Megan Sutherland first heard about Who Cares? Scotland when she was 15 years old. She joined our board at 17 and became Vice-Chair at 21. In this blog, she explains why she’s proud to be a trustee at Who Cares? Scotland and her journey with the charity. Megan has just been nominated for SCVO Terrific Trustee Award. You can vote for her at the SCVO website.
In care, I couldn’t wait to grow up to be able to make decisions for myself. My life was frustratingly determined by too many professionals who felt distant and by processes that never asked or gave priority to what I wanted. I don’t believe anyone goes into social care or writes policy to negatively impact someone’s life. I often used to imagine how different it could be if people were allowed to do what was right, what was needed, and what their heart told them to rather than being constrained by a dusty handbook full of acronyms.
My education was disrupted by being moved around as a child. My finances weren’t enough to let me travel to my job or counselling appointments when I was encouraged to stand on my own two feet. I left care and didn’t have an emergency contact to put on what started to feel like an endless amount of forms that asked for them. I was stigmatised and had nobody to ask for help either side of the hours of 9-5.
I still had ambition during all of this but my chances to realise it didn’t make themselves apparent. I wanted to go to university, have a job where I could change people’s lives, travel the globe and have a loving, stable family. I knew that practically none of those things were guaranteed because I had been in care. It was so difficult even finding a landlord who would let me sign a lease without a guarantor.
The first interaction I had with Who Cares? Scotland was when an advocate visiting my residential unit. I asked her for help with a legal process. This wasn’t something she could do, but she surprised me by going above and beyond. She came back to me with child-friendly books containing the information I needed and contact details of people who could help me. Who Cares? Scotland seemed to care more about what I needed than what their job descriptions said their working day should typically be. This was unusual and after that I trusted her.
I have met hundreds of people who, like me, have been limited by processes. People who have been denied loving, lasting relationships. People who see those who were in care before them struggle to find a good path because they were on their own, far from their potential and aspirations. Some of them are no longer here and it’s just not good enough. For me, it’s the most burning social injustice. It’s where those who have slipped through the cracks slip even further. I joined Who Cares? Scotland to speak up about it because it has to radically change, and it has to change fast. Who Cares? Scotland is leading a revolution for a lifetime of equality, respect and love for care experienced people and I feel compelled in my heart to do all I can to help.
We changed the law in 2014, creating the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act. Support for Care Experienced people has dramatically increased in so many ways. The public understanding of us is changing and people who had never been in care were proudly marching in our Love Rally because Scotland is starting to love its children. Over 100 people who have left care and feel isolated come together every year on Christmas Day to eat turkey and be with a different kind of family.
But I’m still terrified for the children today who are being taken into care. I hear people say we should stop talking about poor statistics, that they compound stigma. I understand the point but I wish I could see people change their practice with the same conviction and speed.
I can’t stop speaking up until our outcomes are equal to our classmates, and we have loving, lasting relationships throughout our lifetime, in stigma-free communities, with comprehensive support to achieve whatever our dream is just as parents do for their children. I believe love should be a human right because I have seen what happens to people who don’t experience it.
The progress Who Cares? Scotland has made is incredible and globally unique, and I’m so grateful to the members, staff and supporters of Who Cares? Scotland who throw their skills, time and heart into our mission every day. Our people are our biggest asset. People have the power to tell stories, change minds, empower others and give hugs.
Standing with others, who had shared the hardest parts of their life in order to bring about change for children they will never know, whilst we watched the First Minister announce a root and branch review of Scotland’s care system was the proudest I have ever felt in my life. We cried, we hugged and we felt renewed energy and determination for our movement. It gave me hope and confidence that our mission for equality, respect and love for every Care Experienced adult, child and baby in Scotland will be achieved within my lifetime.