A Young Person speaks about 2016: changing policy and practice

As someone who grew up in care in Scotland, 2016 will be a year that I never forget.

Currently I work in the policy team at Who Cares? Scotland. Who Cares? Scotland is an independent advocacy and campaigning organisation that works with and for care experienced people. We believe that care experienced people are the experts in their own lives and their experiences have the power to shape positive change. We know that when care experienced individuals are listened to, great things happen. The last time the Scottish Parliament listened directly to care experienced young people the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 was introduced and it included some of the biggest changes to the system in a long time. However, outcomes are still poor and we know that bigger changes are needed; a change that impacts on not just the system, but the world around care too.

With this in mind, Who Cares? Scotland launched the ‘1000 Voices’ campaign. ‘1000 Voices’ asks that 1000 care experienced people’s voices are listened to by the First Minister. We hope that by hearing from 1000 care experienced people the First Minister will understand how things can be improved. In September 2016 the First Minister, visited our national office in Glasgow. During this visit, I got to meet her alongside some of my care experienced peers. After she had spoken with us she announced her commitment to 1000 Voices and promised to realise this over the next two years. Not long after this, Nicola Sturgeon heard our calls for a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t, and announced a root and branch review of care in Scotland.

I remember the 15th October 2016 like it was yesterday, the day Nicola Sturgeon announced the independent root and branch review of care. I had recently not only spoken directly to the First Minister, but I had also shared my experience of care with Deputy First Minister, John Swinney. On the 15th, I was alongside my care experience peers. I remember feeling in awe as Nicola Sturgeon came onto the stage and started talking about care experienced people. It felt very surreal to me. When Nicola Sturgeon made the announcement, John Swinney was on stage looking at me with his thumbs up. In that moment, I couldn’t have been more proud of my care experience, and of the care experienced population within Scotland.

On the 16th February 2017, it was announced that Fiona Duncan will be the chair of the independent root and branch review of care. To have someone so successful, who has care experience herself, chairing this review means so much to me. She has a proper understanding of what care can be like as she has lived it herself, to me this is the most amazing thing that could have happened. I believe that Fiona is the best person to do this job and I think she will execute this review in a beautiful way.

I believe having the care experienced voice all the way throughout the review of care will be vital in making the future better for care experienced young people. Right now in Scotland, care experienced young people face some of the worst outcomes, despite being part of a system that was designed to make things better for us, and despite the hard work delivered by professionals all around the country. I hope that from this review, care experienced young people will always know that they are LOVED, VALUED and LISTENED to. That they won’t face a potential 10 moves within their care journey. That they don’t feel different or judged just because they don’t stay at home like everyone else. That they finally feel accepted and not ashamed of their lives. I believe that the care system can be a beautiful place to grow up, once our voices are heard. I am very excited to see what the future holds for the care experienced population.

Lynzy Hanvidge, Policy Ambassador, Who Cares? Scotland


Looking back on the Revisiting Child Protection in Scotland project: A View from the Field

In this blog, Trisha Hall, Scottish Association of Social Workers’ manager, talks about what the Revisiting Child Protection in Scotland project – and the TLC resources within it – have meant for her …

The Talking & Listening to Children (TLC) resources are a great set of tools and approaches which are of immeasurable value to social work, but also other professionals working with children and families.

For social workers to engage in the training sessions means such a welcome change from training in yet another system or procedure, assessment process, measuring tool, impact analysis or familiarisation of yet other professional framework, which at present appears to be the only training available to social work. We are operating within increasingly bureaucratic and procedural cultures, where there is little time for reflection and learning. This project takes practitioners back to why they wanted to be a social worker in the first place. It allows them to reconnect with the passion to make a real difference, through making the relationships with children and their families that build trust, that are non-threatening, but that may prevent an escalation from a child being in need to a child becoming at risk of harm.

The project’s overall impact has evidenced the need for a different culture, which allows for social workers to learn from academics but crucially also from each other, and the people they work with and for. We need to review CP practice in Scotland, not the systems which currently shape practice. We have so much evidence in the form of theories and in depth research, but very little sustainable practitioner based and informed activity.

The sessions have also shown us as the professional SW association how it is vital that we keep campaigning for the systemisation of evidence-based practice and associated tools. It is already evident that despite the very positive response to the workshops, the participants are not able to continue the activity as we had hoped if they have to do so in their own time. There is such an urgency in the day to day work and the frequently large caseloads that it is unlikely any continuation is possible in worktime. Yet this may be false economy. Children and families social workers, particularly those working in child protection, last an average of nine years before they seek another direction. We have to truly reimagine and revisit our child protection practice in order to make sustainable changes that will really “get it right for every child” as well as their families and communities.

