Our History

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 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.

Speak Out Magazine

Speak Out magazine, which Who Cares? Scotland edits and distributes to family members, was first published in 1979. The magazine was established so that young people in care could share their successes, reach out to other people in care across Scotland and see themselves represented in media.

The appeal of Speak Out has stood the test of time. Four issues of the magazine are published every year and it features more content from care experienced people than ever before.

The Rights of the Child

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.

Growth of Who Cares? Scotland

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.

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, members of the public and more 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 young people. Our youth 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 family membership programme was established. Anyone with any experience of care, of any age, can become part of the membership. 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.

The right to an identity

Many of our members tell us that that their care experience can sometimes have a negative impact on how they view themselves and on how other people view them. This is why many care experienced people do not want to let people know about their care experience. Sometimes this means not talking about it and sometimes it means concealing it altogether.

Our members tell us that their care experience is part of who they are but that all too often, it is viewed as something to be embarrassed about or ashamed of. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child says that all children have a right to an identity and the right to be protected from discrimination.

That’s why we want every person who has care experience to not feel shamed or judged about the fact that they were in care. No one should be embarrassed about something that they had little control over. That’s why we work with care experienced people to break down the labels. We will champion all care experienced children and young people and we will continue to seek equality in Scotland for them.

With thanks to Scottish Local Authorities and funding partners, who make our work possible
Who Cares? Scotland Funding Partners