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MSPs support Children Bill principles but call for more detail

15 November 2013

A qualified welcome to the Scottish Government's Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill has been given by the Holyrood committee charged with scrutinising the measure.

In its stage 1 report the Education & Culture Committee supports the general principles of the bill, but states that more detail will be needed to make the positive measures within the bill work in practice.

The wideranging bill includes 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.

It is the last of these provisions that has provoked the main controversy surrounding the bill, with many individuals and organisations challenging the level of state interference with families that could result from the appointing a "named person" to safeguard the welfare of very child in Scotland.

However only one committee member, Conservative MSP Liz Smith, dissented on this aspect of the bill.

Committee convener Stewart Maxwell MSP said the committee had heard from Highland Council, where GIRFEC already operates, on the "positive differences" for children that it had brought about. "We want to see GIRFEC implemented consistently across Scotland so that more children and young people can benefit", he stated. "However, this will not be without challenges, not least to replicate the positive culture of collaboration across frontline services that exists in Highland."

Among other points, the committee recommends:

  • In relation to part 1 (rights of children), although the committee is 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, it says the Scottish Government should provide an explanation of the practical actions it intends to take to increase awareness of children’s rights.
  • Under part 3 (children’s services planning), the Government should clearly illustrate how children’s service plans fit within the wider Government strategy to integrate service planning.
  • For part 4 (named persons), clear guidance must be produced to ensure that the information sharing provisions are used proportionately and work effectively and consistently.
  • Under part 5 (child’s plan), ministers should consider the inclusion of a dispute resolution mechanism to resolve disputes in relation to a child’s plans.
  • In part 10 (support for kinship care), the Committee asks ministers to ensure that the detail of the orders and the support available is made clearer.

Mr Maxwell added: “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."

Click here to view the committe's report.

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