Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) is a model which sets out the Scottish Government's priorities to improve the lives of looked-after children and young people. It is the result of a long term and comprehensive development that has relationships at its heart and reflects the ongoing collaborative work between the Scottish Government, Local Authorities, professionals, carers, families, children and young people.
- builds solutions with and around children, young people and families,
- enables children and young people to get the help they need when they need it,
- supports a positive shift in culture, systems and practice,
- involves working better together to improve life chances for children, young people and families.
Context of good practice
GIRFEC is a central programme over political electoral cycles which was created and run by professional consensus and which could not succeed without the co-operation of the full governmental sphere. The preface of the model’s implementation guide words it this way: “Getting it right for every child is the golden thread that knits together the policy objectives for children and young people.”
Main characteristics of the challenge, description of the target group
The report by Kilbrandon Committeefocusing on the system of juvenile jurisdiction published in 1964, stated that a high proportion of the offences could be classified as trivial and more than one third of the cases were closed with discharges or admonitions. Only a small part of them can be qualified as serious offences. As a consequence, a great part of judicial proceedings can be classified as unnecessary and time consuming. The report also stated that it is not possible to hold responsible only young people for the offences. The report advised in their assessment for courts to take into consideration the wider picture of home environment, parental care and responsibility. It was clear that various situations of young people going to court – independently of their crimes – were comparable to one another. As a consequence, the Committee has advised for the government to replace the present model of youth jurisdiction with a new system.
The problems identified by Children’s Reporters’ annual reports significantly changed by the beginning of 21st century. The ratio of young people placed under surveillance due to committing minor offences rose only by 7 percent between 1992 and 2002, while the ratio of those who needed help due to other reasons grew by 102%. The capacity of the system was getting less and less to manage the new problems.
[Source: SCRA (2003),Annual Report 2002-03, Stirling, SCRA]
Success factors and processes
1.1 Future vision and development strategy (2005-2006)
- The development of national practice tools, training materials and guidance.
- The streamlining of children’s records, assessments and action plans.
- The development and pilot testing of a prototype electronic solution to facilitate information sharing across children’s services.
- A communication strategy for keeping managers and staff in children’s services informed of developments.
- Pathfinders to work with the Scottish Executive to help shape, develop and test the practice tools and training materials and inform the development of national guidance by providing feedback on their experiences of:
- identifying where changes were needed;
- initiating changes to systems, practice and professional cultures in order to implement the Getting it right approach;
- evaluating the impact of the changes on actual practice and introducing further developments and adjustments where necessary.
- You can find such a combination of urban and agricultural population in this area which offers a possibility to analyse the diverse pattern of problems.
- The Well-being Indicators forming the basis of GIRFEC programme were developed by Children's Plan workshop operating in Highland area in 2004.
- A multi-agency reference group was formed in the council’s territory in 2005 with the support Open University. The group aimed at joint planning and overseeing the work of health, social work, education, culture and sport, police, Reporter’s Office, community learning, leisure and voluntary agencies – in harmony with the intentions of GIRFEC.
A multi-agency development team was established with participants from the fields of social work, health, education, culture and sport, police and Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) and the Pathfinder programme was announced.
- A new Police Child's Concern Form was introduced. From that time on, practitioners of health and education received information faster from police which helped them intervene to support children at the time of crisis.
-The practitioners of all the services operating in Highland area were informed and the managers were prepared for changes. Service Managers Groups were established to support the roll out process. The specialists’ work and acute health services started harmonizing with the programme of GIRFEC. The training programme attached to the new field of activity (Lead Professional) of GIRFEC was completed.
- ECS (Emergency Care Summary) guidance has been made ready and come into force to be used by the organizations concerned and harmonized with GIRFEC programme.
- GIRFEC programme has been rolled out across Highland after performing several trainings.
- The new approach has been built into the New Child Protection procedures and was ready to be implemented nationally.
- How the pathfinders built on existing good practice.
- How the Getting it right approach was implemented at the local level and the extent to which it actually brought about changes in practice and professional cultures.
- The challenges and barriers to change that were encountered and how these were addressed.
- The resource implications of changes of this magnitude.
- The extent to which the changes brought about improved outcomes for children, young people and their families.
