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A young person with dark hair stands in front of a group of fashion mannequins. Wearing a black jumper, they hold a brightly coloured tote bag, which features swirls of blue, purple and red
Image: Martin Shields

A young Scot designs charity tote with John Lewis to “represent the brilliance of care experienced people”

Posted 19.01.24 by Alice Hinds

A care experienced student from Glasgow has designed a new charity tote bag in partnership with retailer John Lewis, helping to raise vital funds while also inspiring young people in the care system to discover their talent.

Selected by Who Cares? Scotland (click here for more) as an individual with bags of potential, 18-year-old Michael Archibald was given the opportunity to work with the in-house design team at Saatchi & Saatchi as part of the retailer’s Building Happier Futures programme, which recruits people with care experience to work in its department stores.

The first item in a new range of products the retailer says will create more opportunities for designers with care experience, profits from sales of Michael’s bold and stylish bag – available for just £12 – will go to Action for Children, Home-Start UK, and Who Cares? Scotland.

Discussing the inspiration behind the bag, Michael said: “The stars on the bag represent the brilliance of care experienced people, and the surrounding clouds depict the love, care and respect these individuals need.

“Creative industries are such a competitive field and being given the chance to create a product that is actually my own design – and see it physically in store – is an amazing experience. It’s made me feel like I’m able to go places.”

Queralt Ferrer, John Lewis' Director of Design for Fashion, added: “We set out to design a tote bag, but beyond that, our brief to Michael was very open. We could see he has a keen eye for aesthetics, and the ability to create authentic and captivating designs.”

In 2023, the Building Happier Futures (click here for more) programme generated £1.1million for care experience charities, including supporting Who Cares? Scotland to hold events for 880 people.

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News: Undergraduate students will receive greater financial support, starting with Autumn 2023 uplift

Posted 14 March, 2023 by Nina Joynson

The Scottish Government has announced an uplift to both SAAS loan funding for undergraduate students and the bursary that helps care-experienced learners to access higher education, amidst cost-of-living pressures.

From the beginning of the 2023-24 academic year, all undergraduate students will be offered an additional £900 as part of their financial support package.

This means that the maximum package, available for estranged students in higher education and other undergraduate learners on the lowest household income bracket, will increase to £9,000 per year (from £8,100).

Minister for Higher Education and Further Education Jamie Hepburn said:

“This rise in support will help to alleviate the financial pressures facing many students as we grapple with the cost-of-living crisis.

"This is the next step in delivering our commitment to providing a total package of student support equivalent to the living wage."

Supporting students with care experience

The non-repayable Care Experienced Bursary will also increase to £9,000 for eligible students in higher education, with a £900 increase also added to the maximum bursary rate for those in further education.

The bursary is available for students who have experience of being in care, including in settings such as foster or residential care, or under a compulsory supervision order or kinship care arrangement.

The increases will be available to students who already attend further or higher education, as well as new students beginning studies in Autumn 2023.

Louise Hunter, CEO of Who Cares? Scotland, said:

"It’s great to hear news of the £900 increase in financial support available to students in Scotland. I’m sure this will be welcomed by many students who are struggling to balance their education and finances during the cost-of-living crisis.

"Raising the Care Experienced Student Bursary to £9,000 per year responds to the specific challenges this group can face. For many Care Experienced people without family to rely on for support during their studies, they can face greater barriers in realising their lifelong right to education."

Coloured blue, red, purple, yellow, green, orange and pink pencils arranged with their nibs all pointing together, forming a circle.

News: CELCIS' annual Christmas card design competition now open

Posted 29 November, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

School-aged children and young people with care experience are being invited to submit their designs for this year's Christmas card.

The design competition, run annually by the Centre for Excellence for Children’s Care and Protection (CELCIS), based at the University of Strathclyde, invites young people with care experience to submit designs for the CELCIS Christmas card.

The chosen design will be featured on the Centre’s e-card and sent throughout the UK and abroad. The winner will also receive a £50 gift voucher.

Judged by CELCIS staff, budding artists need to ensure their entry has a festive theme, is all their own work and is able to be reproduced electronically. Those submitting their designs are also encouraged to use “lots of colour, imagination and originality.”

