Days like today are about recognising the fantastic potential shown by our care experienced young people, encouraging them to reach their full potential and shining a much needed light on the unnecessary challenges they face in day to day life. I have been absolutely committed to this cause and want to do all I can to make us all – practitioners and policy makers alike – consider just what young people need from their carers and Corporate Parents.
I will never forget the 19th of February 2014. It was a very special day for me as the Minister responsible for The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act. To be in the Chamber when the Bill was passed was absolutely incredible. Everyone there was delighted to be part of a legislative process which will have a hugely positive impact on all children, but especially our looked after and vulnerable children.
I’ve said many times before how very proud I am to have worked alongside the phenomenally talented and articulate young people who helped create this legislation
The remarkable group of young campaigners did things that many of us would find intimidating – they worked with government, presented in parliament and they allowed us to hear their experiences with much bravery, energy and passion. Their actions were truly motivated by a desire to help create a system of care that was improved and positively transformed for future generations of looked after children and young people and care leavers. Their expertise will continue to influence future policies.
In the intervening two years I know that Who Cares? Scotland and many of you individually have continued to work hard to help other young people embrace their care background and counteract any stigma associated with being looked after. Since the Act came into force last April we have started to hear about young people benefitting from the new measures.
Care leavers making the decision to remain in their care placement, showing how important the loving relationships they have developed while being looked after are as they – like all young people – face the uncertainties associated with growing up and moving towards a more independent life.
These are the same concerns faced by all of us but for a care experienced young person this support to maintain key relationships and stability in their lives until they are ready to take the next step is something they have never been able to take for granted.
More generally, we are all responsible for ensuring that the ‘Getting It Right for Every Child’ approach – providing targeted and early support for vulnerable families, alongside a package of sweeping reforms to improve support for care experienced young people – has a positive impact on families right across Scotland, and indeed many of you personally.
Finally, I cannot emphasise enough the importance of working together to make this happen. We are well and truly on the journey now to embracing cultural change and creating a Scotland where no looked after young person is disadvantaged because of their care experience.