15 November 2023

Workforce views and experiences give new insight into children’s services in Scotland

New research for the study to inform children’s services reform in Scotland has been published by CELCIS, the Centre for Excellence for Children’s Care and Protection, today (15 November 2023) giving new insight from the perspectives of Scotland’s children’s services workforce.

This final part of the Children’s Services Reform Research study explores the experiences of people working to support children, young people and families in communities across Scotland to help answer the question ‘What is needed to ensure that children, young people and families receive the support they need when they need it?’

The research for this strand focused on the current service landscape in Scotland and asked the children’s services workforce about:

  • local services for children, young people and families;
  • multi-agency working between practitioners from different services;
  • the continuity of support when young people transition from children’s services to adult services;
  • children, young people and families’ consistency of relationships with practitioners and their participation in decision-making about their support and care;
  • support for the workforce;
  • and children’s services leadership and their ability to make change happen.

Through an online survey, focus groups and interviews with over 1400 members of the workforce at all levels across Scotland, and working in a variety of services and sectors, the research team explored the workforce’s experiences, examples of improvements over time and what things get in the way of improving outcomes for children, young people and families.

In analysing the quantitative and qualitative data generated, the research team also considered whether there was any relationship between the children’s services workforce’s perceptions and experiences of the service landscape and different health and social care structures; the influence of integration on outcomes for children, young people and families; and what needs to be in place to best meet the needs of children, young people and families. They found that:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on Scotland’s children’s services
  • Scotland’s children’s services are responding to greater diversity and complexity of need
  • The children’s services workforce is in crisis and urgently needs investment
  • The legislative, policy and funding landscape is cluttered and inadvertently hindering implementation
  • There are persistent, longstanding gaps and weaknesses in services and transitions
  • The workforce needs long-term clarity, commitment and investment from national and local leaders
  • Service structures need to enable and support practitioners to work together at the local level
  • Every service type should be valued as a key strategic and delivery partner
  • An integrated IT and data infrastructure would support practitioners to work together.

Dr Heather Ottaway, Head of Evidence and Innovation at CELCIS, who is leading the research said:

“This new research raises a number of key issues that are vital for all decision-makers and leaders working to improve the lives of people who need the support of public services to consider.

“We are very grateful to all those who took the time to engage in this part of the research with us. It offers an invaluable, up-to-date understanding of the experiences of the children’s services workforce from the inside, the concerns there are and what is happening that is having an effect on responding to the needs of children, young people and families in need of support.

“This work adds to the evidence base for our study, which taken together identify some common themes and conclusions that are essential to understand when considering how to improve and change such vital support and services for children, young people and families.”

The research study is being supported by an Independent Steering Group chaired by Professor Brigid Daniel, Professor Emerita of Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, who said:

“What comes through in this strand of the research is the huge dedication of the children’s workforce across all disciplines in Scotland. Respondents expressed their determination to support children and their families and carers, often under challenging circumstances. They are to be commended for their commitment.”

The findings from this strand of the research build upon learning from the Rapid Evidence Review (Porter et al., 2023), Case Studies of Transformational Change Programmes (McTier et al., 2023) and Mapping Integration and Outcomes across Scotland: A Statistical Analysis (Anderson et al., 2023), that have been conducted as part of the Children’s Services Reform Research study and provide another piece of the story. Findings from all four strands of the work will be synthesised into a final report that will seek to provide a better understanding of what is needed to ensure that children, young people and families receive the support they need when they need it.

Read the reports and summary here