The Government plans further legislation in this area consulting recently on a draft Children and Young People Bill. AHDS publicised this consultation to members, encouraging you to make your own response. The Association also submitted a response which is available via the latest news section on the homepage of our website. The planned legislation seeks to (amongst many other things) put GIRFEC on a statutory footing (formalising the roles of Named Person and Lead Professional, compelling agencies to work together) and also bringing the SHANARRI principles of wellbeing (see fig 1) into legislation. This legislation is at the start of its journey and will take some time to go through Parliament and will be subject to change at every stage. That said, it is reasonably safe to assume that the final product will bear more than a passing resemblance to what was set out in the consultation document.

In November Education Scotland produced a short report “Getting it right for every child: Where are we now? A report on the readiness of the education system to fully implement Getting it right for every child”. A link to the report can be found on our website (in the item about the Children and Young People Bill response). This article seeks to give you a flavour of the findings and their implications for schools.

The Education Scotland report is an unusually simple read.   It stands at a mere 15 pages, is well structured allowing the reader to dip in and out of areas of interest or relevance to them. Some might wish to question the sample considered by Education Scotland in arriving at their conclusions (11 LEAs visited, no mention of the number of schools). Some may criticise the report for painting a picture without concrete proposals for action or realistic assessment of the resource implications. Others might consider it to offer a less than independent view on where we are and what needs to come next and see it as having been drawn together to justify the forthcoming legislation. Whatever the views expressed, the report is useful and timely. It highlights a number of concerns about implementation of GIRFEC in Scotland’s schools which are a reflection of the issues being brought to AHDS.

The report sets out that schools and local authorities are clearly committed to the principles of GIRFEC with progress being made on the implementation of the ten core components (see fig 2). It splits the components into three categories: Culture, Practice and Systems.

Culture

Scottish Education is part way through a journey of implementation of GIRFEC and as such there are clearly still areas for action. The report sets out that there has been a lot of progress at local authority and school level in developing a culture which reflects the principles of GIRFEC but that there are still hurdles to be overcome in the system around perceptions of the GIRFEC agenda belonging to one agency rather than all partners. The report also highlights that class teacher understanding (particularly in secondary schools) is not well developed. Of course, this may mean low awareness of the jargon and policy drivers rather than the principles and values themselves.

Practice

The strongest messages in this section of the report relate to the need for improved linkage between agencies and between GIRFEC and existing policies such as staged intervention.

The report also noted that school needed to make more use of the wellbeing indicators (see fig 1) to identify concerns and assess needs.

Very much reflecting the comments we have heard from members, the report says that:

“There is still significant development required in authorities to put in place a single planning process that enables practitioners across all agencies to assess, action and review children’s needs in a coordinated and integrated way. Staff in schools are expected to have a number of separate plans for children, for example, additional support plans, co-ordinated support plans, as well as making contributions to the planning processes of other agencies. In a number of cases, staff are not clear about the statutory requirements attached to the various types of plans. The majority of authorities are developing integrated assessment frameworks. Staff welcome the move to more uniform documentation that can be used by all agencies. However, there are reservations within establishments in a few education authorities about the number of forms that can be associated with Integrated Assessment Frameworks e.g child profile, family profile and initial assessment.” (p6)

Systems

The start of this section hits the nail firmly on the head regarding successful implementation of this policy:

“…in almost all authorities in the sample, there is no systematic, on-going training and development opportunities for education staff to help them understand and use the Getting it right approach. Overall, across the sample of council areas that were involved in the task, there is a clear expectation that information about children and young people is to be shared with other services. The incompatibility of the different information systems used by the various services, means that there are significant restrictions on the electronic access to, and transfer of, information between and across agencies.

What next for AHDS members?

Members need to engage with their local authorities about the implementation of GIRFEC. Take time to read the Education Scotland report and use it and this article as a starting point for discussion with your local authority.

The big message from our members thus far is that systems need to develop to ensure that we are indeed ‘Getting it right for every child’ – not spending vast amounts of time merely getting the paperwork right or pursuing other agencies for information or involvement. There is no disagreement with the principles but there must be a realistic assessment of resource requirements and processes must not stand in the way of action…there is some way to go to get systems right.

In common with all other processes and returns we are extremely keen that, in the context of reducing resources and increasing pressures, all policy developments should be accompanied with a strong statement that paperwork should be clear, concise and restricted only to what is needed. We will continue to put forward this message at every opportunity.

Core Components of GIRFEC

Culture

1. A focus on improving outcomes for children and young people, based on shared understanding of wellbeing.

2. A common approach to gaining consent and sharing information where appropriate.

3. Integral role for children, young people and families in assessment, planning and intervention.

Practice

4. A co-ordinated and unified approach to identifying concerns, assessing needs, and agreeing actions and outcomes, based on Wellbeing Indicators.

5. Streamlined planning, assessment and decision-making processes that lead to the right help at the right time.

6. Consistent high standards of cooperation, joint working and communication where more than one agency needs to be involved, locally and across Scotland.

7. A Named Person for every child and young person, and a Lead Professional (where necessary) to co-ordinate and monitor multi-agency activity.

Systems

8. Maximising the skilled workforce within universal services to address needs and risks as early as possible.

9. A confident and competent workforce across all services for children, young people and their families.

10. The capacity to share demographic, assessment, and planning information electronically within and across agency boundaries.