Promising Children - a brief overview of the Care Review

On the 5th February 2020, seven linked reports were published by the Care Review, which was set up in 2016/17, by the First Minister, for a root and branch review of the current Care system. Most important, their task was to make recommendations for a better experience and future for children in Care and the values that should underpin all of this. There is cross party support to implement the findings of this review, with an associated radical plan and promises. Over 5,500 contributed to the review, with half being children or people with experience of the care system (although the report is generally scathing about calling what is in place now a 'system').

We are pleased to see that the need for loving care for everyone is at the heart of the Care Review, and especially for children at the most vulnerable points in their lives. Then they desperately need stable, loving relationships, and understanding of their own unique life story.

The Care Review found that children's wellbeing and potential promise in terms of their future lives as adults is often marred by their experience of being in care in Scotland and that this is a huge cost that we should no longer allow children to bear. Too often, reviews call for action, then gather dust on the shelves. This Care Review with the associated Promise, states this will not happen this time. We really hope so, as this is a radical plan and promise which could transform Care in Scotland.

The reports are rooted in the experience of children and adults who experienced the care system, and, as such, those lived experiences, tells the stories of bureaucracy which compounded trauma and disconnection. This includes from going from carer to carer with belongings “packed” in bin bags; to “visits” from people wearing lanyards, or department or agency labelled cars, creating stigma and emphasising the difference between children who are in care and those who are not.

Often children are separated from siblings, friends in their neighbourhood, and experience changing school after school, with instability and gaps in education. Then, at age 18, many are left alone with few life skills and no-one to turn to. The review also heard, conversely, about the value of successful, long term, loving, foster, kinship or adoptive relationships and how children thrive in these circumstances, and stressed that the review is not about blame for the past, but about a better future.

The reports are briefly summarised below:

The Promise:

Voice: Children must be listened to and properly involved in decisions about their own care; everyone involved must clearly listen to children and respond to what they want and need. This should be in a compassionate and caring, decision-making culture focused on children and who they trust. This is clearly based on the UNCRC and fundamentally it is the fact that all children in Scotland are entitled to have their rights met and this includes a sense of belonging.

Family: Where children are safe and feel loved and cared for in their families, then they must stay, with families given support to nurture that love, and to overcome the difficulties that get in the way.

Care: If living with their family is not possible, children must stay with their brothers and sisters where it is safe to do so and belong to a loving home, staying there as long as needed as long term, secure attached relationships are central to child development and wellbeing.

People: The children that Scotland cares for should be actively supported to develop relationships with people in the workforce and wider community, who in turn must be supported to listen and be compassionate in their decision making and care.

Scaffolding: Children, families and the workforce must be supported by a system that is there when needed. The scaffolding of help, support and accountability must be ready and responsive when it is needed.

The Pinky Promise:

This is a summary of The Promise in child friendly language but it is also useful for everyone as an introduction. It is about children's rights to be nurtured and loved, but we cannot proscribe for love, instead we can foster the qualities of empathy, nurture and being allowed to care, for those who support children and young people, and their families.

The Plan:

This gives some steps that must be taken over first year or so, it includes budget information and recommendations to overhaul all current systems, including the Children's Hearing system, especially the reliance on volunteers and changes are suggested for the Care Inspectorate and SSSC. More support should be given to the workforce to develop skills of empathy and compassion, and more investment to address poverty in families, which often exacerbates difficulties. There needs to be cultural shift across the board in values, language and attitudes towards children and young people and families, who might need extra support in Scotland.

The Money and Follow the Money:

Over 940 million pounds annually is spent at least, in the current system, which has proven poor outcomes for more than half of the children and young people involved. It also demonstrates financial costs of 100s of millions of pounds, down the line of adult services or costs of prison, drug and alcohol, homelessness, self -harm and lack of participation in the workforce, or education, with a huge loss of potential tax revenues.

The most important message is that this is all about huge personal life costs for children, right through their later adult lives, and that is why we must invest better in preventative measures.

The Rules:

This sets out the myriad, conflicting, silos of legislation, decision making powers, unintended consequences of delays or lack of legislative clarity and the fact this is a not a system as such, but a hotch potch of rules which fail children, young people, families and those trying to support them.

Thank you:

The Care review team made sure to thank everyone involved.

last updated: 11/02/2020