A Good Childhood


What is required by Plan 21-24?

Every child that is ‘in care’ in Scotland will have access to intensive support that ensures their educational and health needs are fully met.

Local Authorities and Health Boards will take active responsibility towards care experienced children and young people, whatever their setting of care, so they have what they need to thrive. 

What has The Promise Scotland heard so far?

There is strong commitment to ensure that children and young people living in care have access to supports they need to thrive, but the context is extremely challenging with the pandemic having an enormous impact that is as yet not fully known.

However, increased referrals to mental health services demonstrate the extent of current unmet need.

There are difficulties monitoring whether children and young people living in and around the ‘care system’ have access to what they need, and organisations reported that a better understanding and use of Data would promote better decision making and improve understanding of local resourcing needs.

From a structural perspective, Community Planning Partnerships, through their Children’s Services Planning Partnerships, were reported as being helpful forums to plan services, however there was underlying frustration that they did not hold or pool budgets between services and did not always hold a sufficient level of seniority to ensure spending decisions could be made.

Furthermore, there were challenges around cross Local Authority and cross border placements where planning partnerships did not have sufficient information to plan services. The Joint Inspection Programme is useful forum for holding community planning partnerships to account.

What has been committed to so far?

So far there have been the following commitments:

  • COSLA and The Scottish Government have established The Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Joint Delivery Board. It will oversee reform across education, health, community and children’s services with a focus on prevention, early support and the promotion of good mental health.
  • National Children’s Services Plans criteria are being reviewed in the winter of 2021 which could drive better planning for care experienced children and young people. 
  • There is an outstanding 2019 Programme for Government commitment to ensure free NHS dental care for all care experienced young people that has now been expanded to all 18–25-year-olds.

Who are the lead organisations?

COSLA and The Scottish Government have taken on lead responsibility for this outcome in relation to Mental Health and Wellbeing. More broadly, Community Planning Partnerships and Children’s Services Planning Partnershipshave a key role to play. Care Inspectorate and The Joint Inspection Programme has significant responsibility in terms of accountability and assurance.

Links, Next Steps and Assessment

Work is underway but does not yet appear sufficient.

There is commendable work but not a clear strategic plan for the implementation of this action for the period of Plan 21-24.

The Promise Scotland will support change through the Investment action to ensure there are well communicated ways to share and pool resources to ensure that children ‘in care’ are supported with appropriate regulation of their registered care services.

Better understanding of Data in terms of what matters to children and young people will drive and support the planning of supports that work for those who need them.

Monitoring of this action will be focused on movement across the shift in access to services, ensuring that care experienced children and young people are a priority for Local Authority and Health Boards in the planning and provision of the range of universal and intensive services.

Inspection across all the national bodies with inspection and scrutiny responsibilities must ensure that there is whole system-based accountability. 



Right to Education

What is required by Plan 21-24?

Care experienced children and young people will receive all they need to thrive at school. There will be no barriers to their engagement with education and schools will know and
cherish their care experienced pupils.

School improvement plans will value and recognise the needs of their care experienced pupils with robust tracking of attendance and attainment so that support can be given early.

Care experienced young people will be actively participating in all subjects and extracurricular activities in schools.

The formal and informal exclusion of care experienced children from education will end.

Schools will support and ensure care experienced young people go on to genuinely positive destinations, such as further education or employment.

What has The Promise Scotland heard so far?

Responsibility sits across Scottish Government, Local Authorities and Education Scotland.

Commitment is high, but with ongoing persistent attainment challenges for care experienced children and young people.

Many Local Authorities are using the virtual head teacher model or employing specific staff to work with their care experienced population on education and attainment.

There are various funds that attach to this work including but not limited to:

Supporting Young People through Mentoring and Leadership Programme
Scottish Attainment Challenge
Care Experience Children and Young People’s Fund
Young Persons Guarantee

The Scottish Attainment Challenge Programme is being reconfigured. Care experienced children and young people are included, are their rights to coordinated support plans under the (2004) Additional Support for Learning Act, will be reinforced.

What has been committed to so far?

  • There are high levels of commitment within Local Authorities and they hold responsibility for school improvement plans. The Scottish Government will encourage Local Authorities to provide evidence of attendance and attainment in the tracking of the Care Experience Children and Young People’s Fund.
  • The Scottish Government will invest £19.4 million over the next 6 years in mentoring and leadership programme for care experienced and disadvantaged young people with intended reach up to 15,000 young people and 300 schools. A Development Board has been set up to support this work with membership. In addition, £11.5m is being provided to local authorities in 2021-22 to raise attainment of care experienced children and young people as part of the expanded £1 billion Attainment Scotland Fund.
  • The Scottish Government are working through the Scottish Advisory Group on Relationships and Behaviour in Schools (SAGRABIS) on the ending of the formal and informal exclusion from education and are committed to achieving the outcome by 2024. SAGRABIS states it has agreed a suite of strategic actions which will further develop as data in relation to exclusion and support approaches are identified.
  • Over 2020/21 The Young Persons Guarantee has been funded to £60million to create 18000 additional and enhanced opportunities for young people and actively supporting young people leaving care. 

Who are the lead organisations?

The Right to Education is a statutory responsibility and therefore The Scottish Government, COSLA, Local Authorities and Education Scotland all have direct lead responsibility

Links, Next Steps and Assessment

Work is underway but does not yet appear sufficient.

This action is closely linked to the Moving On, Data Mapping and Collection and Investment actions, but there is a need for improved pace and quality of action to ensure the rights of care experienced children and young people to co-ordinated support plans under the Additional Support for Learning legislation, are fully met and delivered. 




What is required by Plan 21-24?

All children living in and around Scotland’s ‘care system’ will be maintaining safe, loving relationships that are important to them.

There will be no barriers to ‘contact’ and children will be supported to have time with people they care about. 

What has The Promise Scotland heard so far?

There is a lot of activity around the upholding of relationships between brothers and sisters. Many organisations reported that the promise provided a clear focus how important relationships are to children and young people, and that this has had a significant impact on how ‘care experienced’ children and young people are supported and listened to.

However, relationships remain a significant concern, with Covid-19 having a huge impact on the ability of care experienced children to maintain relationships with their families (considering family contact in the very broadest sense), friends and other people they care about. The Children (Scotland) Act 2020 uses a broad definition of ‘sibling’ and Local Authorities have a duty to promote regular, personal relations and direct contact.

There has been a lot of discussion about the workforce shifting to relationship-based practice, and this is an area that can be supported through activity on Inspection and Regulation, Workforce Values and Workforce Support actions.

The Promise Scotland was a member of the National Advisory Group supporting the development of the forthcoming practice guidance in relation to duties changing. 

What has been committed to so far?

  • The Scottish Government will publish, the ‘Brothers and Sisters Practice Guidance’ in July 2021, that will include the importance of the broad definition of ‘sibling.’

Who are the lead organisations?

Maintaining relationships is a practice issue without legislative underpinning, therefore the key organisations are:

Local Authorities
Care Providers
Advocacy and Legal services Providers
Care Inspectorate

Links, Next Steps and Assessment

Work is underway but does not yet appear sufficient.

Monitoring of care experienced children and young people’s ability to maintain safe, loving relationships is required and means that the Data used, and Inspection and Regulation frameworks, must be based on what matters to children, young people and their families.

The Promise Scotland will identify resources to support this action. 



Brothers and Sisters

What is required by Plan 21-24?

Scotland will stop the practice of separating brothers and sisters, unless for reasons of safety.

Relationships between brothers and sisters will be cherished and protected across decision making and through the culture and values of the people who care for them. 

What has The Promise Scotland heard so far?

Work to keep brothers and sisters together has been a long standing, cross sector campaign and has significant commitment across Scotland.

Legislation is now in place that introduces a requirement for services responsible for the care and welfare of looked after children and young people to promote their relationships with brothers and sisters, and further protections in relation to The Children’s Hearings System were introduced in The Children (Scotland) Act 2020.

Local Authorities are developing work to implement this legislation, for example through redesign of their family placement services.

There is recognition that supporting siblings to stay together requires a national approach, supporting the 32 local authorities to find solutions and ensure there are places and carers ready, resourced and well supported to provide a loving home for sibling groups.

Whilst commitment is high, there is concern about whether there is sufficient availability and flexibility of homes for sibling groups and anxiety around the application of the legislation. Hence the need for a rolling planning process under the Planning action.

There are difficulties in recording and monitoring decisions in relation to brothers and sisters being kept together and whether their relationships are being upheld, and there is currently no baseline data to understand the extent of separation. 

What has been committed to so far?

  • Practice Guidance for the new legislative duties will be published in July 2021.

Who are the lead organisations?

This outcome is based on statutory and practice responsibility and lead organisations are:

Local Authorities
Scottish Government
Care providers

Links, Next Steps and Assessment

Work is underway but does not yet appear sufficient.

As with action to maintain all relationships, there is clear need to ensure the monitoring of care experienced children and young peoples ability to maintain safe, loving relationships.

That will mean that the Data used, and the Inspection and Regulation frameworks uphold what matters to children and young people.



Youth Justice

What is required by Plan 21-24?

The disproportionate criminalisation of care experienced children and young people will end.

16- and 17-year-olds will no longer be placed in Young Offenders Institutes for sentence or on remand.

There will be sufficient community-based alternatives so that detention is a last resort.

Children who do need to have their liberty restricted will be cared for in small, secure, safe, trauma-informed environments that uphold their rights.   

What has The Promise Scotland heard so far?

There is a high level of commitment to this agenda across Scotland. A ‘Rights Respecting’ approach is being adopted in the Scottish Government and Youth Justice Improvement Board’s with Vision and Priorities published in June. It is set in the context of implementing the promise.

There is a shared understanding that work on youth justice goes hand in hand with Whole Family Support and that it needs to be built on better support for families in every area of their lives. Links are being made across policies and strategies including poverty, violence against women and girls, substance use, health, housing and homelessness, education and community safety.

Police Scotland have led test of change regarding non-criminalisation of children in residential care in both Greater Glasgow and Dumfries & Galloway. The outcomes will provide invaluable evidence and help identify future direction for policy in relation to all care experienced children and young people.

The Police Scotland ‘Not at home’ policy for children and young people in residential care will be rolled out across Scotland during 2021/22. This provides a shared responsibility of the risk involved in missing episodes while also ensuring the police involvement is proportionate and appropriate.

There is widespread recognition that there needs to be investment in community-based support for children and young people in conflict with the law.

What has been committed to so far?

Who are the lead organisations?

This work is underpinned by statutory and practice responsibility, with

Scottish Government
Police Scotland
Scottish Sentencing Council
Young Offender Institutions and Secure Care Providers
Care Inspectorate
Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice (CYCJ) and Community Justice Scotland (CJS)
have responsbility to drive practice and culture change

Links, Next Steps and Assessment

Work is underway. 

Greater pace required to remove 16- and 17-year-olds from YOI provision.

Partnerships are strong with vision and strategy clear. CYCJ and CJS have a critical role to play in driving change and The Promise Scotland will partner with them to monitor the achievement of this outcome.

In the Autumn 2021, CYCJ are launching a consultancy service to support the development of community-based alternatives to custody. 




What is required by Plan 21-24?

All care experienced children and their families will have access to independent advocacy at all stages of their experience of care.

Advocacy provision will follow the principles set out in the promise.

Care experienced children and young people will be able to easily access child centred legal advice and representation. 

What has The Promise Scotland heard so far?

Advocacy at The Children’s Hearings, s.122 of Children’s Hearings Scotland Act 2011 came into force in November 2020. This requires the Chair of Panel at a Children’s Hearing to inform the child of the availability of advocacy services.

This is only one part of the importance of advocacy for children and families.

Plan 21-24 makes clear that Advocacy provision must follow the principles of the promise and currently there is currently no clear route map for ensuring care experienced people can access lifelong advocacy.

Many Local Authorities recognised and were investing in advocacy beyond The Children’s Hearings System expectations, but that was not universal and often dependent on placement.

Sometimes there are multiple advocacy services offered to children that are not joined up and there is a lack of standards and regulation.

Representation for under-fives was raised as a gap in current provision, as well as the scarcity of family advocacy provision that supports families engaging with the ‘care system.’

There is a lack of specialised child rights lawyers who have skills and knowledge to advocate and support children in legal proceedings.

This outcome is linked to Whole Family Support actions around the need for Peer and Community based support as well as the Children’s Hearings System action.

What has been committed to so far?

  • 2019-20 Programme for Government committed an initial budget of £1.5 million for the implementation of s.122 of Children’s Hearings Scotland Act 2011. Given the impact of the pandemic on the operation of the Children’s Hearings System, that funding has been extended for 2021-22 where implementation of the duty will be reviewed.
  • The Scottish Government’s Access to Justice team is seeking to develop legislation to provide opportunities for targeted services from legal aid providers.
  • As with other professions such as teaching or social work, to be a lawyer for children requires specialist training and skills. CLAN Childlaw are working with funders and will identify core skills and training required to be a child-centred lawyer, develop resources, set standards and explore accreditation to ensure every child has access to specialist lawyers for children.

Who are the lead organisations?

This work has a mix of statutory and practice and professional responsibility.

Scottish Government, Local Authorities and Children’s Services Partnerships have key responsibility, along with advocacy and legal aid provider Local Authorities.

Links, Next Steps and Assessment

Work is underway but does not yet appear sufficient.

The Promise Scotland will look at scoping a national model for the provision of advocacy services to ensure independence and rigour in providing advocacy that is easily available across all care placements.



Moving On

What is required by Plan 21-24?