The competition is open to all young people under 18 who are in care. This could be through being looked after by foster carers, prospective adopters or in kinship care, living in residential care homes or in a group care setting, or someone who is adopted.

Last year the competition received more than 150 entries. The eventual winner was chosen as 13-year-old Harley from Argyll for his festive drawing of a stag with red robins sitting amongst his antlers.

Entries for the 2022 competition can be submitted to CELCIS via email or post. Closing date is Monday 5 December.

Click here to download the competition flyer

Click here to view last year's designs

A blue lake with trees visible in the distance. The sky is blue and the image is framed by leaves.

News: Website offering a 'reservoir of hope' launches for care support staff

Posted 10 November, 2022 by Nina Joynson

Following research into experiences with care services, a university-led project has launched a new web toolkit to help support staff and young people considered 'high risk'.

Talking Hope has launched its new website this week, with a toolkit that acts as a 'reservoir of hope' for those working in and supported by services for young people.

The aim is to foster hope and wellbeing amongst staff and young people, and the toolkit is divided into three themes to support development, participation and hope; transitions, change and hope; and hopeful leadership.

Its foundations lie in the understanding that thinking and talking about hope promotes better futures for young people, especially those considered 'high risk' and who have experienced – or will experience – the care system.

The aim is to foster more hopeful conversations focused on setting goals or building motivation to work towards goals, or in exploring factors that young people, their families and support staff find to be important. 

Three phases

The project started in 2018 with aims to promote more positive conversations with and about young people supported by services.

Led by the University of Strathclyde, the first phase involved discussions with young people identified as being ‘high risk’ who are in or have experienced care, as well as social workers, health workers and residential care staff. 

Phase two then involved developing a framework for transitions, to maintain hope during destabilising moments in young people’s transitions into and out of secure care. 

After a break in 2020, phase three launched in October 2021, using the conclusions of the previous phases to create the accessible toolkit as a ‘hope reservoir’; somewhere to 'dip into to remember more hopeful times'.

Dr Emma Miller, project lead at the University of Strathclyde, said:

“Young people with high support needs and their families need to understand what is happening and why it is happening, as well as what the possibilities are – it is important for them to have agency and hope.

“Talking Hope works with people to find the right way of having a conversation, which is different for different people. Whether it was staff telling us how they felt isolated and demoralised during the pandemic, or young people saying they don’t feel they can trust adults to record their conversations, we want people to know that we’re here, we’re listening – and we’re always learning.

“Our website is a way of sharing learning and the voices of young people, families and staff. It includes practical tools and tips that staff can use. We also hope that people will use this website as a kind of hope reservoir – and may feel encouraged to create their own!”

Click here to visit the Talking Hope website

Photo of four people sitting on chairs reading from paper. There is a white projector screen at the back, and a filming camera in the foreground.

News: Care Week to be marked with free performance exploring Scotland's care system

Posted 19 October, 2022 by Nina Joynson. Image credit: Julie Howden.

National Theatre of Scotland will stream a free package of theatre work for three weeks, including a filmed script reading and panel discussion that explores the care system.

To mark National Care Leavers' Week in the UK and Care Experienced Week in Scotland, audiences will have free access to Holding/Holding Ona filmed reading of playwright Nicola McCartney's script.

Available for three weeks from 21 October, the film will be accompanied by a  panel discussion recorded during the Scottish Parliament's Festival of Politics 2022.

Holding/Holding On

With experience as a foster carer, Nicola McCartney met with care-experienced young people and adults, care professionals, and Independent Care Review contributors to develop the script with authentic narratives.

Its reading has been been filmed with a cast of nine performers in scenes that focus on how society treats those in care, those who are care experienced, and the experiences of carers.

It highlights the language used to define them; society’s fascination with media tropes; the entanglement of care with class and poverty, and the role that care actually plays in the care system.

The script's writer, Nicola McCartney, said:

“‘Holding/ Holding On’ gives different perspectives on how we look after our most vulnerable children and where we might go in future.

