Keeping Children in Scotland’s commitment to The Promise
16 Aug 2023
As Children in Scotland turns 30, the organisation's Head of Engagement & Learning, Simon Massey, reflects on how working with care experienced children and young people has been a thread running throughout his career.
Now Children in Scotland’s commitment to #KeepThePromise, ensures all children have an equal chance to flourish.
In 1991 I started work in the first of four residential homes that I would work in over the next seven years. I was 19 years old, had no formal training, limited induction and not very much supervision which, looking back, is pretty shocking. I was only two years older than my first ‘key child’ who I supported moving into independence – something I had only been doing myself for the previous 18 months! It was a steep learning curve and, at times, incredibly challenging but some of the successes and many, many happy memories have stayed with me.
A first-hand perspective of the care system
I have no doubt that this experience helped me become a much better social worker, working across child protection and therapeutic fields for the next seven years. In this role, I continued to work directly with care experienced children and young people and their families and gained a much deeper insight into the impact of being part of the care system.
On a personal level, my parents provided ‘Supported Lodgings’ opportunities for young people via the local Leaving Care Team and I also have an adopted niece and nephew. I have seen first-hand both the life-changing positives placements and adoption bring, and the challenges that can occur – from both the child’s point of view and the parents’ or carers’ perspectives.
Independent Care Review Workforce Group
All of this meant that I paid particular attention when, in late 2016, Nicola Sturgeon, the then First Minister, announced “an independent, root and branch review of the care system”. =
I jumped at the chance to get involved in the Independent Care Review (click here for more) where I became a member of the Workforce Group. This turned out to be (and remains) one of the highlights of my working life – experiencing amazing leadership from Fiona Duncan, meeting and working with inspirational people through the groups, hearing from thousands of children, young people, families and professionals, and being able to make solid, evidence-based recommendations through The Promise (click here for more).
You can learn more about the Independent Care Review in the very first episode of the Children in Scotland podcast (click here to access), released in January 2020, in which Jimmy Paul (Co-chair of the Workforce Group) and I discuss the review.
I was so pleased that Children in Scotland was able to support me being part of the Independent Care Review and how we have embedded it, and The Promise, into our activities over the years – whether as part of our 25 Calls campaign where Fiona wrote an initial piece (click here to access) and Jimmy wrote a follow up (click here to access), or calling on all political parties to implement the Independent Care Review findings in our Manifesto for 2021-26 (click here to access), or identifying key activities in each of our internal Annual Delivery Plans.
A programme for pupil support
Another key highlight for me over the past 12 months has been applying for the second round of Promise Partnership funding – and being successful!
We created a proposal that used key areas of Children in Scotland’s expertise – workforce development and children and young people’s participation and engagement. Our idea is to develop a truly co-produced learning programme for pupil support (click here for more) staff to help create a supportive school environment. The programme development will be led by two working groups – one of care experienced children and young people and the other pupil support staff themselves – supported by Children in Scotland staff.
The project was launched earlier this year (click here for more) and it feels apt that, as Children in Scotland celebrates its 30th anniversary, we are creating something that we hope will have a positive impact for many years to come and demonstrates our ongoing commitment to #KeepThePromise.