We started to listen and take action in 1978 and we haven’t stopped since
For 40 years, Who Cares? Scotland has held voluntary relationships with Care Experienced people across Scotland, which are independent from statutory services. During this time, we have been listening to Care Experienced people without judgement, prejudice or professional bias. By providing Independent Advocacy, we continue to hear from just over 7% of the current in care population and those eligible for aftercare annually, about how the rights they are entitled to can be diluted, infringed or disregarded altogether.
Our action, our responsibility
Who Cares? Scotland was created in 1978 by a small group of social workers who felt they were restricted in their professional role to truly listen to and act on what Care Experienced people were saying about their care and circumstances. Throughout the next two decades, following a series of consistent recommendations from inquiries and reviews – particularly focused on the prevalence of physical and sexual abuse within state care – we cemented our commitment to Care Experienced people through increased provision of professional, relationship based, Independent Advocacy.
Independent Advocacy services and a focus on the rights of children and young people is essential to promoting children’s safety, ultimately preventing rights infringements and further abuse of children and young people. We have heard through our advocacy relationships, about how values, attitudes and the culture in which professionals operate, can impede the childhood experience of Care Experienced children and young people. Therefore, without absolute independence, the potential for rights infringements and the abuse of power will continue to prevail.
The potential to realise life-changing reforms to the care experience of children and young people dependent on statutory support is closer than ever before.
Our vision is for a Scotland where every Care Experienced person has a lifetime of Equality, Respect and Love. As care improves and the rights of children and young people are realised on their behalf by the carers and professionals around them, the demand for Independent Advocacy would and should reduce. However, in the meantime, the need for universal access to Independent Advocacy provision is urgent, whilst the care system continues to be re-imagined and transformed.
Respecting and upholding Care Experienced people’s rights
Who Cares? Scotland may have been established to be the consumer voice for children and young people in 1978, however, it took over a decade before any funding was secured for Independent Advocacy. We only started providing Independent Advocacy to children and young people in the 90’s as a direct response to the Skinner Report and other abuse enquiries and requests from children and young people themselves for Who Cares? Scotland to provide them with individual Independent Advocacy.
This is partly due to the fact that children’s rights gained more focus throughout the eighties across the U.K. and Europe. With the introduction 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, on the back of these developments, that Care Experienced young people’s rights had a platform via Independent Advocacy.
To date, six reports from abuse inquiries and reviews over the last 30 years have consistently recognised the value and need for Independent Advocacy provision, namely:
- Skinner Report (1992),
- Kent Report (1997),
- Edinburgh Inquiry (1999),
- Fife Inquiry (2002),
- Kerelaw Inquiry (2007)
- Shaw Report (2007)
The response from Scottish Government to the Kent Report (1997) stated ‘At the heart of these proposals for reform are the children and young people themselves. We have noted their views on the Childrens Safeguards Review and as a result will ask local authorities to consider the increased use of Children’s Rights Officers and Who Cares? Scotland Young Persons Workers’.
However, all of these reports have only led to a very modest level of provision of Independent Advocacy for looked after children and young people by Local Authorities. New legislation, policies and procedures associated with child care planning have not led directly to any significant re-assessment of the level of Independent Advocacy provision required. Accessibility remains inconsistent, with some local authorities providing no Independent Advocacy at all.
Who Cares? Scotland currently provides Independent Advocacy in 29 Local Authorities and 8 Care Providers and we know that Care Experienced people often bring Who Cares? Scotland workers into their lives when they feel they aren’t being listened to, or they want to change the direction or impact of a decision that has been made about them or for them. Over time and as our relationships develop, this means we often get to share in moments which are important and this continues to be a privilege for every one of us at Who Cares? Scotland. We want those great moments to be frequent and celebrated for every single child or young person who has chosen for us to be part of their lives.
From a modest provision of 12 advocacy workers covering 29 Local Authorities in Scotland in 1997, to a diverse group of 137 staff providing a range of advocacy, participation and influencing activities across Scotland today, we have continued to listen and to take action for those who ask us to and who need us to. And we won’t stop until a lifetime of equality, respect and love is secured for Care Experienced people.
Find out more about our experience, evidence and ask.