Early years interventions

Getting It Right for Every Child: A National Policy Framework to Promote Children’s Well-being in Scotland, United Kingdom

With Scotland’s policy framework for improving children’s wellbeing soon to become law, The Milbank Quarterly has recently published a timely analysis of Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC), jointly-authored by Emma Coles and Helen Cheyne (NMAHP-RU, University of Stirling), Brigid Daniels (CCWP) and Jean Rankin (University of the West of Scotland). This case study of the development and implementation of GIRFEC is part of a wider project focusing on early years health and wellbeing interventions, to synthesise evidence around what works, for whom and in what circumstances, to increase child wellbeing and reduce inequalities. The GIRFEC paper will be useful to anyone who wants to understand how and why policy, practice and legislation affecting children, young people and their families in Scotland has evolved. It also helps explain why there are controversies around aspects such as the Named Person and fears of intrusion, and the importance of resolving these and managing the processes of implementation and change.

As a landmark policy framework and practice initiative, GIRFEC represents both a distinct way of thinking and the future direction of children’s welfare policy. In the paper, the authors argue that GIRFEC is unique, in making an aspirational commitment to all Scotland’s children, whilst setting a national transformational agenda.  Additionally, it represents the ‘epitome’ of the Scottish approach to policymaking, where broad policy frameworks can be implemented to suit local contexts. The authors of the study trace GIRFEC’s incremental evolution across Scotland, its key components, and the reasons behind enshrining elements of GIRFEC within law, in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014. They discuss inherent tensions and controversies that have arisen from the GIRFEC policy and associated legislation, such as defining and assessing wellbeing, balancing the support for wellbeing against child protection, the role of the Named Person, information-sharing, and the scope for interpretation within the legislation and guidance. The challenges of integrating children’s policies/services, and the full implementation of the legislative aspects of GIRFEC in August 2016 are examined. In conclusion, the authors argue that, although GIRFEC has ground-breaking potential, rather than legislation alone, the key to successful implementation may lie “in the way these processes of change and associated uncertainties are introduced, negotiated, and managed.” It remains to be seen whether GIRFEC can fulfil the aspirations of the Scottish Government in terms of reducing inequalities and improving outcomes for children and young people.

Other related work

Coles E, Cheyne H and Daniel B. (2015) Early years interventions to improve child health and wellbeing: what works, for whom and in what circumstances? Protocol for a realist review. Systematic Reviews, 4:79.