Children’s Services Reform Research
About the research
This is a Scotland-based research study being undertaken by CELCIS, the Centre for Excellence for Children’s Care and Protection. CELCIS is a leading improvement and innovation centre in Scotland. We are passionate about improving children’s lives by supporting people and organisations to drive long-lasting change in the services they need, and the practices used by people responsible for their care. In our research, we are committed to using evidence from lived experience and practice to support children and families to have different, better experiences of care from the people and services designed to help them.
CELCIS has been asked by the Scottish Government to carry out a research study to improve the understanding of current Children’s Services structures and delivery models in Scotland and how services can best support the needs of children and their families. The research will look at how public services are provided and configured in Scotland and draw on a range of international evidence too. The news announcement of this work can be found here.
Following the publication of the Independent Review of Adult Social Care in 2021 (also known as ‘the Feeley report’), the Scottish Government committed to building a National Care Service (NCS). The NCS will be responsible for adults’ social work and social care support and will also be responsible for planning and commissioning community health services.
The current landscape for delivering Children’s Services in Scotland is varied and complex, in part as a result of the Public Bodies (Joint Working) (Scotland) Act 2014 which allows flexibility for transferring the responsibility for some services to Integration Authorities, to be delivered through Health and Social Care Partnerships (HSCPs) in and across local areas in Scotland. Some Partnerships have responsibility for Community Children’s Health and Children’s Social Care and Social Work Services; some Partnerships do not have children’s services in their responsibilities; while others have children’s health but not social work services. There is also variation in how and where responsibilities for the health services lie within different Partnerships.
The creation of a National Care Service will inevitably bring change to the Children’s Services landscape. This is because it will change the current service delivery landscape. Adult services will move into the NCS and structural changes will be needed in areas where children’s services have been integrated with adult services. The integration of these services with adult services in some Integration Joint Boards and the interdependency between adult care and children and their families led the Scottish Government to consider whether the NCS should also include children’s social work and social care services. The Scottish Government consulted on the creation of an NCS in 2021. The consultation asked for views on whether a new National Care Service should include children’s social work and related social care services as well as Adult Services.
Taking account of consultation responses, the Scottish Government has determined that more evidence is needed before a decision is made about the future structure and delivery of services in Scotland for children and families requiring support, care and protection.
In Scotland, children, young people, families, carers and those working to support them have shared their experiences of what helps them and what they need. In response there is broad recognition and agreement that improvement is needed in Children’s Services, as evidenced in the conclusions of the Independent Care Review (The Promise), the Morgan Review, and other areas of focus on the health, care and protection needs of Scotland’s children and young people.
An Independent Steering Group chaired by Professor Brigid Daniel, will oversee the scope of the research. Brigid Daniel is Professor Emerita at Queen Margaret University, and has a wealth of knowledge and experience of research in the field of social work with a particular focus on child protection and neglect.
The purpose of the research is to answer the question: “What is needed to ensure that children, young people and families get the help they need, when they need it?”.
The research study will be used to inform the Scottish Government and contribute to its decision about the future of children’s services in the light of the proposed introduction of the new National Care Service, and its commitment to keep The Promise of the Independent Care Review.
The research study has four separate strands of work. The findings of each strand of work will be published separately with a full report and a shorter summary report. A final report will be published that draws together and analyses all four strands of the findings into one report, addressing the overarching research question.
Strand 1: Rapid evidence review
This work is designed to better understand the evidence associated with different models of integration of children’s services with health and/or adult social care services in ‘high income countries’ (as defined by the World Bank) by looking at published national and international research evidence. We will explore:
- What models of integration exist for the delivery of children’s services with health and/or adult social care services in high income countries
- The strength of evidence about the effectiveness of different models of integration in improving services, experiences and outcomes for children, young people and their families’
The report of the Strand 1 work was published on 21 June 2023.
Strand 2: Case studies of Transformational Reform Programmes
Looking at five case study countries, we will review in detail each country’s children’s social care models and the connections to health, education and adult social care structures. This will allow us to consider whether there are any common approaches that are taken to the national, regional and local organisational delivery and governance of these children’s and adults’ social care services that could inform Scotland’s approach.
A further case study will be developed that draws on Scotland’s experience from national service reorganisations, most notably the merger of regional policing into Police Scotland. This case study will therefore provide learning from previous programmes in Scotland designed to bring about transformational change, and identify the factors that could contribute to improving how services are delivered for children, young people and their families.
The report of the Strand 2 work was published on 28 June 2023.
Strand 3: Mapping Integration and Outcomes Across Scotland: A Statistical Analysis
We will map the range of different approaches to integrated service delivery across Scotland’s 32 local authority areas. We will investigate any potential effects of integration, alongside other contextual factors affecting people and communities such as geography, deprivation and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic over time on a range of outcomes for people being supported by public services. We will also aim to investigate the impact of different approaches to integration on the wellbeing of the workforces supporting children and young people.
The report of the Strand 3 work was published on 31 August 2023.
Strand 4: Workforce Experiences
In the context of Getting It Right for Every Child, The Promise and the research’s underpinning question of “What is needed to ensure that children, young people and families get the help they need, when they need it?”, members of the Children’s Services workforce will be asked to complete an anonymous survey that captures the opportunities, challenges and barriers that are found to bring about:
- High quality experiences and outcomes of children, young people and families using services
- Close multi-agency working between professionals across different services
- Transformational change in services
The survey will also ask members of the Children’s Services workforce about their experiences of the challenges and barriers present.
In addition, focus groups and interviews will be held with people working in the relevant statutory and third sector services to explore and better understand the emerging findings from the surveys and the work in Strand 3.
