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These Are Our Bairns: A guide for community planning partnerships on being a good corporate parent

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Cartoon Caption13 / CULTURE, LEISURE AND COMMUNITY LEARNINGAND DEVELOPMENT SERVICES

"I was asked to organise something for Looked After children. They were young people who had become disengaged from formal education. They weren't attending school for various reasons. They came along to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. We found that they were mainly interested in art and we set up various activities.

"A South American artist, a sculptor, took part in the sessions. He didn't know any English. Young people who had pushed things to the limit with other staff seemed to engage with him.

"The pupils invited us to visit their residential units. One came on a placement with us and I ended up writing references for him.

"The sessions developed into something positive. The main thing was to get them to come along. Sometimes we had to phone them to get them out of bed in the morning. Quite a lot of our staff became involved with Looked After children.

"Though it started at Kelvingrove the sessions continued at different venues including the Burrell. It was a real learning curve for all of us."

Anne Wallace, Education Officer, Glasgow City Council museums.

In all cases and in all settings the ethos should be one of warmth; physical health, activity and mental and emotional well-being should be promoted and supported.

"Opportunities to do sports or activities with other young people are a good way of having a healthy physical lifestyle. Feeling lonely when I ain't got somewhere to go on the weekend - having more social events would eradicate this." (Sam)

What we do outwith education or work makes us into confident individuals and effective contributors to our communities and can help us to learn throughout our lives. Access to play, sport and other leisure activity can be difficult for Looked After children and young people and care leavers for a variety of reasons such as practicalities like transport and cost of clothes or equipment, and less tangible issues like lack of confidence, low self-esteem, feeling excluded, not having experience of participation in earlier life, fear of the unknown.

As corporate parents, councils are privileged to have leisure facilities and cultural facilities at their disposal. What parent would not encourage their own children to use their swimming pools, tennis courts or theatres? Engagement in sport, the arts and other similar activities can provide a foundation for lifelong learning, build friendships, promote active citizenship, promote physical, mental and emotional well-being. Participation in the arts and cultural boosts confidence, fulfilment and contributes to young people leading happier lives.

It is an important function of the corporate family, then, to encourage Looked After children and young people and care leavers to take up hobbies and interests and to make sure that culture and leisure services are accessible to them, including those children with disabilities.

Libraries can be the only source of access to the internet for some Looked After children and young people and care leavers, and may be their principal source of support for homework.

Some councils have already successfully promoted better use of culture and leisure services by providing smart cards, equipment, and transport for Looked After children and young people and care leavers, and their carers. Access to cultural facilities can be encouraged through holding informal meetings in art gallery cafes, for example, or foster care recruitment in museums.

Carers and professionals working with Looked After children and young people may themselves be unaware of the significant benefits to young people of taking part in culture and leisure activities, of what is available locally, or lack confidence in taking children to them. Raising awareness amongst carers is essential to ensuring that young people are supported to take part in cultural and leisure activities, and education officers will have a key role in promoting engagement with their facilities and developing approaches which reach Looked After children and young people and care leavers, and carers, including those with disabilities.

You will want to:

  • Ask children and young people about their aspirations and what they would like to have access to, giving them the opportunity to try things out, and attempt to take their preferences into account in developing local culture and leisure provision.
  • Think creatively about using facilities such as art galleries or museums to encourage access to cultural services.
  • Consider access to sport and leisure and make sure that facilities are as inclusive and supportive as possible to all Looked After children and young people.
  • Develop programmes specifically targeted at Looked After children and young people, care leavers and carers.
  • Make sure that programmes aimed at children, young people and families actively include corporate families.
  • Make sure that Looked After children and young people and care leavers are supported to make the most of the cultural and leisure opportunities available to them.
  • Consider the practical barriers such as cost, equipment and clothing, transport and take action to overcome these barriers.
  • Consider other barriers such as fear of the unknown, lack of confidence or lack of awareness amongst children, young people, care leavers and their carers and take action to overcome these barriers.
  • Be aware that young people and youth culture may favour different kinds of cultural activity, so identify good practice and take advice from culture professionals and relevant national bodies. You will also want to be aware of your local voluntary and independent arts sector provision, and work with those providers in giving access to good quality opportunities that young people will want to keep accessing.
  • Make sure that professionals understand their corporate parenting responsibilities and are actively engaged in promoting services to Looked After children and young people and their carers.
  • Make sure that library staff understand the important contribution they can make to Looked After children and young people's homework, and other school work, as well as care leavers' ability to engage with further education.
  • Encourage other council services such as social work to use your facilities for meetings and other events, so that professionals and carers develop a better understanding of what is available.

HOW WILL I KNOW I'VE MADE A DIFFERENCE?

  • When Looked After children and young people and care leavers participate in sports, the arts or other cultural and leisure activities, you will know you are an effective member of the corporate family.
  • When carers actively encourage their children and young people to use your services, and indeed use them themselves, you will know you have made a difference.
  • When libraries are inclusive places where Looked After children and young people and care leavers know they can go to get help with their schoolwork, you will have made a difference.
  • When no Looked After child or young person is debarred from participating in an activity because of practical problems, you will be an effective member of the corporate family.
  • When young people continue to engage in arts, culture and leisure provision as they grow older, as participants and audiences.