Duncan Dunlop: Change is needed when caregivers feel their hands are tied by the ‘system’

In an ideal world, the challenges Care Experienced people face would not exist. Their life-chances would be at least on a par with their peers, and many would not have to rely on independent advocacy and our campaigning to seek immediate solutions to what they experience today. Equally, those working hard to raise children and young people in care with love would not find themselves doing so whilst fighting against the system.

Duncan Dunlop, CEO, Who Cares? Scotland, member of the Scottish Childrens Services Coalition

We trust that the transformational, systemic change that Care Experienced people have been promised is on the horizon in Scotland. We know, however, that we can’t wait to uphold and enhance the rights of people today. In recognising the need for change, we also acknowledge that the historical and current ‘system’ is not delivering for every single Care Experienced person who relies on it. Nor does it remove the barriers encountered by those in adulthood who have experienced care.

Despite the best efforts of people working within the ‘system’, at Who Cares? Scotland, we continue to witness the oppressive impact it has on too many individuals and the collective population. The change we are calling for is and always will be to the ‘system’ which dictates and governs what children and young people’s lives look like. Within this ‘system’ there is too many examples of caregivers, many of those at the front line and holding direct relationships with children and young people, feeling that their hands are tied.

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We know this; we work with caregivers across Scotland every single day, because children and young people ask and need us to. However, we are not only advocating for young people but advocating for an improvement in the system for everyone. Although the voices we amplify to do this, will always be Care Experienced people.

People are rightly concerned when we highlight the experiences of those we have worked with. Many are frustrated that these concerns still exist or that we continue to raise them. We know they are difficult to hear and at times it can feel like challenge in an already challenging vocation. The change we call for, based on independently supporting Care Experienced people since 1978; isn’t about targeting individuals who we know care. Our approach is about altering the ‘system’; the approaches it demands or expects from these people within it, who we believe want the same as we do for those in care.

The indicators of oppression correlate to how poor the life-chances are for an oppressed group. For people with a Care Experience their life-chances are not anywhere near where they should be – for the whole population.

This doesn’t discount or dismiss those who had a positive experience of care. However, until this is the experience of the majority of the population, we must strive to do better, to change what is needed and to ensure that the rights of children and young people are upheld every single day by all of us.

If the current system was working for the whole or majority of the population, then we wouldn’t observe what we do or hear from children and young people about what they are experiencing. We know that caregivers would also be able to provide loving care, without the ‘system’ getting in the way.

Better means more stability within all care journeys; the best chance possible at being educated and staying mentally and physically healthy. Better means keeping loving bonds intact, with brothers and sisters and wider family members where possible. Better means creating loving relationships that stand the test of time with carers. Better means being supported to thrive both in and beyond care. We all see the impact on individual children and young people where this doesn’t happen.

We are passionate for the transformed future promised to Care Experienced people. If the concerns, we raise aren’t recognisable to you; then we are thankful for what you are doing within the current system to make this be the case. We ask you to help us make this the living reality for all Care Experienced people. For those of you who do recognise the concerns we have, we ask you to think about the system and processes you work within and how that is correlated to these issues.

We must do what is possible today to create a more solid foundation to implement the transformational change on the horizon. We can’t do that if we don’t acknowledge and discuss what are the failings of the current system. Whilst those yet to be dependent on Care can wait for the transformation coming, those in it today shouldn’t be expected to.

Duncan Dunlop, CEO, Who Cares? Scotland, member of the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition