Liam McArthur: "At the weekend, the Scottish Government made it clear to the press that "a decision was made at ministerial level to wind up the GIRFEC Programme Board after May 2014." Does the minister think that it was acceptable for ministers to take such a decision without having any recourse to the Scottish Parliament, which had responsibility for scrutinising and approving the GIRFEC legislation?"
Aileen Campbell: "As I said, the programme board was established to take us through the legislative phase of getting it right for every child. After the 2014 act was passed, I took the decision to look at options for maintaining strategic engagement and driving forward the implementation of GIRFEC. The programme board’s job was done. We had got through the legislative phase, and I took the strategic decision to focus on implementation."
"The national implementation support group is there to provide that strategic engagement and to drive forward the implementation of GIRFEC. There was consensus on that decision at the last meeting of the programme board in September 2014, and it was recognised that we needed to have the right people on the group to drive forward the implementation of GIRFEC. "
"While the board wound down, there was continued emphasis on implementation, and that was done through the national implementation support group."
Liam McArthur: "I am grateful to the minister for that further clarification, but I want to press her on the point about when and how the Parliament was informed about a decision on a programme board that the Parliament was responsible for setting up. Despite the fact that the minister has said that consultation took place with the programme board members, the Parliament does not appear to have been informed of a decision in which it had a very legitimate interest."
Aileen Campbell: "I reiterate that we had gone through the legislative phase and, to maintain the strategic engagement with the sector, agencies and other people, I decided to focus on implementation. That is why the national implementation support group continued. It had sat under the programme board, but it continued so that we could drive forward the GIRFEC agenda."
"I can make sure that the member is furnished with all the details of the meetings, if he so wishes, so that he has the clarity that he seeks. I am determined to get the implementation of the legislation, which is important, right, which is why the focus of our attention changed from the legislative phase that the programme board was charged with to implementation. We decided that we did not need both organisations, and we decided to maintain our focus on implementation, which is the role of the NISG."
Liam McArthur: "On implementation, I am looking at the minutes from the programme board meeting in May 2014. Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham of Police Scotland "raised issues surrounding ensuring high-risk children remained a focus." The minister will recall that, even among those of us who were prepared to accept the case for named persons, one of the key concerns was that attention and resources should not be diverted away from those who have genuine welfare issues in order to address wider concerns in relation to wellbeing issues. What reassurances have been given to Police Scotland and other members of the programme and implementation boards that there has not been a redirection of focus away from those high-risk children?"
Aileen Campbell: "The whole thrust of getting it right for every child, as we have learned from the Highland model, is that it allows us to focus and to be more strategic with our resources, and to make sure that we are getting it right for children who show that level of need and require additional support. There is no retracting from our focus on trying to do things better for a group of vulnerable children. That is part of the whole GIRFEC approach. It is about getting it right for every child every time..."
[Applying GIRFEC to every child is how to focus on a group of vulnerable children, according to Ms Campbell. She never addresses Constable Malcolm Graham`s concern that this has resulted in a redirection of focus away from children at risk of significant harm.]
"I will make the minutes of the meetings available on the Government’s website. I will also ensure that we give members any reassurances that they want if they want to get in touch with me or write to me..."
Liz Smith (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con): "Is there not a case for getting it right for the public? The minutes that were published were very clear in telling us exactly what was going on. Now that that board is no longer in existence, we are not in a position to know what is going on. Is it not time that the Scottish Government published all the information and advice that it is being given about the implementation of GIRFEC and named persons? "
Aileen Campbell: "I understand that the member does not share my views on the GIRFEC approach, but I am absolutely committed to that policy. I know that it is the right thing to do for our children, to make sure that we have much more co-ordinated and coherent approaches to helping them. If there is any information that the member requires, we will look into those queries...."