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25 & Up: A workforce to be reckoned with

Updating on his original call, Call 20, as part of our 25 Calls campaign, Simon Massey says that despite a turbulent two years there’s convincing evidence that the children’s sector workforce is in a strong position

When Liz Green (Workforce and Practice Manager at YouthLink Scotland) and I wrote the original call in autumn 2018, little did I expect that quite so much would happen over the following 20 months!

Recent months have seen global events which have significantly changed how we work while also shaping how we think about the services we deliver. This includes our response to the COVID-19 pandemic and how people and organisations, including Children in Scotland, are reflecting on themselves in light of the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter campaign.

What links these two things for me, and ties back to our original call, is how the workforce in Scotland has responded:

· Demonstrating the commitment and skills to deliver the best services possible within restricted and challenging circumstances

· Quickly becoming confident in the new ways of working and supporting each other

· Maintaining a focus on values with service planning and delivery, as well as considering next steps.

But before 2020 came along and temporarily knocked us off our feet, we saw other developments – some positive, some less so – that will impact on the workforce in Scotland. Examples include: in November 2018, the Scottish Government announcing that LGBT-inclusive education would be implemented across all state schools; the Scottish Government’s pledge last November that the UNCRC would be incorporated into Scots law to the maximum extent possible, and the UK leaving Europe in January 2020.

But, on both a personal and professional level, one of the things that exemplifies what Liz and I were talking about all those months ago was the Independent Care Review.

I had the privilege of being on the Workforce Group and got the opportunity to work with an amazing group of people as part of the wider review. Without fail, I experienced a process that was completely values-driven, focused on the knowledge, skills and expertise that people had, and was always underpinned by listening to the voices of those with lived experience – more than 5,500 children, young people and adults were involved.

The final reports were published in February 2020, just before COVID-19 fully hit the UK, and the not so insignificant challenge will be turning the recommendations into reality. I have no doubt that Fiona Duncan, who chaired the Care Review and was appointed the Chair of the independent body to provide oversight for the implementation of action in May 2020, will ensure this happens.

The Scottish Government’s recent announcement of a £4 million investment in ‘The Promise’ demonstrates an on-going commitment to implementing the reports – hopefully the first of many because, as Fiona says, “there will be hard work and difficult, complex decisions ahead but through working together with children and families at the centre, we will build a Scotland that loves, nurture and cherish all its children.”

When looking back at the call we wrote in 2018, I’m really pleased to see that Children in Scotland progressed with many of the things that were outlined.

The Collective Leadership and Pupil Support Assistant proposals are both proceeding (albeit with COVID-19-related shifts in planning). And our work to ensure children and young people remain fully involved in our activities is evidenced through FMQT: Next Generation, our recruitment of two young Trustees to our Board and further development of our children and young people’s advisory group, Changing our World.

The young people involved in Changing our World have been central to so much of our work and are our first port of call when we’re thinking about a new activity or updating projects or plans. They are involved, for example, in the planning and then co-chairing of all of our major events such as our Annual Conference and our Networking Event, while their input into the early stages of our forthcoming Manifesto for the 2021 elections has ensured their views are kept at the forefront throughout. Along with staff and Members, their views will help shape our next Strategic Plan, and their thoughts on the Black Lives Matter campaign are helping to provide us with a focus on how we, as Children in Scotland, are going to respond and change how we work.

COVID-19 has presented us with challenges that we just did not expect. It has provided the workforce with opportunities to be creative and try out new things, but in sometimes very difficult circumstances. I have no doubt that we are learning through this process, but the downside is that any time to reflect is squeezed – we are simply juggling too much.

As we adjust to our new normal over the coming weeks and months, I am confident that we will continue to deliver a full range of services to children and families, while also having an eye on ​any potential change in priorities or areas of need that may develop in the future. We will use our expertise, skills, knowledge and values to develop our thinking and approaches – what we need to ensure is that we do this together, in partnership with each other and the children and families we work with.

Simon Massey is Head of Engagement and Learning at Children in Scotland.

About the author

Simon Massey is Head of Engagement and Learning at Children in Scotland

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Call 20

Deliver a workforce that works for children: confident, skilled and values-driven

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25 and Up

In the wake of the pandemic, our call to boost family incomes is more urgent than ever

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