Corporate parenting - turning legislation into practice together: report

This report reflects on Scotland’s looked after children, young people and care leavers and how they have benefitted from corporate parenting support.

2) What does Corporate Parenting mean to Children and Young People?

How my Corporate Parents have supported me

"We have relationships with the staff that support us. It feels like being part of a family. I can tell them anything and I know they'll be there for me." 14-year-old on East Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership Youth Intensive Support Service

"My foster carers made sure I attended school" "They made me feel safe" "I like the food" Care experienced children in Falkirk

"Schools should teach life skills, as well has how to count" "Siblings should not be separated from each other in care, ruins relationships" Care experienced students in Ayrshire

The importance of meaningful dialogue, that is, really listening to looked after children, young people and care leavers cannot be overestimated. This principle is at the heart of the independent Care Review and increasingly underpins new policy development across all Directorates of the Scottish Government. The most recent of these making young care leavers exempt from Council Tax [7] .

This Section draws directly on feedback offered by looked after children and young people with care experience. Using lived experiences when developing corporate parenting plans is largely accepted throughout the public sector and has been embedded as the norm where front line delivery of services and support are concerned. While this is a new concept for those not directly delivering services or working with children and families, a great deal of energy has been directed at embracing corporate parenting responsibilities, Getting It Right For Every Child ( GIRFEC) and becoming familiar with terminology around wellbeing.

Care experienced children and young people have been courageous in sharing their experiences in a number of ways; focus groups, working groups, committees, workshops and surveys. For some organisations these approaches had limited levels of success, due to low engagement by children and young people, while others have established and maintained a committed dialogue.

In instances where there was low engagement from Corporate Parents, as opposed to children and young people, their feedback understandably conveyed that they felt let down and disengaged, as the quotes demonstrate.

"They're not really there much - they don't really care much" "They listen but they don't act on it" "They act like they're listening, but I've not seen any change" "Who's that? I don't know, they don't speak to me" "They're not helpful yet they could be more helpful if they listened more and paid attention to what we do and why we do it" "We would like to know who our corporate parents are and we would like them to know us" "We would like our corporate parents to make time to have a real relationship with us" "We would like our corporate parents to really understand our journey" "We want our corporate parents to make changes for us when we need them" Care experienced young people

We know that taking time to build trusting relationships and to prepare children and young people to participate in this work is key and where areas have linked into existing forum such as '1000 Voices', a local Champions Board or taken advantage of facilitation by organisations such as Who Cares? Scotland, the Children's Parliament or local third sector organisations, they have significantly improved involvement by looked after children and care leavers.

Another tactic is to ensure those in the care system or with care experience are actively and routinely involved in the day-to-day corporate roles of key organisations. Fife Council, in partnership with Who Cares? Scotland, benefits from having young people as part of their interview process for all residential staff and the informal interview process for Social Work Advisers, Social Workers and Senior Practitioners.

"As a student of QMU, I am no longer overlooked - I am more than just a number. I have people who are 100% behind me and are helping me achieve my goals. This encouragement means I've developed a passion for learning and I always keep classes running late because I ask so many questions." Learner at Queen Margaret University

"I am incredibly lucky to be where I am today, and am particularly grateful to my lecturer, who is one of the most vital people I have ever met. Her contribution to the university and her influence on the student experience is immense. My lecturer and QMU make me believe I can do it!" Learner at Queen Margaret University

Overall, the comments provided to Corporate Parents by looked after children and care leavers suggest children and young people want to paint an honest and balanced picture of promising practice as well as clear gaps. Young people have taken up opportunities to participate in interactive, relationship based channels to offer feedback on performance. Forums such as workshops, surveys and young people's Boards were identified by young people as excellent opportunities to break down barriers, reduce stigma and influence change in specific aspects of delivery with immediate impact.

"I've changed since joining this group. I have more friends. I know others who are looked after. I'm more confident now, I'm able to talk to more people." Member of Seen + Heard Fife and Children's Parliament

North East Scotland College care experienced students have suggested the College do more to promote the good support available to learners from a care background via the existing website. Offers to provide student generated content and video/multimedia resources would better promote the commitment North East Scotland College has demonstrated to ensure additional support is easy to access so students feel well supported by teaching and key support staff.

Students openly requested that the College provide more substantial counselling and wellbeing services. Towards that they have suggested a Care Experienced Support Group be established, possibly in partnership with the Students Association, to provide group support on issues such as managing finances and living independently. The students also encouraged the College to better promote the good support offered by including more student generated content on the website to help reach a wider student audience.

"While I was at college I felt that the support I was given was adequate and I wasn't made to feel different from other students" Learner, Ayrshire College

Another important group of organisations who have daily front line contact with children in care and care leavers is our emergency services. Echoing a common theme, it is acknowledged that frontline staff from these agencies will not readily know if a child or young person is care experienced when carrying out their day-to-day duties. Police Scotland has developed their understanding of what corporate parenting means in a number of ways. An Independent Advisory Group on Stop and Search created a Code of Practice which recognises the need for sections explicitly aimed at children and young people.

This Code of Practice was cognisant of how care experienced children and young people interpret their dealings with police officers, and the learning was incorporated within a national training programme for officers across Police Scotland. This tied in with existing work with the Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice ( CYCJ) to develop their guidance document: 'Identification of Looked After Young People and Care Leavers by Justice Agencies and Making Connections: Supporting the identification of care leavers in the justice system.'

Police Scotland Team Building and Leadership Course designed to build the trust of young people who traditionally may not have engaged with police and adopts a collaborative and proactive approach to diverting young people from engaging in criminal and antisocial behaviour.

"increased awareness of the types of behaviour that bring conflict with authority" "increased awareness of the issues" "better perception of the Police" "more positive perceptions of the future" Participants' feedback

Therefore, the nature of the corporate parenting role will often include anything from adjusting day-to-day procedures in response to a previously unrealised insensitivity to essential signposting of a young person to relevant services. As such, it is essential that we listen to and respect children and young peoples' views.

Providing safe, effective and person centred care is well established for these Corporate Parents; but the 2014 Act has contributed to a change in understanding and heightened awareness of care experienced children and young people in the community. This is a reminder to us all that any child or young person in need of assistance may well be care experienced.

"From this work placement, I have learnt how to work in a Comms environment and work as part of a team and I would recommend this experience to another young person as it was a great opportunity. Since completing my placement, I have started a full-time Digital Marketing position in Voluntary Action East Ren." 16-year-old from East Renfrewshire Council Family Firm


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