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Achieving Seamless Services for Scotland’s Children

Early years wellbeing


The three ‘seamless service’ studentships address the ambition of the Scottish Government ‘To make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up for all babies, children, mothers, fathers and families.’ and are aligned with three objectives of the National Performance Framework: Our young people are successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens. Our children have the best start in life and are ready to succeed. We have improved the life chances for children, young people and families at risk.


With policies such as Getting it right for every child, The Early Years Framework, National Parenting Strategy, Curriculum for Excellence and Better Health: Better Care, Scotland is in a potentially strong position to improve the lives of children. The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 has now enshrined the concept of wellbeing in the statute, within the overarching framework of the SHANARRI Wellbeing indicators. Central to the Act is the aspiration that children’s wellbeing is promoted, supported and safeguarded and that they receive seamless services, provided as far as possible by practitioners in education and health services who will assume the role of ‘named persons’ for children. For children whose needs are beyond the scope or capacity of the named person service, the Act provides for a single planning process supported by a Lead professional. These policies are being implemented against the background of the full-scale reorganisation to integrate health and social care services across Scotland.  This has provided a unique opportunity in Scotland for in-depth critical analysis of the impact of these developments as they unfold in a changing and challenging real-world context. These three studentships will each contribute to this agenda with distinct but interlinked research projects (one studentship addressing each of social work, education and health).

Project one: From every child to each: exploring the complexities of service provision for children with wellbeing needs in Scotland.

The current system for children’s services in Scotland is built upon a range of policy and practice approaches. It sits among wider social, policy and political trends that influence whether and how services achieve the government’s stated goal of being appropriate, proportionate – the right services at the right time for families. This study explores service provision  where concerns arise around a child’s wellbeing using a case study design.  Here, the case study in question is the network of children’s service providers within a single local authority area, exploring elements of the general service environment and following individual casework where key actors in frontline service provision (social workers, health visitors, third sector staff, families and children) negotiate service provision. The study uses a range of qualitative methods, including repeat interviews with professionals, practitioners and service users; observations and reflective interviews around key meetings/events; and focus groups.  The project explores the multiple perspectives through which  the services to children are understood, and the practices through which the complexities of the case and its context are negotiated. The research is part of the wider Seamless Services research programme and its overarching questions of how ongoing reforms to Scottish children’s services are unfolding, and whether Scotland’s framework for children’s services is helping to make children’s lives better.  The study is exploratory, and aims to understand how professionals, services, children and families negotiate services where concerns arise around a child’s wellbeing which are below the thresholds for a child protection response. It uses a qualitative case study approach to answer three main questions: 1.How do different actors (practitioners, parents, children, families) negotiate issues around child wellbeing? 2. How do key contextual/structural elements, including social, policy and organisational factors, influence this?  3. What helps or hinders provision of proportionate, appropriate and timely services?

Project 2: Seamless Services: Learning how teachers practice and understand well-being through an exploration of how teachers communicate and document concerns about children’s well-being.

This project aims to examine how classroom teachers understand and practice their role(s) as part of the multidisciplinary support network for children, in regard to child well-being within the Scottish education context. The objective is to examine the role of classroom teachers with regard to child well-being concerns, including the perceptions and communication practices of teachers around significant events and interprofessional work within the multidisciplinary support network for children.  The project aims to produce a practical understanding of how teachers are currently navigating the multidisciplinary support network and the ways in which their communication practices effect both interprofessional aspirations (joined-up working, integration) and, subsequently, well-being outcomes for children. This research project will use qualitative methods and a case study design to explore how teachers perceive, communicate about, and document well-being concerns and significant events in the classroom.

Project 3: Exploring the tensions of Getting it Right for Every Child

In keeping with the aspiration to make Scotland the best place to grow up, the Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) policy approach has been developed in Scotland since 2004 to promote young children’s wellbeing. The two key principles within the GIRFEC are the promotion of early intervention practices as well as the seamless collaboration among stakeholders, such as families, educators, the police, social care and health services.

Because the GIRFEC principles have been enshrined in law in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act (2014) (Scottish Government, 2014), Health Visitors along with all the professionals working with families are required to adapt their practices to the new legislative changes at the ground level. From policy to practice, however, there are tensions brought up within GIRFEC. Due to the relatively new legislation, very little has been known about how professionals’ new practices are perceived by Health Visitors, parents and young children, which creates a research gap in the literature.

This qualitative study aims to critically explore how professionals (mostly Health Visitors), parents and children understand and negotiate the tensions in GIRFEC between 1. Promoting wellbeing and protecting from risk 2. Early intervention and reactive intervention 3.  Integrated and independent services. The study will be a case study of one Scottish NHS Health Board using individual interviews and focus groups with key stakeholders including parents. To collect young children’s views on the matter, creative methods i.e. drawing techniques, discussion on hypothetical scenarios (vignettes), unfinished sentences and postal boxes used with approximately 2-3 pre-schoolers (aged from 3-5) will take place.

Principal Investigator: Professor Helen Cheyne

Funder: Aberlour, NHS Forth Valley, Children in Scotland, Social Work Scotland, University of Stirling

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