Who Cares? Scotland is established
Who Cares? Scotland was established in 1978 and we operated on an entirely voluntary basis for the next decade until 1988. During this time, ‘Supportive adults’, such as social workers, gave up their time to enable Who Cares? Scotland to work with local groups of Care Experienced young people. In 1979 the first ever Gathering of Care Experienced young people took place in Musselburgh. This saw around 90 young people attend and share their views on their care experience with each other. They spoke about how involved they felt in decisions made about their lives, the level of support that they received and life after care. Issues that still remain too common to Scotland’s Care Experienced population.


First issue of SpeakOut magazine published
SpeakOut magazine, which Who Cares? Scotland edits and distributes to our members, was first published in 1979. The magazine was established so that young people in care could share their successes, reach out to other young people in care across Scotland and see themselves represented in media. The appeal of Speak Out has stood the test of time. It is now our official membership magazine, and four issues are published every year. We now have Care Experienced Assistant Editors who sit on the Editorial team and ensure SpeakOut features more content from Care Experienced people than ever before.


Our first paid member of staff
The rights of the child gained more focus throughout the 80s across the UK and Europe. With the publication of the ‘Charter of Rights’ in 1986 and the introduction of the ‘United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child’ in 1989. Who Cares? Scotland wanted to ensure that Care Experienced young people’s rights had a platform too on the back of these developments. During this time, Who Cares? Scotland appointed its first paid member of staff. Cathy Jamieson held the role of Principal Development Officer and pursued campaigns on behalf of Care Experienced young people.


Who Cares? Scotland grows
With National Lottery funding secured in 1996, Who Cares? Scotland’s reach began to grow. This funding followed significant reviews in 1992 and in 1997 into residential childcare and safeguarding children. These reviews are sometimes referred to as the Skinner and Kent reports. Their authors – Angus Skinner and Roger Kent – recommended significant change in how young people were looked after.


The advocacy work that the organisation currently does with individuals started in 1997. Two years later Cathy Jamieson, our first ever member of staff, left Who Cares? Scotland after being elected as MSP in the Scottish Parliament elections. Who Cares? Scotland now has Advocacy and Participation Workers in most of Scotland’s local authority areas. We also have nationally focused training, policy and campaigns work to inform decision makers, professionals and members of the public of the issues that Care Experienced people face.
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Changing The Law
In 2012, Care Experienced young people responded to a call for evidence from the Education and Culture Committee of the Scottish Parliament. This Committee was interested in the decision making processes around when a child should be taken into care and why the education outcomes of the Care Experienced population were so poor. The letter that they sent, asking to meet with Committee members informally, would mark a turning point for Care Experienced people in Scotland. Care Experienced young people would be speaking directly to Members of the Scottish Parliament. Those young people spoke to MSPs about what life in care was like. They talked about the poor outcomes, about their own experiences of a disrupted education and homelessness. They let the MSPs know that too many young people were leaving care too soon. Relationships that they had spent years building up were being severed at the age of 16. When the Scottish Government announced plans for a Children and Young People Act, those Care Experienced people knew what needed to be changed. And they set out to do it.


Award Winning Campaigners
In 2013, Who Cares? Scotland, Aberlour and Barnardo’s Scotland joined forces to make one clear ask – let people stay in care until they are 21. They wanted to let the relationships that they had built up and the stability that they had found continue. Care Experienced young people spoke to politicians, journalists and members of the public to gain support for changes to the law. For many of the young people, it was too late to change care for their benefit. They were doing it so that future generations would experience a better care journey than they did. As momentum for their campaign grew, so too did the recognition that they received. More Care Experienced people and more people delivering care added their support to the campaign. In the end, the Scottish Government agreed with Care Experienced young people and changed the law. What followed was an unprecedented level of national recognition for Care Experienced people. Their campaign to raise the age of leaving care picked up 6 different awards, including: Cracking Campaign Award at the Scottish Charity Awards Big Impact Award at the Third Sector Excellence Awards Public Campaign of the Year at The Herald Politician of the Year Awards. Their work also saw them named as overall Young Scots of the Year at the 2014 Young Scot Awards.


Creating a family
Bringing Care Experienced people together locally and nationally has always been an important part of our work. Young people continue to tell us that the experience of having social work involvement in their life, or a Children’s Panel deciding where they should stay, who they should stay with and what contact they should have with their siblings and parents, makes them feel different. We believe that connecting with people who have similar feelings and experiences is hugely important for the Care Experienced community. Our participation work across Scotland creates the sense of inclusion, friendship and understanding that young people in care often don’t get elsewhere. That is why our membership programme was established. Anyone with any experience of care, of any age, can become part of the membership. We currently have over 3000 members, and our members often refer to each other as their Who Cares? Scotland family. Our commitment is that we will continue to support our members to get together, to campaign for change and to feel a sense of belonging.


