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25 & Up: After a year of adversity, change is coming – and we know Scotland is more determined than ever to Keep the Promise

9 February 2021

Chair of the Promise Oversight Board Fiona Duncan revisits her original 25 Calls campaign call, updates on the Plan, and hails everyone who has campaigned so hard to keep the Care Review on track

It’s almost four years after the launch of the Independent Care Review, two years on from the start of Children in Scotland’s 25 Calls campaign, and a year since The Care Review published its conclusions and a vision for the Scotland that together we could be. Driven by the voices of thousands of care experienced babies, infants, children, adults and families as well as the paid and unpaid workforce, the demand was for a Scotland where every child grows up loved, safe and respected.

When I contributed to the 25 Calls campaign in autumn 2018, the Care Review had been running for 18 months. It had already listened to the experiences of care from more than 1000 infants, children, young people and adults across Scotland. Discovery Stage had concluded with the emergence of 10 thematic areas that required deeper understanding and the Journey stage of the work was underway.

The Care Review had also developed its 12 intentions which included supporting families to stay together; protecting relationships significant to infants, children and young people; aftercare available for as long as needed; children and young people’s rights and voices meaningfully impacting decision-making; understanding the financial and human cost of care, including what happens when people don’t get the help they need;  care services planning and working together; and tackling stigma in all its forms.

When it concluded, just over a year later, the change the Care Review called for was vast and urgently needed. Its challenge was met with equally all-encompassing support and enthusiasm: from the care experienced community, organisations and individuals across sectors and industries, politicians, community leaders and the press.

The Promise was made.

One year on and the world is different in terrible and unexpected ways. Our lives are dominated by restrictions and fear – fear of transmission, fear for loved ones, fear of what comes next. For too many life has become even more difficult.

But Scotland’s commitment to #KeepThePromise has remained. There is much still to be done and hard decisions and actions to be taken. But foundations have been laid and change is underway.

Despite unanticipated adversity, the schedule laid out a year ago in The Promise report called the plan (click to read) hasn’t slipped. Massive effort from organisations, individuals, government, and those who campaigned so hard for the Care Review have kept it on track.

Set up in July of last year, The Promise team has pursued the massive task of engaging and working with everyone who needs to #KeepThePromise and more than 100 organisations have outlined how they will change, including local authorities and community planning partnership, Children’s Hearings Scotland, the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration, the Care Inspectorate plus NHS trusts, charities and many, many more.

These commitments have shaped the draft of one single, multi-agency, cross-sector, collectively owned three-year Plan for Scotland, detailing what must happen for the promise to be kept. This will be supported by annual rolling Change Programmes detailing how this will happen, by who and when.

The Promise Oversight Board (click to find out more) – a 20 strong assembly, more than half of whom have care experience, and who will hold Scotland to account – has been recruited and met as a group for the first time.

The Promise Design School, which will pilot in the next couple of months, will give people with care experience the training and skills to collaborate and design public services. With the Pinky Promise Design School following closely afterwards to capture children’s ideas on change that can happen now.

The Promise Partnership, a £4m investment from Scottish Government, opened for applications on 1st February.

The care community called for change and Scotland answered the call. There is no place for complacency and some of the bigger, harder and more painful calls are still to come. But I am as full of hope as I was last year and I feel that hope reflected back in the actions of those who have pledged to #KeepThePromise. Hope fuels change – and change is here.

Fiona Duncan is Chair of the Promise Oversight Board

About the author

Fiona Duncan is Chair of the Promise Oversight Board

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The Care Review

The Independent Care Review published its conclusions in February 2020

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"Support the Review's aims and its work"

Fiona Duncan's original call was part of our 25 Calls campaign

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Hope in hard times

The Care Review informs themes and approaches in our 2021-26 Manifesto

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"The Care Review lays down a challenge"

Jimmy Paul responded to Fiona Duncan's 25 Calls piece in a 2019 blog

Click to read Jimmy's blog

"Collective support the key to delivery"

Last year we responded to the Review's publication by expressing our total support

Click to read the news

25 and Up: The ‘old normal’ meant acceptance of injustice for too many families. We can’t go back to it

9 October 2020

In a special blog for Challenge Poverty Week, Clare Simpson revisits her 25 Calls contribution, arguing that UNCRC incorporation and the work of the Care Review provide the scaffolding for change Scotland’s families need

Back in 2018 when we made our call for relationship-based whole family support (click to read), addressing the poverty blighting the lives of too many of Scotland’s families, the world was a very different place.

Things felt more hopeful. The Scottish Government had just announced its commitment to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into domestic law. The Independent Care Review was at the beginning of its Journey towards its final Promise. The need for better support for families, along with the acknowledgement that this could not be done without tackling poverty, was really gaining traction. And perhaps most importantly, we weren’t living through a pandemic with all its consequent disruption of families’ lives.

Families have been thrust right to the forefront during the pandemic, their essential role suddenly visible and prominent where once it was just background. We thought we no longer had a village to raise our children. But we realised when they were taken away that family and friends, education and other services were that village and that without them families were left horribly exposed.

But families’ troubles were not due solely, or even mostly, due to the impact of the pandemic. Years of austerity had already created a society riven by inequalities. Too many families had been swept away by a rising tide of poverty and many more were teetering on the edge. A forthcoming report by Barnardos and the NSPCC, Challenges from the Frontline Revisited, puts the stark reality of life for too many families under the spotlight. The pandemic has highlighted what was already too many families’ everyday reality.

Pre-pandemic, one in four children in Scotland was already living in poverty. The numbers are predicted to rise. Many families were living in poverty regardless of whether they worked or not. Approximately four in 10 people were experiencing in-work poverty (Poverty in Scotland 2020, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, click to read). Insecure employment and zero-hour contracts left many at the mercy of unregulated employers while inadequate social security levels meant that those who were forced to resort to benefits were far from socially secure.

After lockdown, the number of working hours in Scotland fell sharply, with low-paid workers more likely to lose jobs and pay. Universal Credit claims doubled in the six months from March 2020 with areas with higher poverty rates pre-pandemic most significantly affected (JRF, 2020). While many were able to weather the storm and cut back on spending, those living in poverty, especially private renters and younger people, already spent the vast majority of their income on essentials and were unlikely to have savings to fall back on, according to the ONS.

It can’t be fair that some of us can take out a Netflix subscription and buy a comfort takeaway to make life easier during these COVID days, while others can’t afford to keep up rent payments and need to rely on foodbanks to feed themselves and their children.

The call that we made back in 2018 has become more important than ever. Relationship-based whole family support is essential to ensure that every family has the resources to ensure their children can thrive. When families are struggling to keep a roof over their heads, to pay bills and put meals on the table, inevitably mental health suffers, stress levels soar and bringing up children becomes so much more difficult. We need to talk about supporting families rather than about family support, working alongside families to make sure they are not cast adrift in a rising tide of poverty.

Article 27 of the UNCRC states “Every child has the right to a standard of living that meets their physical and social needs and supports their development. Governments must support families who cannot provide this.”

It is a beacon of hope and a mark of a civilised society that Scotland has committed to incorporating the UNCRC into domestic law. Properly resourced and used as a framework to support families, incorporation has the potential to be a gamechanger for families who, through no fault of their own, cannot provide an adequate standard of living for their children. Alongside the strong commitment made to supporting families in the Independent Care Review’s the Promise and its Ten Principles of family support, UNCRC incorporation provides the scaffolding for the change that Scotland’s families need.

But effecting that change will require proper resourcing and genuine cross-departmental working at national and local government levels. It will mean help with work and employability, more affordable homes and more income support for families.

It simply isn’t right that we leave so many families unable to provide for their children. We have to get this right for Scotland’s families. Please don’t let the new normal be the same as the old normal.

Clare Simpson is Manager of Parenting across Scotland

About the author

Clare Simpson is Manager of Parenting across Scotland

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Poverty in Scotland 2020

This report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation was published in October 2020

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25 Calls, 25 and Up

Find out more about our campaign in partnership with organisations across the sector

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"Whole-family support is needed"

Clare's 25 Calls campaign call focused on the need for meaningful support for families

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Incorporation 'to the max' welcome

Find out why we back full incorporation and read our consultation response

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

3 June 2020

Launching a new series revisiting our 25 Calls, John Dickie, co-author of Call 15, argues that the Scottish Government’s child poverty targets, delivery plan and new Scottish Child Payment must inform every aspect of our country’s approach to renewal

The world has changed for Scotland’s children in ways none of us could have foretold when we called for a top-up of child benefit (click to read) as part of Children in Scotland’s 25 Calls campaign in autumn 2018.

