan? How could this be improved?
To the fourth question, 43 responded, with 31 finding that the guidance was sufficiently clear in what "information, advice and assistance" refers to. Twelve respondents felt it was not clear. Feelings regarding clarity were split equally between third sector respondents, yet more considered the phrase to be clear amongst the rest of the respondent groups. Twenty-eight comments were provided. More details can be found in Table 10  .
Table 10: Question Four response breakdown
The guidance was considered to be clear for 11 commenters. The flexibility in the guidance was welcomed (1 mention) as was section 14 which discussed assistance in relation to children's services planning (2 mentions). Both were found helpful to assist smaller organisations to participate (1 mention). Children 1st and Barnardo's Scotland, in a joint response, did raise concerns that the guidance provides little support to planners to empower smaller organisations to contribute to children's services planning.
Three commenters found the guidance to be very broad, not clear, and requiring more explicit language. LGBT Youth Scotland felt it would be helpful to deal with the three concepts together earlier in the guidance and asked for the expectations around information and advice in the planning process to be further explained. Two local government respondents felt that the guidance offered no discussion on the financial and resource implications of what has been outlined.
A further four comments discussed working with others:
- Willingness and capacity may well differ with competing priorities for available manpower and time (Perth and Kinross Council).
- Making this a statutory requirement could presumably help if partnership working is not co-operative, supportive or helpful (North Ayrshire Children's Services Strategic Partnership).
- More emphasis on a collaborative approach to writing and developing plans to ensure meaningful and productive (Scottish Borders Children and Young People's Leadership Group; and Children 1st and Barnardo's Scotland).
A number of improvements to aid clarity have been suggested. In addition to the one mentioned above, other suggestions included:
- A more explicit mention of the Arm Length External Organisations and third sector providers of children's services within the responsibilities for 'duty of assistance' (2 mentions).
- Include the appendix information in the main text (1 mention).
- Good practice guides to provide information, advice and assistance during the planning and review process (1 mention).
- Would welcome greater recognition of the wealth of knowledge and expertise third sector organisations have in this regard (1 mention).
Is the guidance sufficiently clear about what a "reasonable request" is in the context of preparing and implementing a children's services plan? How could this be improved?
Again, only 43 responded to question five, with 31 finding the guidance sufficiently clear in what a "reasonable request" is. Twelve respondents felt it was not clear; primarily, local government and third sector organisations. Twenty-nine comments were provided. More details can be found in the table below  .
Table 11: Question Five response breakdown
Eight commenters felt that the guidance regarding a 'reasonable request' was clear and satisfactory. NHS Lanarkshire particularly valued the references made regarding the duties of the community planning partnerships, and YouthLink Scotland welcomed section 14 on assistance (page 50-52). LGBT Youth Scotland felt that the guidance was broad, but appreciated this in terms of flexibility.
A handful of commenters found the guidance to not be clear (1 mention), requiring more explicit language (1 mention), and more detail about how it will work (3 mentions).
Glasgow Council for the Voluntary Sector mentioned concerns on how the guidance will translate: "Often at a strategic level, the terminology and language is fine for the purpose. This issue is how it translates into reality". Six commenters felt that what is reasonable will greatly depend on a range of factors as well as being open for interpretation and context specific. Two such commenters raised concerns regarding what (if any) sanctions are in place if an organisations does not comply.
Connected to this, 10 commenters, majority of which came from third sector organisations, had concerns regarding capacity of those being asked to assist. With many of the comments pointing to potentially limited resources. One respondent proposed:
"Within the explanation of reasonable request it should be added that this is on the basis of a generally understood level of capacity and capability for similar individuals / organisations" (National Parent Forum of Scotland).
NHS Tayside suggested that "to relieve concerns of smaller third sector organisations "reasonable request" should be followed by proportionate to size and scope of the organisation". With another commenter suggesting that support and resources must be a be made available when commissioning third sector organisations.
Providing a different perspective, East Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership, suggested that to create a shared understanding of a 'reasonable request': "greater emphasis on the "requirement" for partnership working to ensure that information is gathered well in advance of a Service Plan being devised or evaluated" would be required.
A small number of suggestions were provided to improve the clarity of the guidance:
- Providing examples would help understanding (4 mentions)
- Would benefit from being more explicit about other parts of the act and connect with other legislation (3 mentions).
- Clarifications are needed in the guidance regarding terms of quality of service to ensure they do not just become targets (1 mention).
Is the description of the links between the duties under Part Three of the guidance and other statutory and non-statutory planning requirements clear and useful?
There were only 42 responses to this sixth question on Part Three of the guidance. Twenty-eight of which felt that the guidance was sufficiently clear and useful regarding the links between Part Three and other planning requirements. This included the majority of local government and public body respondents; though it should be noted a large proportion of public body respondents did not answer this question. Fourteen respondents, primarily third sector organisations, felt the guidance was not clear on the links. Thirty-six comments were provided. More details can be found in the table below  .
Table 12: Question Five response breakdown
Ten commenters found the descriptions of links between the duties under Part Three and other planning requirements to be clear. Three commenters found that important links are made and recognised the potential to avoid duplication of effort and resources. The schematic on page 60 of the guidance detailing the statutory planning framework for children's services was seen to be particularly helpful. Though one commenter was initially confused by the diagram, assuming it was mapping all planning requirements instead of just the ones relating to the Act. Two commenters found Appendix B (regarding Part Three duties by person(s) and organisation, page 78) and C (covering the statutory planning and reporting requirements, pages 79-91) to be useful.
More consideration and links are needed to connect to Part One duties with Part Three guidance for seven commenters. A suggestion from one commenter - "put the table in part 1 appendix 3 into part 3 of the guidance. It highlights how UNCRC should underpin the plan and how UNCRC links to wellbeing indicators" (Anonymous). Two commenters felt the connections between Part One (section two) and Three is not as clear in the guidance for Part Three as it is in the guidance for Part One (section two).