Decisions about transitions for young care experienced people who move onto independent living or need to return to a caring environment, will be made based on individual need.

Each young care experienced adult will experience their transition as consistent, caring, integrated and focussed on their needs, not on ‘age of services’ criteria.

Housing pathways for care experienced young people will include a range of affordable options that are specifically tailored to their needs and preferences.

Youth homelessness experienced by young care experienced people will be eradicated and they will have no need for any emergency provision or for rough sleeping because options are available and planned.

What has The Promise Scotland heard so far?

There has been a lot of progressive legislative and practice activity in this area for several years, however application of legislation is inconsistent across Local Authorities.

Some Local Authorities reported significant improvements in supporting young care leavers and taking responsibilities under the Throughcare and Continuing Care legislation seriously, with positive joined up working with through Community Planning Partnerships.

Several authorities and service providers found inspection and regulatory requirements often did not allow a flexibility of approach in relation to young people who need to return to residential or foster care, reinforcing the need for inspection and regulation frameworks to be considered by 2024.

The fact that continuing care duties are not being universally applied and upheld also re- emphasises the need for advocacy and legal advice to be readily available.

What has been committed to so far?

No overarching strategy for the implementation of the Throughcare and Continuing Care duties has been proposed.

The following actions are underway:

  • Scottish Government and Care Inspectorate are working together to explore how the inspection regime can better facilitate the experience of moving on from care.
  • Scottish Government is developing plans for the implementation of the recommendations in the Care Leavers Homelessness Prevention Pathway, part of Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan.
  • Scottish Government is convening a cross policy working group on Transitions has been established to explore how to improve moving from children and young people services to adult services to ensure that this is done in a manner that is suitable for the individual needs of the young person.
  • CELCIS is working through its continuing care and aftercare work to better understand the barriers to consistent application of policy. Output of that research is expected to report in Autumn 2021.
  • The Young Persons Guarantee is working to provide the opportunity of a job, placement, training or volunteering for every 16-24 in Scotland

Who are the lead organisations?

Local Authorities, Scottish Government, COSLA and The Care Inspectorate have critical statutory and practice responsibility.

Links, Next Steps and Assessment

Work is underway but does not yet appear sufficient.

There is a need for a national strategy to implement legislation requirements and work to break down barriers to implementation; looking at those areas which are working well and develop these consistently.

In relation to Inspection and Regulation, The Promise Scotland will work closely with key organisations to ensure the legislation and regulatory frameworks allow for Local Authorities and care providers to be the ‘good parent’ children and young people need to be.



Physical Intervention

What is required by Plan 21-24?

All care experienced children, wherever they live, will be protected from violence and experience the safeguard of equal protection legislation.

Restraint will always be pain free, will be used rarely, and only when required to keep a child safe.

There will be well communicated and understood guidance in place that upholds children’s rights and reflects equal protection legislation.

The workforce will feel supported to respond to behaviour in a trauma informed way that reflects a deep understanding of the children in their care.

What has The Promise Scotland heard so far?

Many Local Authorities reported that restraint was no longer used in their residential placements and were working toward ensuring that its prohibition was part of agreements if children had to be placed outside of Local Authority area.

Over the course of the Care Review and through publication of the promise, many care providers also reported significant reduction in the use of restraint.

However, there was acknowledgement of a lack of confidence around reporting; of the need to monitor nature and extent of restraints; of the impact on a child’s mental health through being physically restrained and alternatives used.

There was reflection that monitoring can be complex and bound to be dependent on self reporting, therefore there was caution needed to be careful not to encourage secrecy.

This is an area in which there must be a combination of strong guidance and frameworks with continuing sharing of good practice and encouraging openness through self-reporting.

What has been committed to so far?

  • The Physical Intervention Working Group will publish its work to develop rights upholding guidance in autumn 2021. That work will then go for public consultation.
  • It is developing a national dataset for recording and monitoring the use of restraint and seclusion in schools across local authorities.
  • The Scottish Government is reviewing the legal framework in relation to restraint and seclusion considering UNCRC incorporation.

Who are the lead organisations?

The Scottish Government has key responsibility to ensure rights respecting guidance is in place. COSLA, Local Authorities and Care Providers have key responsibility for practice and support.

Links, Next Steps and Assessment

Work is underway.

Publication of guidance will be an important step in the ensuring a Rights Respecting framework.

There is a need for this work to be part of shifts in Data and Inspection and Regulation so that Scotland track and monitor reduction in the use of restraint and seclusion.

The Promise Partnership has funded a partnership between Aberlour and Kibble, which has included design school training. Aberlour and Kibble and are exploring the development

of a community of interest to spread understanding, change and good practice in this area across the sector.