Young people design new house for children in care in Tayside


Aberlour Children’s Charity, is proud to announce the opening of Red Squirrel, a unique and inspiring new house in Tayside for primary school aged children who are not able to live with their own families. Red Squirrel has been co-designed with children and young people who have been in the care system themselves, and is the result of an innovative partnership between Aberlour, Angus, and Perth & Kinross Councils who have recognised the need for loving homes that provide high quality care for vulnerable children within their own community.

Listening to the voices of children and young people

Children and young people from Angus and Perth & Kinross were involved in the design of the house’s interior as well as recruitment of the staff team, as Aberlour and the partnering Councils believe that their direct experience of the care system and opinions are invaluable.  By involving them the team has been able to design a house with a warm and loving environment which will give children the best possible care and support to prepare them for their future.  Red Squirrel will provide a positive, nurturing care experience for those children Aberlour is privileged to be asked to look after.  This approach of involving children and young people in the design is in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and in keeping with Aberlour’s pledge to keep The Promise, a series of recommendations following the conclusion of the Independent Care Review published in February 2020.

The young people’s first-hand knowledge and experience has allowed Aberlour to be better prepared to welcome the first children to the new house in April 2021.  They advised that there should be outdoor spaces which provide a calming environment, with a summer house or treehouse for children to chill out and play in. They also recommended that there should be a variety of easily accessible sensory environments as well as different rooms or indoor spaces for specialist activities like therapies, or for social interaction when welcoming visiting family and friends.  Aberlour has taken their ideas into account in preparing the house and is confident that Red Squirrel and its garden represents what children and young people have said is important to them.

building new relationships

Young people were also involved in the recruitment of staff, specifying that those looking after the children should be approachable and down to earth. They were central to selection of the whole team and helped Aberlour to recruit staff on the basis of people’s personal qualities and ability to make relationships based on love, respect and understanding.

Aberlour has spoken to the neighbours to outline its hopes and aspirations for Red Squirrel and to build good relationships so that the new house can quickly become an integral part of the local community.

keeping ‘the promise’

Jim Wallace, Director of Children’s Services said: ”We are thrilled to be opening this new house which will provide a safe, comfortable home for some of the most vulnerable children in Tayside.  Our houses in other parts of Scotland have the same rhythms and routines as a typical family home and therefore it’s no different to what you would expect of a traditional family moving in. We take pride in being good neighbours and have an excellent reputation for providing these bespoke care services across Scotland. Involving young people in the design of Red Squirrel and recruitment of staff has been hugely valuable and is a brilliant example of how organisations like ourselves can implement The Promise.”

New house manager, James Arnold said: “The house is terrific – very spacious, safe, secure and beautifully designed. It’s wonderful that young people who have experienced care themselves have been able to recommend what’s required and what will work best. The team and I are very excited to welcome children from the local community to our new house. We know from previous experience how important it is that they remain close to their own communities and can access the support they need.  Red Squirrel will enable them to do precisely that.”

Murron Dempster, one of the young people involved in the design of the house said: ”It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to be involved about the design of Red Squirrel. I am delighted to have been an equal partner in the design of the house and to be able to use my experiences of the care system to help others. I hope that the children moving in will be very happy there”.

Let Murron show you what Red Squirrel looks like: