Staf Organisational Response

Who we are

Staf, formerly the Scottish Throughcare and Aftercare Forum, was formed in 1998 and is Scotland's national membership organisation for all those involved in the lives of young people leaving care.

Staf is the only membership organisation for frontline workers and managers focused on the throughcare and aftercare of young people from a care-experienced background, with over 70 member organisations.

Our Response

Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to this consultation. In order to shape our response we spoke primarily to throughcare and aftercare practitioners within local authorities, including engagement with members of our ‘Supported Carers, Supported Lodgings’ focus group. Below we have outlined our key messages for the response which centre on: meaningful involvement of both practitioners and children and young people in the planning process; and the accessibility of the guidance.

Key Messages 

  1. Ensure involvement of throughcare and aftercare workers in the planning process
  2. Co-production: not just consultation
  3. Accessible guidance

1. Ensure involvement of throughcare and aftercare workers in the planning process

‘It’s not for the likes of us…’ – Local authority throughcare and aftercare practitioner

Through our engagement with throughcare and aftercare workers in different areas of the country, we found that perceptions of, and involvement in, children’s services planning varied greatly. Some workers have noted they felt ownership over the plans, and both they and the children and young people they support had meaningful engagement and involvement with the planning process. One authority noted the use of their GIRFEC newsletter for wider promotion. Some workers talked about their use of a ‘hub’ model to develop plans, with others discussing the involvement of strategic corporate parenting groups and sub-groups.

We note that the guidance does suggest consultation with staff in detailing the processes that could underpin and interlink with children’s services planning:

‘[…] presenting this information in an easily accessible format, for consultation with service users, staff, service providers and other stakeholders. Following feedback, publishing a plan which details, clearly, the actions which will be taken, by whom, and when.’[1]

‘[…] At various stages of the planning process, local authorities and health boards will want to provide staff, service users (particularly children themselves) and the wider community, with opportunities to participate, providing their insight to help inform decision making, and facilitating a sense of shared ownership of the plan.’[2]

However, we have received feedback from some practitioners that they are not adequately included in the process, and that this in turn can mean that plans may not always truly capture the realities of service delivery on the front line:

  • ‘lower level people don’t know they are happening’
  • ‘practitioners [are] not consulted about outcomes’
  • ‘too top-down and not bottom-up enough – a bottom-up approach should be utilised’
  • ‘[children’s services plans are] a square peg in a round hole – not reflective of life as a practitioner’

Perhaps most powerfully, it was remarked by a frontline throughcare and aftercare practitioner that children’s services planning was ‘[…] not for the likes of us’. Given that care leavers aged 18-25 years old are entitled to access children’s services,[3] we believe it is essential that the workforce supporting young people through this key transition to interdependence is involved extensively in the planning process.

While the broad and non-prescriptive nature of the guidance provides the flexibility required for tailored and bespoke plans in different areas,[4] it can also exacerbate a ‘postcode lottery’ for children and young people in terms of accessing services. We believe that meaningful inclusion of practitioners within the planning process would aid in mitigating the impacts of this ‘lottery’. As such, we recommend the provision of specific accompanying guidance (including in summarised and/or easy-read versions) for those supporting care-experienced children and young people. This guidance could explicitly highlight the need for the participation of frontline workers in the planning process.

The words of Sir Harry Burns, speaking at the ACEs to Assets conference on Tuesday 11th June 2019 in Glasgow, can be applied pertinently to this context as a necessary underlying principle:

‘You can't expect the frontline staff to be committed to change they had no hand in making.’

2. Co-production: not just consultation

While the guidance suggests consulting with children and young people in the planning process, there are points within the guidance where the language can, and should, be stronger. A local authority throughcare and aftercare worker noted the following passage in particular:

‘Within these groups, local authorities and health boards may wish to give particular attention to obtaining the views of children and young people, across all ages, socio-economic groups and types of need.’[5]

Passive language such as ‘may wish’ does not centre the views of children and young people to the extent that we believe to be necessary. Further, consultation in and of itself does not go far enough. Instead, a co-production and co-design approach should be strongly stated as a recommendation: ultimately, a Children’s Services Plan exists to meet the needs of children and young people accessing services to which they are entitled. As such, the development of these plans must involve and centre them in a meaningful way.

Currently, as noted by throughcare and aftercare workers, ‘participation [of care-experienced children and young people] can often feel tokenistic’. We believe the guidance should explicitly recommend a co-production approach, which is shown to enable ‘professionals and citizens [to make] better use of each other’s assets, resources and contributions to achieve better outcomes and improved efficiency’[6]ultimately, it is a way of working with, rather than doing to, people and communities.[7]

An approach of co-production would more closely align with the fundamental principles of Dr Campbell Christie referenced in the introduction to the guidance:

‘If we are to have effective and sustainable public services capable of meeting the challenges ahead […] Reforms must empower individuals and communities receiving public services by involving them in the design and delivery of the services they use.’[8]

3. Accessible guidance

A consistent thread of feedback details the lack of accessibility of the guidance, for both young people and workers. It is, of course, difficult to strike the balance between brevity and providing the detail necessary: however, it is felt that the guidance in its current form is lengthy to an onerous extent. A local authority throughcare worker stated: ‘There are too many plans’ with another remarking, ‘I feel the guidance notes need to be more accessible. We need to use technology better than we do’. Overly lengthy guidance provides a barrier for the workforce, who are in many cases facing financial and resourcing pressures – and as such, may already be working at full capacity.

Further, a representative from Staf attended a consultation event facilitated by Children in Scotland, GCVS Everyone’s Children Project and the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE) and we wish to echo their collective call for more accessible documentation through the provision of ‘Easy Read’ versions of the guidance. We would wish to add a specific call, as detailed earlier in our response,  for accompanying guidance specifically for those supporting care-experienced children and young people, which could include recommendations on practitioner involvement and a co-production approach in ensuring children and young people in and leaving care can meaningfully input into the planning process.



[1] Scottish Government (2016) Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014: Statutory Guidance on Part 3: Children’s Services Planning p.10

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid. p.5

[4] Ibid. pp.1-2

[5] Scottish Government (2016) Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014: Statutory Guidance on Part 3: Children’s Services Planning p.38

[6] Loeffler, E. & Bovaird, T. (2013) The role of co-production for better health and wellbeing: why we need to change p.23

[7] IRISS (2018) Co-production Project Planner: a resource to support co-production projects to happen effectively  

[8] Scottish Government (2016) Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014: Statutory Guidance on Part 3: Children’s Services Planning p. 8