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



Coles E, Cheyne H, Rankin J & Daniel B (2016) Getting It Right for Every Child: A National Policy Framework to Promote Children's Well-being in Scotland, United Kingdom. Milbank Quarterly, 94 (2), pp. 334-365.

Context  Despite persistent health inequalities and intergenerational deprivation, the Scottish government aspires for Scotland to be the best country for children to grow up in. Getting It Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) is a landmark children's policy framework to improve children's well-being via early intervention, universal service provision, and multiagency coordination across organizational boundaries. Placing the child and family “at the center,” this approach marks a shift from welfare to well-being, yet there is still a general lack of consensus over how well-being is defined and measured. As an umbrella policy framework with broad reach, GIRFEC represents the current and future direction of children's/family policy in Scotland, yet large-scale practice change is required for successful implementation.  Methods  This article explores the origins and emergence of GIRFEC and presents a critical analysis of its incremental design, development, and implementation.  Findings  There is considerable scope for interpretation within the GIRFEC legislation and guidance, most notably around assessment of well-being and the role and remit of those charged with implementation. Tensions have arisen around issues such as professional roles; intrusion, data sharing, and confidentiality; and the balance between supporting well-being and protecting children. Despite the policy's intentions for integration, the service landscape for children and families still remains relatively fragmented.  Conclusions  Although the policy has groundbreaking potential, inherent tensions must be resolved and the processes of change carefully managed in order for GIRFEC to be effective. It remains to be seen whether GIRFEC can fulfil the Scottish government's aspirations to reduce inequalities and improve lifelong outcomes for Scotland's children and young people. In terms of both a national children's well-being framework within a universal public service context and a distinct style of policymaking and implementation, the Scottish experience represents a unique case study of whole-country, transformational change and is of relevance to other jurisdictions.

wellbeing; children; early intervention; policy development; policy analysis

Milbank Quarterly: Volume 94, Issue 2

FundersScottish Government
Publication date30/06/2016
Publication date online06/06/2016
Date accepted by journal04/03/2016
PublisherWiley-Blackwell for Milbank Memorial Fund

People (2)


Professor Helen Cheyne
Professor Helen Cheyne

Personal Chair, NMAHP

Dr Emma Coles
Dr Emma Coles

Research Fellow, NMAHP

Projects (1)