The research team will be working with the Steering Group to decide on which local authority areas and/or groups of professionals to include, and which questions or topics to explore as the research progresses.
The report of the Strand 4 work was published on 15 November 2023.
Find out about who is leading the research
The research study is led by CELCIS’s Head of Evidence and Innovation, Dr Heather Ottaway, who heads up the research team drawing on multi-disciplinary expertise. Having started her career as a children and families social worker in Scotland, Dr Ottaway has led national organisational research in Wales which informed the development of the National Adoption Service, and has a strong research profile nationally and internationally, particularly in the field of family-based care for children.
Dr Robert Porter is leading strand 1 of the research: Rapid Evidence Review. He is Research Lead at CELCIS and is an experienced socio-legal academic with degrees in psychology and a PhD in Law. He has led on projects relating to legal representation within Scotland’s Children’s Hearings, and worked on legal empowerment and access to justice internationally.
Dr Alex McTier is leading strand 2 of the research: Case Studies of Transformational Reform Programmes and co-leading strand 4: Workforce Experiences, with a focus on the workforce surveys. He is an Evidence and Evaluation Specialist with CELCIS. Alex specialises in understanding children’s statistical data in Scotland and is co-chair of the Monitoring and Evaluation Group to support the implementation of Scotland’s National Guidance for Child Protection and he is a member of the National Child Protection Leadership Group’s Data Sub-Group.
Michael Anderson is leading strand 3 of the research: Mapping Integration and Outcomes Across Scotland: A Statistical Analysis. He is the Data Lead at CELCIS and has worked with the Children Looked After Statistics dataset on a variety of projects in Scotland. He leads on the implementation of the Bright Spots programme within Scotland and sits on the Scottish Government’s Social Work Statistics Group, contributing to development of data collected in relation to children and families in contact with social work.
Mihaela Manole is co-leading strand 4 of the research: Workforce Experiences, and will be focus on the workforce survey. She is an Implementation Research Fellow at CELCIS and her expertise focuses on promoting the use of evidence in policy formulation and supporting capacity building in the use of data for improvement. Recent projects include providing data and evidence support for the Addressing Neglect and Enhancing Wellbeing programme which centres on enhancing GIRFEC practice for children and families before their needs escalate to social work involvement; providing data and evidence support at local and national levels for the Scottish Government’s Whole Family Wellbeing Fund programme and analysis of Scotland’s Child Protection Committees’ structure and functions.
Jane Scott is co-leading strand 4 of the research: Workforce Experiences, with a focus on the interviews and focus groups with the children’s services workforce. She is a research fellow at CELCIS and has over 30 years’ experience with practice and research, including working as a Lecturer and Senior Research Fellow at the Universities of Loughborough, Dundee and Stirling. Jane has extensive experience in undertaking literature reviews, focus groups and interviews with a wide range of individuals including children, young people and families who have experience abuse and neglect as well as with frontline staff and strategic managers. The team involved in doing the research includes experienced researchers, data analysts and policy experts. Find out who is doing the research here.
Frequently asked questions
Why is CELCIS doing this research?
CELCIS, the Centre for Excellence for Children’s Care and Protection is an internationally recognised centre for research, innovation and improvement. We have been asked by the Scottish Government to look at what is known about how Children’s Services have been reformed elsewhere, learn from previous programmes in Scotland designed to bring about transformational change, and identify the factors that could contribute to improving how services are delivered for children, young people and their families.
When did this research start?
The Children’s Services Reform Research started in September 2022.
When will this research finish?
The Children’s Services Reform Research is due to be completed in December 2023, when a final report of the findings will be published and shared with Scottish Ministers.
Will the findings from this research tell us whether Children’s Services should be part of Scotland’s new National Care Service?
This research study aims to answer the question: “What is needed to ensure that children, young people and families get the help they need, when they need it?”
In doing so, it should contribute useful evidence to assist Ministers in their decision-making about whether Children’s Services should be part of the new National Care Service.
Will the research cover every kind of public service children and their families use?
The National Care Service (Scotland) Bill defines Children’s Services in a very specific way. However, this research study has a wider focus on what is needed to ensure children, young people and families get the support they need when they need it. The research team has therefore adopted a broader definition of ‘Children’s Services’ which includes health, education, youth justice, and the workforces within these and the Third Sector who have a focus on children and their families in need of support, care and protection.
I am a child or young person. How can I have my say in this research?
This particular study will not be asking for children and young people to come forward to share their views. We will however be taking very careful account of the views that children and young people have already shared in relevant research and reviews into services for children, including the Independent Care Review, about the supports and services they need.
There will also be opportunities for children and young people to have their say about the development and design of the National Care Service which the Scottish Government is leading on.
I am a parent or carer. How can I have my say in this research?
This particular study will not be asking for parents and carers to come forward to share their views. We will however be taking very careful account of the views that parents and carers have already shared in relevant research and reviews into services for children, including in the Independent Care Review, about the supports and services they need.
There will also be opportunities for parents and carers to have their say about the development and design of the National Care Service which the Scottish Government is leading on.
My job involves working to support children, and their families. How can I have my say in this research?
Workforce surveys and a range of focus groups/interviews will be held with professionals to explore and better understand some of the findings that emerge as this research study develops.
The research team is working with the Steering Group to decide which groups of professionals and/or local authority areas to include.
As the research progresses, we will let the workforce know about opportunities to participate in this research. The first participation opportunities for the Children’s Services workforce will be in the summer of 2023.
When can I see what the research says?
CELCIS will publish online on the CELCIS website the findings of this research over the course of 2023.
How can I contact the research team?
If you have a query for research team concerning the different strands of work, please send an email to email@example.com
This page was updated November 2023