The detailed picture of experiences of pathfinder phase can be found in the summary analysis.
1.3 Spreading the programme nationwide (2010-2014)
There was a change of government in Scotland in 2007, but the new cabinet continued the former one’s policy. It has contracted a concordat with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) which maintains the majority of health and education institutions. Among other things, the concordat has laid down how local authorities should take responsibility for the realization of National Outcomes placed under continuous monitoring within the framework of National Performance Framework. National Outcomes consisted of three items directly contacting to the programme of GIRFEC:
1. Our young people are successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens. (No.4)
2. Our children have the best start in life and are ready to succeed. (No.5)
3. We have improved the life chances for children, young people and families at risk. (No.8)
- Promoting the well-being of individual children and young people.
- Keeping children and young people safe.
- Putting the child at the centre.
- Taking a whole child approach.
- Building on strengths and promoting resilience.
- Promoting opportunities and valuing diversity.
- Providing additional help that is appropriate, proportionate and timely.
- Working in partnership with families.
- Supporting informed choice.
- Respecting confidentiality and sharing information.
- Promoting the same values across all working relationships.
- Making the most of bringing together each worker’s expertise.
- Co-ordinating help.
- Building a competent workforce to promote children and young people’s wellbeing.
(See the detailed interpretation of the items above in the pdf version of Implementation Guide, p17)
1. A focus on improving outcomes for children, young people and their families based on a shared understanding of well-being
2. A common approach to gaining consent and to sharing information where appropriate
3. An integral role for children, young people and families in assessment, planning and intervention
4. A co-ordinated and unified approach to identifying concerns, assessing needs, agreeing actions and outcomes, based on the Well-being Indicators
5. Streamlined planning, assessment and decision-making processes that lead to the right help at the right time
6. Consistent high standards of co-operation, joint working and communication where more than one agency needs to be involved, locally and across Scotland
7. A Lead Professional to co-ordinate and monitor inter-agency activity where necessary
8. Maximising the skilled workforce within universal services to address needs and risks at the earliest possible time
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, through the national eCare programme where appropriate.
[Source: Implementation Guide, pdf version, p13]
The main message was visualized on the front page of the guide by a picture of cogwheels driving each other: starting from the values and principles of GIRFEC approach changes must be implemented in the fields of culture, systems and practice – categories with the following interpretation:
Out of ten components above, the first three items referred to culture, four ones to daily practice and three items to the changes of structure.
[Source: Implementation Guide, pdf version, p22]
It was clear for the authors of the Guide that different organizations and practitioners of Scotland would not be at the same stages of their GIRFEC journey. They also emphasised that good solutions for local needs can be mostly found on the spot based on best practice. That is why they took it for granted that the programme will not be implemented in the same way or at the same pace throughout Scotland.
The first stage of national implementation all over the country was to establish Community Planning Partnerships which showed a long term commitment to changes. Examining the processes up to that time was the first step which was accompanied by deciding on which of the former items can be built on, what needs changes or be replaced. Leaders of children’s services needed to agree and adopt a common strategy on how to improve the lives of children and young people in their own area. They could propose various solutions but the National Practice Model accompanied by new tools had to be adopted everywhere. Various trainings and several forms of support have helped them.
A nationwide software was developed and installed in that period supporting data management. Paper based records were namely used during pathfinder phase which proved to be large and unwieldy.
The GIRFEC model was installed into Scotland’s legal system by Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 and it has been operating up to our days.
The decisive procedural elements and tools of GIRFEC model are as follows:
2.1. Wellbeing indicators
The GIRFEC approach focuses on the intention of supporting child’s wellbeing comprehensively. The sections are described by eight wellbeing indicators. In terms of indicators the following norms have to be provided for the appropriate development of every child and youth.
Protected from abuse, neglect or harm at home, at school and in the community.
Having the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health, access to suitable healthcare, and support in learning to make healthy, safe choices.
Being supported and guided in learning and in the development of skills, confidence and self-esteem, at home, in school and in the community.
Having a nurturing place to live in a family setting, with additional help if needed, or where not possible, in a suitable care setting.
Having opportunities to take part in activities such as play, recreation and sport, which contribute to healthy growth and development, at home, in school and in the community.
