FFP Member News: Action for Children - Care Review urged to consider recommendations of leading children’s charity
A year on from the announcement of an independent review into Scotland’s care system, Action for Children is asking the review to consider four recommendations in a newly published report that includes extensive feedback from care experienced young people in Scotland.
‘Scotland’s Care System: Achieving Life Goals and Ambitions’ report was launched at this year’s SNP conference. Its publication is 12 months on from when the review was announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during her leader’s speech at the SNP’s 2016 conference. The research is based on the views of almost 500 young people in the care system who are supported by Action for Children in Scotland.
Paul Carberry, Director of Action for Children in Scotland, said: “The independent review of Scotland’s care system is a huge opportunity to address any parts of the system that are failing our young people. In our report, we have looked at what care experienced children and young people have told us.
"Care experienced young people have told us repeatedly what needs to change. They want a system that allows them to develop positive and appropriate relationships with all those involved in their lives. They want people and systems around them that treat them with respect so that they can turn to them in times of need. They want to receive support at ‘transitional’ moments in their care journey. It is vital to get the balance right between having independence and receiving support."
Paul Carberry, Director of Action for Children in Scotland
“Now, more needs to be done to ensure that all the existing laws, policies, strategies, guidance, programmes and initiatives that have been committed to are fully implemented and delivered. The care system must evolve, in design and practice, with what young people, professionals and carers who live and work in it believe is needed.
“The Independent Review of Scotland’s Care System now has the opportunity to do this and make a real difference for children and young people in care.”
Brad Ritchie is one of the care experienced young people who fed into our report. Brad is 21 and was born in Irvine. At the age of nine, he was separated from his three siblings after family breakdown.
Although Brad spent more than three years in that placement, it was with a foster family who weren’t able to commit to long-term care beyond that point. “I felt anxious when I first left this placement and I became withdrawn,” said Brad. “I still don’t like meeting new people. Deep down I now expect people to abandon me and I find it hard to trust people.”
Brad was fortunate enough to have the support of a throughcare worker although that didn’t mean moving placements didn’t have an effect on him.
Brad said: “I felt nervous, worried about change, and getting used to new surroundings made me scared. I also worried too if I would fit into their family as they already had children and I might have been treated differently. This was first placement where I would be on my own as my sister had been moved on to a different placement during our stay with the first foster carer.”
Fortunately, though, his second carer, had a hugely positive impact on Brad. “I found my second foster carer Sarah to be very helpful. She encouraged me to keep in touch with my siblings, which was very important to me, as they had been accommodated with other foster placements.”
Brad left care at 18 years of age, and was placed in a supported homeless hostel. Brad stayed there for 2 years before he was allocated his own tenancy from West Lothian Council and referred to Action for Children for help with independent living.
Owing to being in care, Brad lacked experience of budgeting properly as his bills were paid for him and his food supplied. With help from Action for Children, Brad was able to develop the skills to manage his own tenancy. This included providing money skills training and help to navigate the benefits system. .
Action for Children also supported Brad to address underlying mental health issues that were causing him concern which he had not previously sought help for. Service staff supported Brad to take part in a social anxieties group. He was also referred to the Adventure Trust and attended an eight-week wilderness trip with them, which helped him to become more confident. Staff helped to access professional support for his mental health issues and he now attends his GP as required.
“My support worker has advised where I can access support, where that may be the drop in Action for Children, or I can call them at any time for advice,” said Brad. “They have also signposted other local agencies that can help me, like the local advice shop.”
Although in a much better place now, Brad still recognises the frustrations caused by some of the failings within the care system.
“I think the local authority could have helped me more when I left my foster carer,” said Brad. “I had to present as homeless, and I had no idea where to access the support, that was available.”
When pressed on what frustrated or annoyed him about the care system: “Not being with my brothers and sister,” said Brad. “At first, I didn’t like the rules, as I never had any before going into care but I learned these were for my own good,” Brad went on to say. “It annoyed and frustrated me that I didn’t know how to manage a tenancy, and I had no idea what I was doing. I was frustrated, as it took so long to find me a long-term foster placement.”
A few years on, Brad successfully manages his own tenancy in West Lothian and recently started a full-time child care course at the local college. He also supports others in the group, by talking about his experience of making the transition from care leaver, to homelessness, to successfully managing independent living. He is hopeful for the future. “I hope to continue at college or university, and train to work with kids, who may have been in care,” said Brad.
About the Review
The full report can be downloaded here
A total of 824 people in the care system are supported by Action for Children and were asked their views on what worked, what didn’t as well as their hopes and aspirations as part of the research. A total of 471 people responded and shared their views.
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