"The filmed reading of our work-in-progress puts forward ideas about what’s not working, celebrates some of what is and I hope asks some big questions about what each of us needs to do to really make Scotland ‘the best place in the world to grow up’”.

A conversation about care 

Care, Love and Understanding – a panel discussion exploring how society treats young people and adults in the Scottish care system will be released alongside the film.

Chaired by Karen Adam MSP, panellists include Ryan McCuaig, chair of the board at Who Cares? Scotland, and Kenneth Murray and Nicola McCartney from the Holding/Holding On project.

The discussion looks at the role that class and poverty plays in the system and asks where love and compassion come on the list of priorities.

Both Holding/Holding On, a filmed script reading, and Care, Love and Understanding, a panel discussion, will be available freely for audiences from 21 October until 10 November.

Click here to learn more on the National Theatre of Scotland website

"Care experienced young people need love, relationships and community. They deserve the same as all of us: to belong"

13 October 2022

The Home and Belonging evaluation demonstrates why security and support is fundamental for young people with care experience as they move into their own home, writes Jo Derrick

Children in Scotland and Staf (Scottish Throughcare and Aftercare Forum) are pleased to launch the findings and recommendations of the Home and Belonging Initiative evaluation, undertaken on behalf of Life Changes Trust (LCT).

The report surfaces three key themes that emerge from the evaluation and the collective voices of young people and the teams that support them:

  • The Importance of relationships and support
  • Conceding power and control to young people with care experience
  • The importance of high-quality, suitable housing.


The Life Changes Trust (LCT) was created in 2013 with a £50 million, 10-year endowment fund from the National Lottery Community Fund (the Trust closed in March 2022). It used the money to help drive transformational improvements in the lives of young people with care experience and individuals with dementia and those who care for them.

Their voices, needs and wellbeing are at the heart of all the work they funded, and more information can be found on their website. LCT wanted a Scotland where all young people with care experience see a positive and permanent shift in their quality of life, physical and mental wellbeing, empowerment and inclusion.

One of the key principles of LCT was that young people are the experts in their own lives – experts by experience – and that theirs is the most important voice in shaping projects, planning funding and informing local and national policy. Fundamentally their main purpose was to support those voices so that they are heard.

This principle was a crucial one when undertaking the evaluation of the 11 projects involved in the Home and Belonging initiative. The need and desire to embed relationship-based approach to support, along with bricks and mortar, is evident throughout the projects and reflected in the experience of young people involved:

“I’ve met some really nice, understanding and kind people… Relationships come and go but the ones that stay have the biggest impacts as they really care and listen to you and want you to do well” (Alexia)

The importance of a range of supportive relationships is further captured here in relation to Jason, another young person who contributed to the case studies in the evaluation report.

“Jason receives support from a range of different SOYA staff which means he has several supporting relationships in his life. Having a consistent pool of staff provides stability and consistency for Jason and it also gives him the freedom to work with different people and to identify which relationships he values and gains most from.”

I am, of course biased, but I would highly recommend reading this report to hear from young people themselves the impact that participation in these projects has had on them, and the positive impact of delivering these projects to young people has had on the team around them.

Further, this evaluation not only highlights the major themes to emerge from the evaluation, it makes key recommendations for national decision-makers, local decision-makers and people working directly with young people with care experience. It is vital that we see the findings and recommendations from evaluations like these embedded into sustainable practice and respond to the voices of those experts by experience who have so considerately allowed us to represent their voices.

I could further strengthen my case for this evaluation by referring to the importance of belonging as part of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and arguing that, if that need is not met, then we may be unable to progress and meet our other needs and therefore make an important case for taking forward a sustainability approach. However, I feel the quote below from Erwin McManus captures the essence of this evaluation and why it is such an important read:

“Home is ultimately not about a place to live but about the people with whom you are most fully alive. Home is about love, relationship, community, and belonging, and we are all searching for home.” (Erwin McManus)

Jo Derrick is CEO of Staf (Scottish Throughcare and Aftercare Forum)




The Home and Belonging initiative

Find out about all the learning and recommendations from the three-year project

Click here to read

About the author

Jo Derrick is CEO of Staf (Scottish Throughcare and Aftercare Forum)

Click here for more

Our Participation Guidelines

Our guidelines for participation with young people were updated in 2022

Click here to download

2022 Annual Conference

Join us to discuss what’s next for the sector and our work to improve children’s lives

Click to find out more
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News: Young People's Guarantee receives £4 million in extra funding

Posted 11 May 2022, by Nina Joynson

The Scottish Government has announced additional funding for the Young Person's Guarantee scheme, in order to support more young people into work.

