This week Aberlour’s Chief Executive, SallyAnn Kelly, spoke at the Scotland Policy Conference seminar in Edinburgh on the topic of improving provision for children in care and care leavers. She highlighted some of the key challenges facing all those concerned with the care and support of Scotland’s most vulnerable children, recognising that whilst on the face of it Scotland has great national policy much work still needs to be done around implementation to realise policy intention. She noted:
“In terms of taking policy for children in care forward, we need to think seriously about putting the building blocks in place to ensure a consistent and coherent approach”.
She believes that children in care and care leavers are often not getting all the support they are entitled to, or that they are even aware of their entitlements, and sees this as a children’s rights issue. She urged the Scottish Government to fully incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and feels this would ensure all those with corporate parenting responsibilities would then have a legal duty to put children’s rights first when making decisions about their care and support. She said:
“The best thing we could do is fully incorporate UNCRC and ensure children’s rights, including the rights of children in care and care leavers, are fully reflected and represented in law.”
She also highlighted real challenges in how staff who work with children in care are supported.
“How do we expect our workforce to nurture and heal our children if they do not feel nurtured or feel safe? Too often workers highlight a culture where they don’t feel supported or they don’t have a sense of their own agency.”
Recognising that the most important thing for vulnerable and traumatised children in our care system is developing consistent, positive and nurturing relationships with the adults who care for them, she acknowledged:
“We can’t achieve positive outcomes for children in care in Scotland without ensuring we support them to form enduring, meaningful relationships. In order to realise this we must support our workforce appropriately to make sure they can do that for our children.”
SallyAnn spoke of the need to be radical in how with continue to support young people once they have left care. She proposed a universal income for care leavers to remove the anxiety and stress around their financial circumstances that so many young care leavers experience, as well as reduce the increased risk of them falling into poverty. She urged:
“If we want to truly improve outcomes for care leavers we must be bold. As corporate parents we should be the bank of mum and dad for our young people. Let’s give them hope and make sure they know they don’t have to worry about having to pay their bills or rent, or feeding themselves or going out with their pals. It’s not beyond our wit to do so, but we need the political will.”