Committee welcomes Children and Young People Bill

14.11.2013

Increased detail from the Scottish Government to support the delivering of better outcomes for children would be welcomed according to a report issued today by the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee in which it supports the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill.

The Committee’s scrutiny of the Bill has been informed by its work over the past two years in examining child protection issues. Its inquiries into educational attainment of looked after children and decision making on taking children into care have paved the way for its scrutiny of what is a wide-ranging Bill.

Whilst one member dissented over the creation of a named person for every child and young person in Scotland, the whole Committee agreed that more detail will be needed to make the positive measures contained within the Bill work in practice.

The wide ranging Bill contains a number of other measures to improve the lives of children in Scotland including proposals to increase the amount of free early learning and childcare to 600 hours, support for kinship carers and plans to implement Getting It Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) across Scotland.

Committee Convener Stewart Maxwell MSP said:

“Our recent work in examining issues to do with children in care has informed our scrutiny of many of the issues included in the Bill.  Whilst we welcome the Bill, we make a number of suggestions that we think will contribute to the central aim of improving outcomes for children and young people.  .

“We heard from Highland Council on the positive differences for children that have been brought about by Getting It Right for Every Child (GIRFEC).  We want to see GIRFEC implemented consistently across Scotland so that more children and young people can benefit. However, this will not be without challenges, not least to replicate the positive culture of collaboration across front-line services that exists in Highland. 

“Increasing the number of early learning and childcare hours is also welcomed as are the measures in relation to kinship carers. We ask the Scottish Government and COSLA to ensure that the additional nursery hours are offered flexibly as quickly as possible to enable families to take advantage of the new provision. We would also ask the Scottish Government to work closely with the relevant UK Government departments to ensure there is clarity about the support for kinship carers to ensure that this will not be offset by reductions in welfare benefits.”

Other recommendations in the report include:

Part 1 – Rights of Children

  • Although not persuaded of the case for full incorporation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as sought by many children’s charities, the Committee agreed that the Scottish Government should provide an explanation of the practical actions it intends to take to increase awareness of children’s rights.
  • The Scottish Government should look ahead and also report on the activities it intends to undertake to further children’s rights in each three-year period.

Part 2 – Commissioner for Children and Young People in Scotland

  • Evidence was taken from the Commissioner for Children and Young People in Scotland, and others, about the scope of new powers for the Commissioner. The Committee were concerned there was a difference in how the new power could be interpreted and called on the Scottish Government to remove any such doubt.

Part 3 – Children’s’ services planning

  • The Scottish Government should clearly illustrate how children’s service plans fit within the wider Government strategy to integrate service planning across for example, CPP’s and the Public Bodies (Joint Working) (Scotland) Bill.

Part 4 – Named person Information sharing

  • Clear guidance must be produced to ensure that the information sharing provisions are used proportionately and work effectively and consistently.

Part 5 – Child’s Plan

  • The Scottish Government should ensure a child’s plan can be produced in such a way as to allow the easy incorporation of other statutory requirements.
  • The Scottish Government should consider the inclusion in the Bill of a dispute resolution mechanism to resolve disputes in relation to a child’s plans.

Part 7 – Corporate parenting

  • The Scottish Government should specify the criteria for classification as a corporate parent and in light thereof review those bodies currently included.
  • The Scottish Government should specify the criteria for classification as a corporate parent and in light thereof review those bodies currently included.

Part 10 – Support for kinship care

  • The Committee welcomed the measures to provide support for children who are in kinship care as well as the introduction of the kinship care order. The Committee asked the Scottish Government to ensure that the detail of the orders and the support available is made clearer.

Background

The Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill was introduced in May 2013 and sought to introduce measures to make “Scotland the best place for children to grow up in”.

The Bill introduces a range of measures aimed at improving the lives of children across the country. These include the introduction of a ‘named person’ for every child and young person in Scotland, increasing the amount of funded early learning and childcare, increasing the powers of the Scottish Commissioner for Children and Young People and the implementation of Getting It Right for Every Child across Scotland.

The Bill’s Policy Memorandum says that named persons will be part of a network of support that will ensure children and young people “get the right help at the right time”.  The network of support will always include the family and/or carers.

Liz Smith MSP dissented to Part 4 of the Bill. Part 4 deals with the creation of a named person.

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