Having the opportunity, along with parents and carers, to be heard and involved in decisions that affect them.
Having opportunities and encouragement to play active and responsible roles at home, in school and in the community, and where necessary, having appropriate guidance and supervision, and being involved in decisions that affect them.
Having help to overcome social, educational, physical and economic inequalities, and being accepted as part of the community in which they live and learn.
This intention is illustrated by the diagram of Wellbeing Wheel in all related materials. It puts the indicators into a common framework with the four curricular strategic aims for young people aged 3-18 and the policy intentions to secure the best life start for every child.
Three tools and corresponding guides specifically developed for this purpose help practitioners of how to use wellbeing indicators.
a) My world triangle
The tool named My world triangle helps to assess strengths and burdensome momentums in young people’s life, respectively in every phase of work carried out with them. Their physical and mental state can be mapped with the help of the clouds of How I grow and develop.
b) Resilience matrix
Resilience matrix helps analysing the information collected by My world triangle. It aims at identifying the sources which might support young people in their actual life-period to cope with their problems. Utilising the views valid for all children and young people, a similar scheme of help network was created for particularly vulnerable children which is available at the homepage below.
c) Child's network of support
Practitioners and organizations appear in the next circle which offer complementary help for learners with disadvantageous background and/or learning difficulties and then those ones who give complex and specific help for children/young people in need. Practitioners and institutions being able to intervene with immediate help for children who face imminent dangers can be found on the external edge of concentric circles.
2. 2. GIRFEC planning and National Practice Model
When a child, young person or their family asks for help with a wellbeing concern, the people who support them should listen to their views and consider:
- what is getting in the way of this person's wellbeing?
- do I have all the information I need to help?
- what can I do now?
- what can my organisation do to help?
- what additional help, if any, may be needed from others?
When assessment, planning and action are needed, practitioners can draw on GIRFEC National Practice Model, which is a consistent way for an agency or organisation to construct a plan and take appropriate action to support children, young people and their families. It
- provides a framework for practitioners and agencies to structure and analyse information consistently so as to understand a child or young person's needs, the strengths and pressures on them, and consider what support they might need;
- defines needs and risks as two sides of the same coin. It promotes the participation of children, young people and their families in gathering information and making decisions as central to assessing, planning and taking action;
- provides a shared understanding of a child or young person's needs by identifying concerns that may need to be addressed.
The National Practice Model is a dynamic and evolving process of assessment, analysis, action and review, and a way to identify outcomes and solutions for individual children or young people. It allows practitioners to meet GIRFEC core values and principles in an appropriate, proportionate and timely way. It is also a way for all persons who support children, young people and their families to develop a common language within a single framework, enabling more effective inter- and intra-agency working.
2.3. Child's plan
In case of children and young people who need extra support connecting to well-being indicators, personalised child’s plans are made to record what support should be delivered and co-ordinated. If the actions need the cooperation of several agencies, the preparation and realization of the plan should be managed by lead professionals.
2. 4. Information sharing
Information sharing is essential according to multi-agency cooperation but families must have confidence about how and when any information sharing takes place to support a child or young person’s wellbeing. Organisations must handle, store, process and share personal information in line with existing laws and guidance. These include data protection, confidentiality and human rights.
People working with children, young people and their families must work in partnership with them when considering and sharing information necessary to promote, support or safeguard a child or young person's wellbeing. In most circumstances, the child or young person and parents will know what information is being shared, with whom and for what purpose, and their views will be taken into account. This may not happen in exceptional cases, such as where there is a concern for a child’s safety.
The Guide to Getting it right for every child – building on the experiences of the implementation process – was published by the government in summer, 2012.