Launch of 1000 Voices Manifesto
As part of the Scottish elections in 2016, Who Cares? Scotland's members asked all party leaders to commit to listening to 1000 Care Experienced voices if they were elected. All leaders supported this ask - and in September 2016, the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made her commitment to do this formally at the SNP conference. Our members felt like the most senior corporate parent in our country had heard them loud and clear - and this has meant that love and a thriving care experience was something she was intent on delivering in her role.


Independent Care Review
As a follow on from the First Minister's 1000 Voices support, at the SNP conference in Autumn 2016, the First Minister announced her intention to establish an Independent Root and Branch Review of the Care System in Scotland. Between then and the appointment of the Chair, Fiona Duncan, Who Cares? Scotland worked with the Scottish Government to ensure that the Review process was listening to care experienced voices from the off - and that the Chair would be led by these voices. During 2017, the Discovery Phase was completed, with direct support from Who Cares? Scotland in their commissioned role to deliver on the 1000 Voices Project.


We published our Strategic Plan 2018-2022
Who Cares? Scotland consulted widely with our members, supporters, funders and commissioners throughout 2017 to determine what our strategic vision and approach to achieve this should be for 2018-2022. With confidence and conviction, our vision to secure a lifetime of equality, respect and love for Care Experienced people was announced in October 2017.
View the report


Who Cares? Scotland Wins UK Charity of the Year
In 2018, Who Cares? Scotland was recognised in the Charity Awards UK as the Charity of the Year and for Campaigning & Advocacy. Who Cares? Scotland was identified as having a positive impact as a campaigning and advocacy organisation for our 1000 Voices Campaign which led to the First Minister establishing the independent care review.


Improving the Law for Brothers and Sisters
In 2019, the Minister for Children and Young People, Maree Todd MSP, announced that there were plans to improve the law for sisters and brothers who are in the care system. The law is to be strengthened to keep sisters and brothers who are placed in local authority care together, when it is in their best interests to do so. This announcement was made at an event organised by Stand Up For Siblings, which is a collaboration between a number of child welfare, children’s rights, legal organisations and academics, including Who Cares? Scotland.


We Don’t Have to Wait report published
In June of 2019, Who Cares? Scotland published our “We Don’t Have to Wait” report and presented it to the First Minister. Decades of data was analysed for this report and in it we said that despite a growing commitment across the board to making things better, the balance of power still hasn’t shifted from those delivering care. We warned that there were still too many decisions are being made on the basis of red tape and available resources, rather than what is best for young people and we called for the importance of independent advocacy to be respected.


We’re Still Here
March 2020 saw the start of the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic and along with many other countries, Scotland went into full lockdown. Who Cares? Scotland responds by adapting our service and making sure our members and the wider Care Experienced community knew that we were still here for them. We started providing advocacy support digitally, we launched our Winter Aid fund to offer financial support during the pandemic, we ran digital events to make sure our Care Experienced members still felt connected to us and each other and we launched a brand new helpline so Care Experienced people had someone to call for help and advice.


Supporting The Promise
Chairs of The Promise and Who Cares? Scotland reiterate shared commitment to transform Care Experienced people’s lives.


Our WC?S democracy
Who Cares? Scotland developed an annual Members’ Assembly where members will come together to discuss our views and priorities, agree on a programme of work and elect national representatives. A permanent National Representative Body of elected Care Experienced members who support Who Cares? Scotland’s participation work, act as spokespeople for the organisation and develop new projects. An Annual Participation Programme which creates opportunities across the country for members to share their views on the things which matter most to them.


The Launch of The Annual Participation Programme
In August 2020, The Annual Participation Programme was formed on the back of the Participation Strategy. It was a one-stop-shop for members to decide on, find out about and become involved in our main influencing priorities for the year ahead. Members took part in a variety of participation opportunities including surveys, local group sessions, focus groups and engage in other creative ways such as writing a letter, poem or song, or creating a video about the themes.


The Creation of The National Representative Body
The first group of National Representatives were elected at the Members’ Assembly in February 2021, following a recruitment process. They served a 2 year term and were key in supporting the Annual Participation Programme, and our ambition to engage members more broadly with it.


Jasmin's Petition to Extend Aftercare Support
In October 2022, Jasmin, a member of our National Representative Body, submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliament calling on them to extend aftercare support for previously looked-after young people and to remove the age cap for continuing care services. The petition was open to signatures throughout August and it collected a total of 392 signatures, in April 2023 she gave evidence at parliament alongside Laura Pasternak.