The Scottish Government is allocating £4 million additional funding to the Young Person's Guarantee, an initiative established to support economic recovery from the pandemic by creating work opportunities for young people.

Supporting youth employment

The funding boost is in response to uncertainties caused by the pandemic and cost of living crisis. The money will be allocated to three projects, with a focus on helping those who are care experienced and those experiencing mental health issues.

The Young Person's Guarantee was launched in November 2020 to support economic recovery from Covid-19. It acts as the Government's commitment to provide all 16-24 year olds in Scotland with a work, training, or educational opportunity.

Work partnerships, colleges and universities, school support services, and volunteering and third sector programmes have already benefited from the funding.

Since the pandemic, local authorities have received funding from the Government in addition to local funding to go towards employment support. Almost £60 million had been provided for 2022-2023, including £15 million for the Young Person's Guarantee.

The funding top-up announced this week will be shared between three programmes:

  • Inspiring Scotland will receive £2.6 million towards the Our Future Now programme, which provides opportunities for young people in work placements, shadowing and interview training.
  • The Young People’s Consortium (Action for Children, Barnardo’s, and Prince’s Trust) will receive £1.4 million to help young people with care experience to secure full-time employment.
  • Volunteering Matters in partnership with the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) will receive £97,000 towards their work in supporting young people in Glasgow to access formal volunteering opportunities.

Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Youth Employment and Training, said:

“We want all of our young people to succeed, no matter their background or circumstances. Our aim is to ensure those seeking work have access to valuable support and opportunities for years to come.

“We know that many young people may face additional barriers to successfully gaining permanent work and the uncertainty caused by the pandemic combined with the cost of living crisis has made this more challenging. By connecting young people seeking work directly with employers we can offer them potentially life changing opportunities.”

Click here to find out more about the Young Person's Guarantee


News: Evidence shows poor planning for care leavers

Posted 19 January, 2022 by Catherine Bromley

Against the backdrop of stark statistics from Public Health Scotland on significant waiting lists for treatment from specialist child and adolescent mental health services, Holyrood's Health, Social Care and Sport Committee heard evidence on the current health and wellbeing of care experienced young people.

At the meeting held yesterday (Tuesday 18 January), key points raised focused on the lack of support for young people transitioning from care – the critical moment when they might leave school and their foster families.

Gillian Martin, MSP and Convenor of the Committee took evidence from a panel including Jackie Brock, Chief Operations Officer (Interim), The Promise Scotland; Helen Happer, Chief Inspector, Care Inspectorate; Lucy Hughes, Policy Development Coordinator, Who Cares? Scotland; and Kate MacKinnon, Policy Associate, CELCIS.

Pathway planning out of date

Helen Harper of the Care Inspectorate said that the pathway planning process for care leavers was out of date (it hasn’t been reviewed since 2003).

“[The pathway planning ] isn’t linked to the GIRFEC approach that has proved to help staff work together across different services.” Helen Harper, Care Inspectorate

Jackie Brock of The Promise and Kate MacKinnon of CELCIS argued that while the legal rights and the policy framework were in place to support transitions, there was a real gap between the commitment and the delivery of support to care experienced young people leaving the scaffolding of school.

The opportunity of the National Care Service review

Panel members agreed that although disruptive, the current review of Scotland’s National Care Service presented an opportunity to rethink the pathway planning process, to develop links between child and adult services and ultimately achieve a more cohesive approach.

Calls for improved data and a proactive approach to mental health and wellbeing

Lucy Hughes of Who Cares? Scotland, in response to a question from Sue Webber, MSP on the health statistics and mortality rates of care experienced young people, said they have been recording data since 2014 of their own members to drive an acknowledgement of “an inequality in terms of the experience of health for looked after children, compared to the experience of health by Scotland’s wider population of children and young people”.

