Last February 2020, one thing all political parties did agree on was that findings of the Independent Care Review must be implemented. Children and families who had shared their story with the Care Review watched as each political party accepted in full its 80-plus conclusions, making a solemn commitment to change.
Thankfully, as of today, this position remains and is reflected in all their political manifestos.
However, meaningful change is not delivered by manifestos nor, very often, within the small window of time afforded by political cycles of campaigning, elections, shuffles and reshuffles.
It is also true that very few reviews (commissions and inquiries) deliver on their promise. More often than not, reviews are top-down, designed to respond to the needs of a system (reduce waiting times, meet targets) and not real life so are partial with little attention given to what might get in the way of the change their recommendations call for.
For precisely these reasons, the Care Review took a very different approach centred on listening to thousands of experiences and remaining focused on them, purposefully building a coalition around a single, shared vision of what Scotland could be like for its children and families.
Now there is agreement, Scotland needs a very different way of working to #KeepThePromise.
No one political party, or single organisation or agency can alone achieve the change demanded. To avoid the need for another Care Review, Scotland has to come together and collaborate, work on shared plans to meet the needs of children and families.
The Care Review’s final reports made it clear that Scotland must have kept this promise by 2030. It proposed three, three-year periods of change, guided by successive Plans, with each building on the progress made by the one before. Collectively these would make sure transformational change happens across all the ‘roots and branches’ of Scotland’s ‘care system’.
Plan 21-24 was published at the end of last month detailing what must be done from now until 31 March 2024
It is ambitious.
It is bold.
It is under way.
And it only exists because of the care-experienced people who campaigned for the Care Review, then selflessly shared intimate and often painful experiences of the ‘care system’ in the hope of change.
Change that would mean that children, young people and families were listened to, respected, involved and heard in every decision that affects them.
Change that would support families to stay together and prioritise the safe loving relationships that are important to children and young people.
Change that would make love the value that drives everything and that everything operates around.
That change is here.
And Plan 21-24 is Scotland’s plan to deliver it. Over 100 organisations worked with The Promise Scotland to devise it.
It makes clear Scotland’s priorities, over the coming three years – a good childhood, whole family support, planning, supporting the workforce, and building capacity. Plan 21-24 details actions associated with each priority that must be achieved by 2024. This includes specifics like family therapy, preventing exclusion, youth justice, strategic investment, better information-sharing, changes to the children’s hearing system and inspection and regulation.
But do not be mistaken – Plan 21-24 isn’t about building a new ‘system’. Rather, it is about building a country that cares, made up of services that work to meet the needs of children and families where and when they are needed. The system, the scaffolding around services, policy, budgets and legislation are secondary, and must shift to facilitate what children and families need and reflect what they have said matters at every level.
This must be what Scotland strives for as it starts to recover from Covid.
The Promise Scotland is working towards a promise kept by 2030, and its own obsolescence. It will drive the change needed and provide support, honesty and accountability. But it is Scotland that will deliver change. It is Scotland that will #KeepThePromise.
Fiona Duncan is Chair of the Promise Scotland, the body responsible for ensuring the findings of the Independent Care Review are implemented. You can read and download Plan 21-24 here