These are our bairns: a guide for community planning partnerships on being a good corporate parent

Guidance for councils and their community planning partners on how to improve outcomes for looked after children and young people, and care leavers.


"Looked After children and young people need continuity and stability and essentially they need listening to. In my opinion we need to improve the communication between local authority workers, from social, residential and education workers, to foster carers and senior officers, to make sure their roles and responsibilities are having a positive impact. Putting the young people at the centre of all they do will, I believe, improve the future of many."

This is the view of a young care leaver. With this guidance, we want to set the scene for achieving this goal. The Scottish Government and local government in Scotland are committed to improving life outcomes for all children, and we have a special responsibility for those who are Looked After. We must be aspirational for all our children - they are the future.

Like any good parent, we want our children to enjoy school and do well there; we want them to be healthy and happy, secure and confident. We want them to go on to college or university, to find good jobs, to have loving relationships and happy lives. In addition, we want them to be included and effective members of our communities, indeed in the fullness of time to be good parents themselves.

"You may feel that 'corporate responsibility' and 'corporate parenting' are rather obscure concepts, or at least concepts that bear little relation to activities in the real world. However, the fact is that children's lives are directly and profoundly affected by the quality of corporate parenting offered to them! ...This is not to replace or replicate the selfless character of parental love; but it does imply a warmth and personal concern which goes beyond the traditional expectations of institutions."
(Sir William Utting, 1991)

That is the challenge for all those involved in corporate parenting - how do you give a child in your care the love, security and chances that any good parent would give their child? We hope that this guidance will go some way to laying the foundations for achieving that.

We recognise that ours is not an easy task. Children and young people who become Looked After often come from chaotic backgrounds and their behaviour can be challenging as a result of the damage they have suffered. As corporate parents, we have not only to provide the opportunities and supports that any good family would provide, but we must address significant early disadvantage and that can take time and perseverance. However, even very small things can make a difference to young people and you will get great satisfaction from seeing the impact that you can make.

Like most extended families, the corporate family consists of many parts - local authorities as a whole; health services, both universal and specialist; independent sector providers; the police and all those parts of the system which support service delivery agencies. Bringing up a child successfully depends very much on all family members playing their parts. It may be at a particular point in a child's life, or it may be constant, but together all of those parts are a powerful force for good.

Our underpinning theme is working together, one of the key themes identified in Looked After Children and Young People - We Can and Must Do Better (Scottish Executive, January 2007). We are already seeing some excellent work being achieved across Scotland to deliver the actions outlined in that report. This guidance emphasises the key role that local authorities have as corporate parents, and the vital contribution of community planning partners as members of the wider corporate family.It aims to demonstrate the part you can play to make a difference to the lives of children in care, and care leavers, and what you can do to make sure that they have positive experiences that will prepare them for a successful future; one in which they contribute positively to their local communities, and to a successful Scotland.

Collectively, we are moving to an outcomes-based approach to public services and this guidance promotes a focus on improving the outcomes of some of the most vulnerable members of our communities - children and young people whose outcomes have historically been less than we would hope for. Each child is an individual; early intervention, prevention, flexibility and personalisation will recognise their needs and make sure that they are able to be all they can be in the future.

Being a good corporate parent is more than fulfilling your statutory duties. Over the years, despite good intentions and investment, we have collectively failed the children and young people who have been entrusted to us. We have a social and moral obligation to do our very best for those most vulnerable members of our communities and to show that we can and will do better as corporate parents.

We are particularly grateful to all of those people who told us their stories to illustrate this guidance. Their words inspire all of us to make a positive and enduring difference to the children and young people in our care.

Photo of ADAM INGRAM MSP - Minister for Children and Early Years

Photo of CLLR ISABEL HUTTON - COSLA Education, Children and Young People Spokesperson

Signature of ADAM INGRAM MSP - Minister for Children and Early Years

Signature of CLLR ISABEL HUTTON - COSLA Education, Children and Young People Spokesperson

Minister for Children and Early Years

COSLA Education
Children and Young People Spokesperson



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