A call for improved data to support this experience of inequality came from Jackie Brock, who said: “We cannot achieve sustainable progress until we have reliable data to measure what’s important”.

To address capacity across services in the face of Scotland and the UK’s developing mental health crisis, all those giving evidence at yesterday’s hearing said that a proactive approach was needed to support the mental health and wellbeing of looked after children from an early age, rather than waiting until young people are leaving care or at crisis point.

Click here to watch the Committee meeting on Scottish Parliament TV

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Comment: New legislation for siblings in care must be supported in practice

Posted on 25 August 2021 by Jennifer Drummond

Protecting and supporting the sibling relationships of care experienced children and young people is vital to creating a system built on love, writes Louise Hunter (pictured)

The Scottish Government aspires for Scotland to be the best place in the world to grow up. Last month it took another step closer to achieving that goal with a range of new legal rights in relation to brothers and sisters in care being implemented as part of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2020.

Within the diverse range of measures introduced by the Act, some of the most important relate to the separation of and relationships between brothers and sisters within the care system. Since July, Children’s Panels now have a duty to consider ‘contact’ with siblings every time they make, change or continue a Compulsory Supervision Order (CSO) for a child or young person. Local authorities also now have a significant new duty to promote and assist in maintaining brother and sister relationships, as well as placing them with the same carer, where appropriate.

Since the founding of Who Cares? Scotland in 1978, we have heard from our members about the real-life experiences of being separated from their siblings and the lifelong impact that has.

As a provider of independent advocacy, year on year the separation of brothers and sisters remains one of the top issues we support our members with.

As a result, we’ve been proud partners of Stand Up For Siblings, campaigning for a change to legislation that better protects these relationships.

As part of Scotland’s ambition to be the best place in the world to grow up, it has put in place the Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) policy. One of the core principles of the approach is the adoption of child-focused practices. This means ensuring the child or young person and their family is firmly at the centre of all decision-making. This includes brothers and sisters, but it is only now, with the implementation of the Act, that this requirement to ask for their views in care decisions will be a legal obligation. We know separating sibling groups breaks vital bonds and family links during an already difficult period of their life.  This recognition, that parent or adult carers are not the only family who should be involved in decision-making, is an important development for children and young people in the care system and a significant recognition of their rights and best interests.

In 2016, when First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the Care Review, she shared her vision for what a new system could look like. She said it should be “one that gives [Care Experienced people] a sense of family, belonging and love”. This vision has been supported within the findings of the review, The Promise, which said Scotland must “create an environment and culture where finding and maintaining safe, loving, respectful relationships is the norm.”

These new rights for brothers and sisters should help bring that vision closer to reality.

But no matter how overdue, change in legislation alone is not enough. Within the last decade there have been several new policies and pieces of legislation introduced with the aim of improving the lives of care experienced people. Sadly, many of these get stuck in implementation purgatory creating a postcode lottery for those in care and meaning many aren’t being met.

We believe the key to guaranteeing that these rights are upheld is ensuring that each and every child and young person in care has the right to independent advocacy. This approach has also been recommended by the Independent Care Review and unanimously agreed by the care sector and across political spheres.

At Who Cares? Scotland, we provide independent advocacy to those in care across Scotland. We do not provide any other services and are structurally, financially and psychologically separate from other organisations and interests. This is extremely important in supporting care experienced people to navigate the decisions made about their lives and having a say without conflict.

If Scotland truly is to become the best place in the world to grow up, person-centred decision-making needs to be at the heart of all we do. Protecting the loving relationships and the rights of brothers and sisters and equipping young people in care with the tools to have a say in their lives is a good place to start.

Louise Hunter is Chief Executive of Who Cares? Scotland. Click here to visit the website

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

Click to read more

The Care Review

The Independent Care Review published its conclusions in February 2020

Click to read more

"Support the Review's aims and its work"

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

Click to read more

Hope in hard times

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

Click to read more

"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