Aberlour Briefing for Scottish Government Debate: Improving the Care Experience for Looked After Children – 20th December 2016
Aberlour was first founded as an orphanage in 1875 and has been providing residential childcare ever since. We currently provide specialist residential care, foster care and education support to children and young people from across Scotland, through our cluster of Sycamore services based in Fife. In 2017, Aberlour will begin operating a new residential service in the Highlands on behalf of the Highland Council. In addition, Aberlour also provides through-care and aftercare support for care leavers, and works with many children and young people looked after at home. We believe that love and compassion need to be the foundation of the care and support all our looked after children and young people receive.
Build on existing strengths
We acknowledge that there are significant weaknesses within the care system and that the system currently is not getting it right for all 15,000 looked after children and young people in Scotland. However, we also recognise that throughout the care system, particularly in residential care settings, there are examples of good practice, with many of Scotland’s looked after children and young people receiving holistic and nurturing care and support – with many positive outcomes as a result. Therefore, we believe it is such inconsistency that needs to be addressed, and the Scottish Government could look to the many examples of good practice, in both the public and third sectors, on which to model future provision consistently across Scotland.
Focus on the children and young people currently in the system
We share the Scottish Government’s vision of developing a care system for the future that works for all Scotland’s looked after children and young people. In achieving this, it is essential that those children and young people currently in the care system are supported to participate in the forthcoming review. All stakeholders should be provided with an opportunity to have their voice heard, including providers and practitioners, however, those children and young people in the care system right now are the real experts as to what works and what does not work regarding the care and support they receive. There are many children and young people in the care system – particularly those who are looked after at home – who ordinarily find it difficult to have their voice heard, who feel neither encouraged nor empowered to voice their opinions, thoughts or feelings. These are the children and young people whom the review needs to engage with if it is to determine truly what must be done to improve the care system for all.
Improved support children and young people on the edge of care
Current support models and arrangements for those children and young people who are at risk of being accommodated are often inadequate for addressing the myriad environmental factors which contribute to that risk. If the care review is to seek to improve the current provision of care and support for those already in the care system, it should equally be concerned with preventing children and young people on the edge of care from entering the system in the first place. We understand that in some cases a child or young person being accommodated is the best or only option, however we believe edge of care support provision, including holistic family support aimed to meet the needs and understand the individual circumstances of families where and when it is needed, including out-of-hours support on evenings and weekends, could in many situations mitigate the need for accommodation as an option when alternative support arrangements would, in fact, address many of the influencing factors.
All stakeholders must be seen as equal partners
We believe that implementing a single universal approach across sectors, as with the GIRFEC model, would help to achieve an equal sense of purpose and responsibility amongst all those who have any concern for the care and support of looked after children and young people. Looked after children and young people, like their peers, have regular contact with universal services across all sectors, and therefore all agencies, services and practitioners should be supported to understand the particular needs of looked after children. It is widely evidenced that both educational attainment and mental health outcomes for looked after children are significantly poor in relation to their peers within the general population, and therefore both the education and health sectors are key to ensuring those particular needs of looked after children and young people are met. This review provides an opportunity to implement a whole systems approach which recognises the equal part the education, health and third sectors all have to play in providing a care system that works for all Scotland’s looked after children and young people.
An additional area for action
We believe the Scottish Government should engage in a public information campaign that sets out the purpose and the need for the forthcoming care review.
For any further information please email Martin Canavan, Policy & Participation Officer Martin.Canavan@aberlour.org.uk