Who Cares? Scotland’s Public Affairs Manager, Jamie Kinlochan, will receive a British Empire Medal in the New Year Honours List 2021.
Jamie’s award is for services to vulnerable people in Scotland during the initial COVID-19 response.
Jamie said: “I am really humbled to be recognised in this way. The response to COVID-19 left so many people out at sea and I’m incredibly proud of the lifelines that we were able to provide.
“I’m part of a brilliant wider team at Who Cares? Scotland and it took all of us to develop the vision I had into something that made a difference to people’s lives. I’m incredibly grateful today to my colleagues for their efforts and to our supporters and funders for encouraging us to do something different to help people.”
Who Cares? Scotland is an advocacy and campaigning organisation for people with experience of the care system. This includes those who have been brought up in residential or foster care, and those who have lived with relatives in kinship care arrangements, or with other involvement from social work in their childhoods.
It was clear that the initial advice before lockdown, to stay home and reach out to family, would provide challenges for many of the people known to the charity. Jamie began speaking to Care Experienced people to understand what gaps in support may emerge and created a proposal for Who Cares? Scotland to step up.
Within days, the organisation established a management team to develop the support that would be offered; released funds from reserves to make sure that people could access financial assistance quickly, and established a national helpline that any Care Experienced person, of any age, could contact for support. The response was then scaled up as the pandemic deepened, a response made possible because of the commitment of the entire staff team and support from the Scottish Government and other funders.
Jamie said: “At Who Cares? Scotland, we work with people who have experience of care every day. We know that sometimes, the social systems that serve us all can be dysfunctional and inadequate. For those with experience of care, the challenges that come from this are exacerbated because the scaffolding of support that should be around them is taken away quickly.
“Our view was that those with experience of care were likely to be financially, emotionally and practically affected by lockdown. Some people lost their jobs and had no one to turn to for immediate support whilst they waited for systems to catch up with unprecedented demand.
“Other people saw their education institutions closed and didn’t have anyone to talk through what the rapid changes to assessment meant for them and how they could manage competing demands like childcare. Many people struggled with the isolation that came from having no access to the internet and digital devices.”
Between March and July 2020, Who Cares? Scotland provided £145,000 in financial support to over 850 people, supporting people to buy essentials like food and fuel, linked people with local services and carried out case work to help people overcome barriers to additional support.
Who Cares? Scotland also chaired a kinship care network during lockdown, ensuring that kinship carers who needed support could also access the helpline and provided regular updates to policy makers and local service providers with powerful COVID impact reports.
Recognising the need for ongoing support, and the importance of support being available to people whenever they need it, Who Cares? Scotland has kept the helpline open to support anyone with Care Experience who needs help to access support and opportunities. The charity will also be supporting the Scottish Government in 2021, as it continues efforts to provide additional financial support for those who continue to be caught in the COVID-19 storm.
Chair of Who Cares? Scotland Ryan McCuaig said: “We are extremely proud of Jamie and we are delighted that his efforts have been recognised in the New Years Honours List.
“The COVID-19 pandemic brought challenges for everyone, but it had a particular impact on those who were unable to lean on traditional family support networks to manage the impact of lockdown. Jamie’s idea to launch a helpline to provide support and financial assistance at the start of the pandemic was the spark for our entire organisation, to design and deliver a new model of support for Care Experienced people.
“Our Helpline is now a core part of what we do at Who Cares? Scotland, offering advocacy, connection and a listening ear, as well as support and signposting for matters such as housing, health, benefits, education and employment.”