The good news is that that campaign, thanks to the support of Children in Scotland and many others, bore fruit with the Scottish Government’s commitment to a new Scottish child payment.

While not a universal child benefit top-up, the £10 per week payment for children in families in receipt of universal credit (or equivalent legacy benefits) is a game-changer in the fight to end child poverty.

An increase of £10 a week for each child, with children under six benefiting from 2021, will make a real difference to families struggling to put food on the table, heat their homes and pay for school trips, sport and other activities that are fundamental to a decent childhood.

It was a landmark recognition of the role the Scottish social security system must play in ending child poverty.

The increase was projected to lift 30,000 children out of poverty, reflecting the benchmark set by the child benefit top-up campaign, and reducing the relative child poverty rate by an estimated three percentage points once fully rolled out in 2022.

The harsh new reality facing Scotland’s children

The bad news is that, even before the coronavirus crisis hit, nearly one in four– approximately 230,000 of Scotland’s children – were locked in poverty. The impact of the Scottish child payment was already counterbalanced by cuts to the value of UK social security that look set to increase child poverty by 50,000 by 2023.

Even without the impact of Covid-19, reaching the statutory 2030 Scottish child poverty targets meant lifting 140,000 children out of poverty. More was already needed if progress against these targets was to be made.

The harsh reality is that the coronavirus has exposed the precarious vulnerability of low-income families to economic and health shocks, and the subsequent dangers to child wellbeing.

There is increasing evidence that households with children, which were already at greater risk of poverty, have been disproportionately affected by the financial impact of the pandemic.

While it is too early to measure the impact on numbers of children in poverty, IPPR Scotland analysis (click to read) finds that since lockdown almost half (49 per cent) of households with dependent children in Scotland find themselves in the two most serious categories of financial stress – ‘in serious financial difficulty’ or ‘struggling to make ends meet’. This is compared to 30 per cent of all households in Scotland reporting the same levels of financial stress.

Children’s charities report increased financial stress and associated anxiety, loneliness, and more complex mental health problems amongst the families they work with (click to read). The charitable hardship funds they operate have come under massively increased pressure.

Children, young people and parents have also highlighted their struggle to find the resources to engage with school during lockdown (click to read). The long-term risks to children’s education are great.

Families across Scotland are fighting to stay afloat. Those already more likely to experience poverty – such as lone parent families – are being particularly impacted. They are being pulled deeper into poverty.

Our call to boost family incomes is more urgent than ever

In this new context our call to boost family incomes using social security powers is more urgent than ever.

The Scottish and UK governments have taken unprecedented action. They have increased the standard allowance in universal credit and the Job Retention Scheme at UK level, and doubled the Scottish Welfare Fund and investment in the Wellbeing Fund here in Scotland. But, to date, there has been no additional financial support aimed directly at families with children.

That’s why the Scottish Government’s commitment to continue to prioritise the Scottish Child Payment is so important.

Serious consideration must now be given to accelerating roll-out and, importantly, increasing the value of the payment in light of the additional pressure on family incomes.

But in the short-term, existing delivery mechanisms need to be used to provide emergency financial support to all low-income families.

This was called for by an extraordinary coalition of more than 100 children’s charities, trade unions, faith groups and thinktanks in an open letter to the First Minister in May.

The current crisis is a stark reminder of why the call to boost social security support for families is so vital. The pandemic has exposed the acute financial vulnerability facing Scotland’s families.

The approach to recovery must now ensure that all children grow up in families with genuine financial security and protection against economic shocks.

The Scottish Government’s child poverty targets, delivery plan and new Scottish child payment provide a hugely valuable asset. They must now inform every aspect of our country’s approach to economic and social recovery.

John Dickie is Director of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland
Click here to find out more about their work

Child Poverty Action Group Scotland

John Dickie is Director of CPAG Scotland

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Call 15: Top up child benefit by £5 a week

Read the original call made by John Dickie and Peter Kelly of the Poverty Alliance

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"Change the language of poverty"

Young people contributed the number one call, about dignity, to our campaign

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Catch up on our 25 Calls campaign

Find out what we and 200+ partners have called for

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“We can't witness another generation going through this”

Our response to new research showing a marked rise in child poverty rates across the UK

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End Child Poverty

We are members of the coalition discussing Scotland-specific policy and legislation

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"It's your business to tackle child poverty"

Professor John McKendrick contributed Call 2 of our 25 Calls campaign

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