Trisha Hall, SASW, Edinburgh
24th May 2017

The ‘Named Persons’ Supreme Court Ruling – what does this mean?

Yesterday (28th July), the UK Supreme Court published its judgment on the so-called ‘Named Persons scheme’ provisions of the Children & Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, which is due to come on stream across Scotland on 31st August.  Following a legal challenge to the policy, the Court made three important judgements. Firstly, it stated that the policy intention behind the 2014 Act was ‘unquestionably legitimate and benign’ and does not breach human rights. It also ruled that it was indeed within the Scottish government’s purview to legislate in this area without Westminster approval. At the same time, however, it ruled that information-sharing provisions included in the Act may result in a ‘disproportionate interference with the rights of children, young people and their parents under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)’. In light of this finding, the Scottish Government was invited to introduce amendments to the Supreme Court within the next 42 days. These amendments will have to make clearer how the competing demands of privacy, consent and information-sharing will be respected in practice.

The judgement was hailed as a victory by those for and against the provisions in the new legislation. Many of the children’s charities support the Scottish government, seeing the named person as “central to making sure that we get it right for every child in Scotland” (Martin Crew, Director of Barnardo’s Scotland, in a 28/07/16 press release)[1]. They were therefore delighted that the scheme had not been rejected outright by the Supreme Court. At the same time, the alliance of groups that has opposed the new legislation was ecstatic that the new provisions had (at least) been paused. In the words of Ruth Davidson, the Conservative Party leader in Scotland, “the scheme is illiberal, invasive, and deeply flawed” (Conservative Party website, 29/07/16)[2].

It is enormously difficult for all of us, whether inside or outside the child protection field, to express a view about any of this. Who would want to suggest that the protection of children isn’t our primary concern?  Who doesn’t agree that early intervention – uncovering neglect or abuse before it develops – isn’t a good thing? And who would disagree that we need to coordinate services better? So, if we are all on the same side (and it seems at least possible to argue that we are), what might be done to take this forward?

I’d like to suggest that there needs to be much more detailed work undertaken to examine how this scheme is going to work in practice. So, for example, let’s imagine that you, as a member of the public, hear a child screaming or see a child being hurt by an adult outside the home. What do you do? Presumably, you call the police or emergency social work services. Where is the named person in all of this? And what if this is July, when the schools are on holiday? How does the named person scheme function then? What if the child is a toddler – how many health visitors will it take to be ‘named persons’ for all of Scotland’s under-5s? And what about 16-18 year olds, who can, of course, leave school and even marry in Scotland? Is this the best way of supporting them? My biggest concern in the new world of the named person that, rather than speeding up help and making protection easier, we create uncertainty and confusion, and yet another bureaucratic obstacle – something that gets in the way of helping children and undermines the work of social workers who, under current legislation, are the ‘lead professional’ in child protection cases. There is also a risk of net-widening; as teachers and health visitors are faced with the responsibility of making decisions about the safety of increasing numbers of children, so more children and young people may be drawn into a child protection system that is already creaking under the weight of heavy workloads and financial cutbacks.

Our research on Talking & Listening to Children[3] has demonstrated that social workers do extraordinarily difficult and complex work. They manage to hold in mind and heart children and families who have multiple problems and massive needs – poverty and deprivation, domestic abuse, drug and alcohol problems, and a range of other social, economic and personal challenges. They do so, on the whole, very well – they build on strengths and help children, young people and adults to deal with all kinds of adversities. Moving forward, I would like to hope that we can find ways of giving credit to the ‘life-changing work’ that social workers do.[4] Let’s stop vilifying social workers and blaming parents and young people, and instead, see if we can truly create the more cohesive, compassionate, caring Scotland we want to be part of – with or without a Named Person scheme.

Professor Viviene Cree


[1] http://www.barnardos.org.uk/what_we_do/barnardos_today/scotland/scotland_news.htm?ref=111580

[2] http://www.conservativehome.com/thetorydiary/2016/07/named-person-how-has-it-come-to-this.html

[3] http://www.socialwork.ed.ac.uk/research/grants_and_projects/current_projects/revisiting_child_protection_in_scotland

[4] http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2006/02/02094408/16http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2006/02/02094408/16