Associate Feature: Change is happening, but more needs to be done for children and families
For all of us involved in supporting children and families, the pandemic has shown that building back better from COVID-19 doesn’t mean returning to our previous ways of working; it means resetting them.
Now, as I reflect on the last 12 months, it is clear that Scotland is on the path to making the changes and improvements that need to happen – and are already happening – for our children and families.
The findings of Scotland’s Independent Care Review in 2020, and the publication of The Promise Scotland’s Plan 21-24 and Change Programme ONE, set out more detail of the collective change required to improve the lives of children and families across Scotland.
Understanding what needs to change, and how, is grounded in meaningful participation with babies, children, young people, and their parents and carers, an approach embedded into the conception, design and implementation of The Promise.
Over the last 12 months, and despite the impact of the pandemic, we have seen a diverse range of examples of how services, practitioners and volunteers across Scotland have embedded participation to respond quickly to the needs of children and families.
Many statutory bodies, third sector providers and funders have offered practical support through direct financial payments to individuals and families. In CELCIS’s work with two local areas, we found that making direct payments to support young people and families led to a more immediate and empowering way of accessing financial support that didn’t feel stigmatising, and which offered families a choice in determining how best to meet their needs.
Evidence, experience and feedback tell us that when support is easily accessed at an early stage, in a way that recognises and integrates what families tell us they need, problems that may have arisen or accelerated can be prevented or avoided altogether.
We have seen changes in care planning processes where children, families and carers are listened to and more involved in the decisions that affect their lives. Often, technology (e.g. video conferencing) has been used to enable communication; a development that many children and families responded positively to and which may continue to be used in the future.
Legislative developments, such as the bill passed by the Scottish Parliament in March 2021 to incorporate the UNCRC into Scots Law, will enshrine children’s rights in domestic law and ensure their voices are heard and protected.
This is reflected in CELCIS’s work developing National Practice Guidance for new legislative changes to support connections between children and their brothers and sisters.
Our starting point was to listen to the views of infants, children and young people with care experience, their carers, and multi-agency practitioners.
We then developed the guidance collaboratively with people with care experience and a steering group of national stakeholders, ensuring the guidance was informed by the reality of people’s experiences.
Change is possible and is happening. But, if we truly want to achieve the sustained improvements that children and families are rightly demanding of us and make a real difference in their day-to-day lives, the enabling context needed to create change must be strengthened further.
The collective leadership required – especially those who hold the financial levers for change; the effective use of evidence and data (in relation to what to do and how to do it); participation and voice of children, families and carers; and, additional funding and people to build the solid foundations and capacity for change and to integrate new knowledge, skills and abilities within teams, organisations and partnerships.
The last 12 months has shown us just how quickly change can happen. Scotland must harness that creativity, innovation and determination to keep to the path of achieving change for our children and families.
Claire Burns, is director of CELCIS (Acting)
This article was sponsored by CELCIS