Blog: I’m influencing change where it matters.

Dionne Mcnicol talks about what it is like to be a Care Experienced member of staff at Who Cares? Scotland.

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By the end of this month, Who Cares? Scotland will have more care experienced staff than ever before. Our Reaching Higher programme supports care experienced people who might need a bit of extra support in reaching their potential. That really matters to me and there are lots of reasons why.

Before starting my position with Who Cares? Scotland, I was a full time parent to my son, Jayden. It’s amazing being a full time parent but I was used to working and needed to find that something for me again. When the position at Who Cares? Scotland became available I was more than ready to get back into the world of work again. Once I had the support of my Gran for childcare and Jayden began attending nursery, I felt Who Cares? Scotland was the perfect place for me to be.

I first heard about the organisation through being a part of a group called Young Voice. This was a group run by young people in care for young people in care and we shared our stories to try and positively influence the care system. It was through Young Voice that I learned about advocacy and began working with my Who Cares? Scotland advocacy worker Ray. It’s amazing to think that I can now call him my colleague.

Advocacy to me was a lifesaver. At the time I was in the process of moving on from the children’s home I lived in and wasn’t sure what my rights or entitlements were. I didn’t know if I could be involved in the decisions being made.

Having advocacy gave me the support and voice I needed to move on how I wanted, where I wanted and when I wanted. I realised that advocacy was for me and not all the staff around me. I felt empowered because for the first time, it was someone’s sole responsibility to make sure I was heard.

I already felt that Who Cares? Scotland was a part of my life and I knew I’d be back with them at some point; it was just a matter of when.

My role within Who Cares? Scotland is Corporate Parenting Admin Assistant but it is so much more. We do training, look at corporate parenting plans, build new relationships and give care experienced people that chance to tell decision makers what life is like.

My team exists to support and guide named corporate parents with their legal responsibilities to care experienced young people. We do this to improve day to day life and the overall outcomes of care experienced people, as they can be so poor. Everyone has a responsibility to care experienced young people. I love that our work is ambitious and brings those delivering care, other corporate parents and young people together to find solutions. It reminds me of how we did things at Young Voice and I feel like I have experience to offer the team.

I have participated in some of our training, talked about my life experience and I was lucky enough to be part of the first ever hustings for care experienced people on #CareDay. This was remarkable because as a care experienced person, I felt completely empowered and heard. These people wanted to be Members of the Scottish Parliament and have the power to create change. To have them listen to the issues and difficulties facing young people and to have them held to account by an audience of care experienced people was such an exciting experience.

I have gained so much knowledge through my role in the three months and the support I receive within my position is great. This includes flexibility with childcare and emotional support with things outside of work that can have an impact on day to day life. I feel included and part of something special. For me Who Cares? Scotland is a unique organisation. I can see that we are influencing change where it matters. I’m confident enough to say that I’m influencing change where it matters.

Sometimes I talk about my life and experiences in front of the people who can make the changes and I’ve found it to be a really rewarding experience. I get to hold decision makers, elected officials and people in high office to account. I feel that by working together and enabling corporate parents to listen to young people who have been through care, we can achieve the changes that are needed.

In the future I hope to stay in a role within Who Cares? Scotland. I plan to apply, if possible, for a permanent position within the organisation once I have completed my SVQ. If any care experienced young people are thinking of applying to the Reaching Higher programme, I would say go for it. You will not regret it. You will get the support you need to achieve. I feel like I still have a lot more to give to Who Cares? Scotland.

I am also expecting baby number two so as my confidence is growing, so is my family!