"For Scotland to truly be the best place in the world for children to grow up, a fundamental shift is required in how decisions are made about children and families"
Just over two years ago the Independent Care Review published The Promise and in February 2020 the Scottish Government signed up to the actions set out within it.
Keeping The Promise requires us to join up across our Government policies and actions and to work with our partners to bring transformational change. Change that places love and relationships at the centre of the experiences and outcomes for every child. Having made this Promise to our children and young people, adults and families of Scotland, we intend to keep it.
In the two years since The Promise was published we have witnessed the unprecedented impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic. This has affected us all, and for many of our care experienced people, it has made already difficult situations more challenging. This is why we must move now to put our energy fully behind bringing the change required to improve lives.
This is a generational opportunity to make sure every child and family in Scotland has what they need to thrive. A fundamental shift rather than incremental change is needed. It is critical to the lives of our young people as well as our success as a nation that, as we emerge from a public health emergency, we make sure we build a system that prevents crisis in the lives of children, young people and families, and the care, support and love for our children is at the heart of this system.
In recognising this opportunity, this Implementation Plan shares its ambition and works in harmony with the Scottish Government's Covid Recovery Strategy, our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2022-26 and the National Strategy for Economic Transformation. It is also aligned with our strategic approach to education, health, justice, transport and communities.
This is the start however, and as we present this Plan as a statement of action and commitment in 2022, we know we will need further engagement and collaboration in the months and years ahead to ensure that our actions bring the change we need to see; to continue to challenge us on where we need to go further; and to look to new actions that we need to take. We recognise that it is not just for Government to take action, but we know that for The Promise to be kept we must move first and move furthest to enable change for children, young people and families.
We also know there are things we must stop doing. This will require legislative, financial, administrative and public sector reform and it will require difficult conversations along the way – we are ready to Keep The Promise, but humble enough to know we don't have all the answers, we need all of Scotland to come with us on the journey for change, and together we must all pull in the same direction.
The Promise Scotland
The Promise Scotland was established in March 2021 with a dual responsibility of oversight of progress towards Scotland's commitment to Keep The Promise and to provide support for its delivery by leading, collaborating, and driving change. The proposed and planned work is detailed in Plan 21-24, Change Programme ONE and on The Promise Scotland website.
The Promise Scotland provides secretariat to The Promise Oversight Board, which is tasked with monitoring the progress organisations, including the Scottish Government, make individually, and the progress Scotland makes collectively towards its commitment to Keep The Promise. The Promise Oversight Board will report to the care community and publicly on the progress made and will use its networks, relationships and governance structure to provide support and guidance wherever necessary.
It is clear that the Scottish Government is one of the organisations that is required to lead from the front. While operational change rightly must take place at a local level, the Scottish Government in partnership with the Scottish Parliament holds a number of the key levers to change. To reflect this approach, this Plan will provide a framework for the rest of Scotland to plan around as well as setting out the actions we are taking across Government.
At the core of our national approach is our commitment to Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC). GIRFEC recognises that what surrounds us, shapes us: a child and young person's individual growth and development is experienced in the context of their networks of family and care, local communities, and the influences of wider society.
We know that early experiences, including pre- birth, lay the foundation for wellbeing throughout childhood and into adult life, with recognitionof the importance of preventing adverse experiences, and availability of relationship-based and trauma-informed approaches. In adopting a holistic approach we must:
- Support our children, young people, adults and families who are care experienced, recognising that experience of care has an effect on people throughout their lives;
- Support our children, young people, adults and families who we know are at risk of being taken into care, recognising that the right support at the right times will help keep families together and avoid the need for care;
- Support all of our children, young people, adults and families, recognising that if we get the services that everyone uses right then the level of engagement with the care system will be reduced.
Fundamentally, we want to significantly reduce the number of children and young people who are living away from their families. To achieve this ambition, where children are safe and feel loved they must stay with their families; and families must be given support to nurture that love and overcome the difficulties which get in the way. Our approach to this is reflective of 'the fundamentals' of change that The Promise Scotland set out in its Plan 21-24:
- To do what matters to children and families
- To listen and embed what we have heard from children and families
- To tackle poverty and the forces that push families into it
- To respect children's rights, and
- To improve our language
This Implementation Plan is therefore presented as a partner document to The Promise, Plan 21- 24 and Change Programme One. It is how and what we will do, within our power as the Scottish Government, to Keep The Promise. Whilst it does not track The Promise's structure directly it does identify key actions that we are and will undertake to help ensure a Good Childhood; to adopt a Whole Family approach and build capacity within the system to support this.
We are on a journey to change, and we are committed to ensuring that by working across boundaries with all of our stakeholders and with The Promise Scotland we can together listen to the voices and experiences of our children, young people and families with experience of care people and improve their lives.
Our Key Commitments
This Implementation Plan identifies commitments across multiple portfolios which both individually and collectively support change. Some are however key.
- We will invest £500 million over the course of this Parliamentary session,beginning with£50 million in financial year 2022-23, in preventative spend through the Whole Family Wellbeing Fund. This will delivertransformational change and service re-design in the delivery of whole family support. It will enable the building of universal, holistic support services, available in communities across Scotland, giving families access to the help they need, where and when they need it. It will help reduce the need for crisis intervention and contribute to improving people's lives across a wide range of different areas, including but not limited to, child and adolescent mental health, child poverty, alcohol and drugs use and educational attainment. Fundamentally, this is strategic investment to transform the delivery of family support and this change will contribute to tackling child poverty and significantly reduce the number of children and young people who are living away from their families.
- We will support local areas to implement the National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2021. This guidance supports practice that places children and young people's experience, needs, wishes and feelings at the centre of decision making, builds on strengths as a well as addressing risk and focuses on working in partnership with families and communities. This will achieve a necessary shift that supports the least intrusive and most supportive levels of intervention at all stages.
- We will invest £10 million per annum through our Care Experience Grant:a new£200 annual grant for 16-25 year olds with care experience. This Grant will provide some additional financial security for young people with experience of care and will help reduce some of the financial barriers that young people face in transitions to adulthood and more independent living. The Grant will support families with care experience by contributing to the maximising of incomes, a key driver of child poverty reduction.
- We will set a Recommended National Allowance for foster and kinship allowances. This investment will mean that no matter which area of Scotland children are living in, their caregivers will receive at least the Scottish Recommended Allowance to care for them.
- We will end the placement of 16 and 17 year olds in Young Offenders Institutions without delay . We will fund care based alternatives to custody and consult on new legislation in Spring 2022. This will provide the support children need in very difficult circumstances, shifting the approach from one of punishment to one of love and support.
- We will ensure that all care experienced children,wherever they live,will be protected from violence and experience the safeguard of equal protection legislation.In March 2022,we will consult on the need for further appropriate underpinning in legislation or guidance to ensure children's rights are protected in care settings. This commitment to address the use of restraint in care settings will mean that only trained care staff will use restraint and only when there is a serious risk of harm to the child themselves or another person; and where there is no effective way of keeping them safe. The use of restraint must be an absolute last resort where it is necessary and proportionate and should always be pain free.
- We will work with The Promise Scotland to build an evidence base to understand the best governance,financial arrangements and models of care to assess how we best Keep The Promise. This will explore the options for the future of children's services from an evidence based position and enable us to assess the best way to Keep The Promise. Within this, we will take account of the improvement work already being undertaken across Scotland.
- We will consider establishing a National Social Work Agency to support the workforce and ensure equality of service and support. This is an opportunity to establish a single national lead that has oversight and leads social workers' professional development, education, terms and conditions, workforce planning and improvement.
- We will take forward a redesign of the Children's Hearings System,building on the recommendations from the review led by Sheriff Mackie,with the aim to bring forward any required legislation by the end of the Parliamentary session. This multi-agency review is a partnership between Children's Hearing Scotland, the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration and The Promise Scotland. It will facilitate a process that will have the needs of children and families with lived experience of the Children's Hearing System at its heart.
- We will support The Promise Scotland to develop a blueprint for the creation and control of,and access to,information about care experienced people which will empower people to decide who and when key information about them is made available. This approach to developing a blueprint, which will explore the compliance with applicable law, will empower people to decide when key information about them is made available, and who is able to access it. It will examine the protocols that will need to be established with key institutions to support provision of the right information at the right time to best support our children and young people who are care experienced. Initial report of findings will be presented by The Promise Scotland by June 2023.
- We will support The Promise Scotland to scope a national lifelong advocacy service for care experienced people and their families. This will recognise there may be a need for distinct offerings, independent of one another. It will also take account of the need for independent advocacy and be clear about the definition. The Promise Scotland will present recommendations to Scottish Ministers for consideration by the end of 2023.
- We will,by April 2023,publish a long-term delivery plan for further work to embed and sustain trauma-informed workforces and services. This will include a priority focus on trauma training and support for adoptive parents, kinship, foster and supported carers. It is vital that the workforce engaging with care experienced children is trauma informed. This will help children and young people who have experienced trauma feel safe and nurtured through healthy, supportive relationships with the adults around them.
- We will introduce a Promise Bill to make any further legislative changes required to Keep The Promise by the end of this Parliamentary session . This will include legislation in relation to the Children's Hearings Systems redesign, and where we bring forward guidance that requires to be put on a statutory footing to make sure that public authorities do what is necessary to Keep The Promise.
- We will establish The Promise Collective co- chaired with The Promise Scotland to support alignment and cohesion of activities. This group will be convened as a strategic forum to ensure alignment of all Scottish Government funded delivery and improvement initiatives that are working to Keep The Promise We expect this group to be in place by the end of the Parliamentary year. We are currently scoping a full remit of this group and we will hold the first meeting by the end of June 2022.
- We will collaborate with The Promise Scotland to scope a new,holistic framework for governance and accountability. This work will report by June 2024 and any recommendations requiring legislative underpinning will be considered for inclusion in The Promise Bill.
While our commitment to Keep The Promise extends to 2030 and this Implementation Plan provides commitments up to that point, the primary focus at this stage is delivery of The Promise Scotland's Plan 21-24. Our work will continue to evolve as we deliver the commitments and actions identified, and this Implementation Plan may be refreshed to meet Plan 25-27 in due course.
In setting out the actions we are and will take, this Implementation Plan is presented in two parts:
- Our Route : This sets out how we will act as Government; and maps the key milestones we have identified to date and that we will implement in order to Keep The Promise
- Our Plan: This is the collection of actions and commitments that we are undertaking and will undertake across Government to Keep The Promise. Many of these are interdependent, some are stand alone, but collectively they support our ambition to improve the lives of our children, young people, adults and families across Scotland.
Working together with The Promise Scotland, we will work with our children in the care community, to develop and present a child friendly version of this plan for publication later this year.
Taking a person centred approach means recognising that not everybody is the same, thinks the same or needs the same. Many of our care experienced children and young people have protected characteristics which may compound inequalities they experience through being care experienced. We must respect, reflect and embrace this in the services and support we provide. Alongside this Plan, we will publish an equalities position statement setting out our assessment of its overall impact. The Plan contains a wide range of policies and the position statement will not replace policy specific assessments which are undertaken at the appropriate stage of policy development.
The Promise Design School
The Scottish Government's Office of the Chief Designer is working in partnership with The Promise Scotland to develop a participatory opportunity for those collaborating on service redesign across the operating landscape of care in Scotland – The Promise Design School. The Promise Design School works to embed the Scottish Approach to Service Design across the sector to equip and empower those tasked with redesigning future care services. This provides training opportunities, as well as support and community for care experienced people and those who have pledged to Keep The Promise, so they are equipped with service design skills and knowledge and can meaningfully participate in projects throughout the de-sign and delivery phases. The second iteration of The Promise Design School will launch in 2022 and includes rolling out an 'intensive support' model for multi-agency or complex ser-vice redesign programmes.
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