Connected to this:
- Four commenters felt the guidance should link to further legislation and policy throughout. A recurring theme from throughout the consultation.
- Two commenters suggested including a diagrammatic representation or framework of the linkages to aid in understanding.
- Four commenters welcomed the inclusion of a summary of planning and reporting requirements, especially for those working with local and national organisations.
- Glasgow City Children's Services warned however there is a need to ensure that the links show consistency of vision and direction, rather than simply duplication of content.
A small number of comments were raised regarding time. Two commenters felt that a timeline connecting across planning requirements would be useful. Perth and Kinross Council wondered whether the interconnectedness of the proposed planning could be constraining in terms of time.
Other comments were raised including:
- Concerns regarding the absence of children and young people's voices, and those of the wider communities in the planning process (3 mentions). Reiterating previous comments across the consultation.
- Would welcome the services provided for looked after and care experienced young people up to the age of 26 to be part of the plan (2 mentions).
- Unclear what is meant by 'holistic' in this aspect of the guidance (1 mention).
- Better consistency is needed between details in the appendices and figure 1 (page 60) (1 mention).
What other comments do you have on the Part Three guidance? Please cite specific parts of the guidance if relevant.
Thirty-seven respondents (out of 58 total) provided additional comments on Part Three guidance.
In general, the guidance was well received. Some commenters (6) considered the guidance to be well-constructed, balanced, clear and useful. Two commenters said they were looking forward to working in a more 'joined up' and partnership led environment of children's services planning. Appendices B (the part three duties by person(s) and organisation) and C (regarding the statutory planning and reporting requirements) were also considered particularly helpful (3 mentions).
Two commenters found the guidance to be repetitive and a further two felt it was excessively long. Timescales were seen to be too tight and unrealistic (1 mention) and the ones proposed were considered at odds with local timelines already in place (1 mention). Connected to this, three commenters, felt that the guidance sits at odds with local democracy and with community planning legislation by being over-prescriptive.
Many of the comments made recommendations of alternative phrasing, formatting, and clarifications regarding the guidance. A few commenters also asked explicit questions regarding the guidance. All of these have been provided to the policy team involved for consideration. Other comments have been collated thematically and will be discussed in turn.
Children and Young People and Families
- More emphasis is needed on engaging and consulting, throughout the planning process, with children and young people (5 mentions), including those in marginalised groups (1 mention). A theme replicated throughout the consultation. Others also requested more guidance regarding:
- o Understanding children's and young people's roles in establishing baseline/evidence (1 mention)
- o Must be clear about the difference between participation and consultation in this regard (1 mention).
- Would like to see Children's Services Plans, or a summary of them, available in accessible formats, ensuring various communication needs are met (3 mentions).
- Pleased to see that annual reports will be made available in accessible formats for all (2 mentions).
- Concerns regarding the age range covered by the guidance, in particular those young people being looked after, in care or unaccompanied minor asylum seekers, and how they are represented in other relevant legislation (2 mentions).
- Would welcome more explicit reference to the promotion of understanding of children's rights by children, young people and families (1 mention).
- More connections with related legislation and policy e.g. Community Empowerment Act (4 mentions). Again, replicating the theme from across the consultation.
- There is a need to link the duties under Part Three to other guidance (including Part One (section two)), statutory and non-statutory requirements (3 mentions).
- Improve connections with UNCRC articles to the service planning requirements (1 mention).
- More emphasis on making greater use of evidence based interventions (1 mention).
- There is a need for comprehensive baseline information and its importance stressed (2 mentions). The theme is replicated across the consultation.
- More guidance is needed on collecting and analysing information relating to service performance (1 mention).
Planning in Practice and Logistics
- Plans should be called the same thing across Scotland to ensure consistency and understanding across Scotland (1 mention).
- Plans should have delivery plans attached to them (1 mention).
- Suggest that any prescribed reports are given the status by Scottish Government of being Statutory Performance Reports, and as such would replace - rather than be in addition - to the current returns required of local authorities and NHS Boards (1 mention).
- Would encourage the Scottish Government to consider a reduction in the number of national audit, inspection and improvement bodies (1 mention).
- It would be useful to clarify the role of services covered within the guidance which would be delivered by Arm Length External Organisations ( ALEOs), how these organisations would interact and how they would be monitored (1 mention).
- Although there is no statutory requirement for other service providers to be consulted in the course of the annual review of the Plan, a strong encouragement of this as good practice within the guidance would be welcome (1 mention).
General Improvement Suggestions
- The guidance needs to be more specific around the role of the third sector (4 mentions). One additional commenter was happy that the guidance acknowledged the important role of the third sector.
- More examples of good practice would be welcomed (5 mentions). Particular examples were suggested:
- o Structuring plans content around the wellbeing indicators.
- o Regarding outcome definitions and indicators.
- o How data can be used to evidence progress.
- o Illustrations of 'reasonable requests' or 'information, advice and assistance' to/from different types of service provider.
- o Ways in which partnerships can develop shared data-gathering and analysis processes in relation to review and reporting requirements.
- o Good strategic commissioning.
- Figure 1 (on page 60) regarding statutory planning framework for children's services, is unclear and needs to be clarified (2 mentions).
- A summary of the guidance would be useful, particularly for day-to-day use (2 mentions).
- Reference to the importance of quality improvement and improvement science (1 mention).
- Child protection must continue to be important part of the plans, it is overlooked to an extent currently (1 mention).
This analysis of additional comments is not exhaustive of the comments provided. The comments and points included are a representative sample and summary of those obtained. All other recommendations will be provided to the policy team separately.