3. Useful competences of the problem solving staff / team to reach the main aim
3.1. During the implementation period
The experiences of pathfinder phase have indicated that effective leadership is needed to spread the new approach successfully. When implementing the approach nationwide, strategic managers and operational managers played prominent roles besides practitioners. Specific summaries were compiled about the tasks of the three groups.
a) Strategic managers controlled reviewing all procedures in their areas affecting children and families. Their task was to ensure that local services become consistent and compatible with GIRFEC approach. They were responsible for appointing a dedicated change manager at senior level in every organization and ensuring that staff understand new procedures and know how to use them. They had to notice where to seek advice and clarification.
b) Operational managers were the practical controllers for change. Closely co-operating with strategic managers, they were responsible for motivating the leaders of each organization to show commitment towards the new approach and encouraging practitioners to gain confidence of how to use the new procedures and tools. They had to take care of staff gain appropriate training. They were mentors and supervisors in one person.
c) Practitioners consisted of everybody with his or her specific competence who worked in any type of child services. Their main task was to understand whole child approach and take it to their own practice in a creative way. This means, they had to listen to children and their families concerning the best help they were in need of and they acted on this to build effective practice. They were expected to use National Practice Model. The had to be aware of the roles of Named Person and Lead Professional and were expected to co-operate with them. They also had to participate in trainings supporting implementation.
3.2. New roles related to GIRFEC approach
GIRFEC model has developed two completely new fields of activity.
a) Lead Professionals are the persons who coordinate multi-agency planning and operation where a child or a young person needs help from two or more agencies. They are responsible for making sure that different services provide a network of support around the child in a seamless, timely and proportionate way. They have a critical role in ensuring that children and their families become active contributors to supporting process.
b) Named persons must offer strong points of contact if a child, young person or their parents want information or advice, or if they want to talk about any worries and seek support. Children and young people from birth to 18 or beyond if still attending school, and their parents should have access to a named person, who is responsible for helping them, providing support they need.
Strong contact points are established by people whose existing role already involves providing advice and support to families. As a child grows up, his or her contact point will change with the kind of support usually provided by:
- health visitors from birth to school age,
- head teachers or deputies during primary school years,
- head teachers, deputies or guidance teachers during secondary school years.
The family may be offered direct support from their named persons or access to relevant services offered by the National Health Service (NHS),local authorities and third sector or community groups.
Named Persons make use of National Practice Model when they make a decision on what they have to do in order to help people asking for support. Children, young people or their families can expect their contact to respond to their wellbeing needs, respect their rights, choice, privacy and diversity. Children should be included in decisions that affect them. It is not obligatory for children and families to accept advice or support from a named person.
4. What is the appropriate timeframe of the implementation?
GIRFEC was a long term initiative aiming at comprehensive and complex changes. The government planned to implement the process in four years – following the development phase. Experience has however indicated that the full and nationwide transformation of the system even needed a longer period.
It is worth adapting the programme if:
- the most important specific elements of developing an integrated system for child support are given – which are separately working well,
- general thinking of society is characterized by child centred values,
- an existing will spanning over political cycles is ready to implement the programme,
- the different levels of governance are able to co-operate with each other in order to reach the common goal,
- practitioners are provided with necessary time and professional support by lead managers to commit themselves for improvements,
- the society has cultural tradition for partnership and demands transparency of public processes.
Scottish experiences have however indicated that change will not occur with a big bang but will take place over time – in case, persistent intent and work are available.
Impact of measures taken
The main target groups of changes were made up of (a) practitioners working for child-services, (b) children and young people and their families. (c) Everybody has however been affected in a wider sense who played any role in supporting children’s wellbeing. The introduction of the programme had several important effects as follows:
As the best solutions for local problems can be almost always found on the spot, it is important to have solid central principles and values accompanied by diverse local forms of realization.
Operating the development workgroup, and the financial costs of training and mentoring the practitioners of child-services – at the stage of preparation, development and implementation.
Any other information
Recommended further websites
Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills (Role holder in 2020: John Swinney MSP)
The Scottish Government. St. Andrew's House. Regent Road Edinburgh EH1 3DG
Responsibilities according to the topic: educational attainment, qualifications and closing the attainment gap, Named Person
CHILDREN AND FAMILIES DIRECTORATE (MINISTER FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE IN 2020: MAREE TODD MSP)
Responsibilities according to the topic: implementing policy priorities for children, young people and families, promoting the rights and views of children and young people, policy on regulation and development of the social services workforce,
GIRFEC Team (Within the Children and Families Directorate)
Victoria Quay Edinburgh, EH6 6QQ
Telephone: 0300 244 4000 - Central Enquiry Unit
Prepared by Ms Gönczöl, Enikő (education expert of EDUNET Foundation, Hungary)
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