Change is coming. In October 2016, when the First Minister announced a root-and-branch review of the “care system” for children and young people that would be driven by those with direct experience, there was a mixture of excitement and, of course, scepticism as let’s face it, there have been many reviews with no real change at the end.
Few would disagree however, that Scotland’s current “care system” is expensive, excruciatingly bureaucratic and unwieldly and does not function as a single entity.
Furthermore it does not universally deliver what is needed – and indeed in many instances makes things a whole lot worse for infants, children, young people and their families who need support when things are tough.
What was different in this announcement was the commitment that direct or lived experience would be at the heart of the review, a direct promise made to the care community and a nod towards the need for it to be independent.
Therefore the Independent Care Review has focused on hearing from the people most affected in order to fully understand what is working and what is not.
Since the outset, the Care Review has heard from over 5,000 infants, children, young people and those who support them from every corner of Scotland and all settings.
Some of the stories are heart-aching accounts from badly let down children and young people, how they’ve missed out on loving, caring and life-enhancing childhoods many take for granted and how they felt and the toll that has taken on their later lives, their relationships and their well-being.
Awful experiences and people who care
As being the review’s chair, I’ve had the unique privilege of working alongside the most incredibly driven, passionate, courageous and visionary individuals.
And as the review comes to the end of its journey and starts looking towards delivering recommendations, I continue to remain staggered and moved by their generosity, particularly as many have had some truly awful experiences that will continue to affect them for the rest of their lives and yet are driven to make things better for children and young people who’ll be in need of care in the future.
The Care Review has also heard stories where, despite the odds, workers supporting young people have cared so much that they’ve lost or given up cherished careers and battled with nonsensical bureaucracy that got in the way of giving the love and nurture all of us as human beings need.
There are amazing examples of people who genuinely care and never forget to be decent, respectful human beings no matter what.
Another way that the Care Review is like no other is that the entirety of the work has been overseen by a group of which more than half have experience of care. Working alongside other experts and professionals to listen, scrutinise and analyse means that the subsequent recommendations will demand the change needed.
Over the coming months, the onus will be on Scotland to make sure we deliver. No one could question the First Minister’s commitment to change and how brave and visionary she was to have made this promise to our young people.
But this is bigger than minister or political party or body. It’s up to Scotland to be the very best it can be for all its citizens. If we can get this right for our young people who find themselves in need of care, then we can get it right for all.
Fiona Duncan is chair of the Independent Care Review