The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 placed new legal duties and responsibilities on organisations named as Corporate Parents. These organisations must do things like assess the needs of looked after children, make plans, write reports, and make improvements. But let’s be honest, that’s really rather dry, isn’t it? I can see the eyes of my nearest and dearest glaze over when I begin to talk about the work I am passionate about, because they take notice only of words like ‘policies’, ‘regulations’ and ‘strategy’.
But, what I notice are words like ‘best’, ‘opportunity’ and ‘excellence’, and I know how fortunate we are in Scotland to be progressive enough to enshrine the concept of Corporate Parenting in law. To explicitly broaden out the horizons of who is responsible for looked after children and care leavers to a wide range of public bodies. To expect that we’ll all work together to meet the needs of children whose families are not in a position to do it alone.
Corporate Parenting is, after all, different to being a mum or a dad. We cannot afford to confuse or blur the boundaries of what our work involves, as to do this would set expectations which cannot be met, and would lead to children and young people very legitimately feeling let down. But, we must be careful not to become too caught up in the ‘corporate’ half of the phrase.
There are serious parallels to ‘normal’ parenting, because we need to be responsive to our children. We need to respect and listen to them, and be clear, reliable, and trustworthy sources of support. Above all, we must want the very best for our children, and try our very best to give this.
Yes, there are organisations involved who are new to thinking about plans and policies for looked after children and care leavers, and organisations who have worked with these children for a long time, but find they’re having to think about this now in new ways. Yes, there are questions, and problems, and tensions. Yes, it can be complex, difficult work in challenging times. But I have noticed an overwhelming sense of ownership of the new duties from Corporate Parents, not because they have to do it, but because they want to.
Amongst all the busy meetings, the technical details of planning and the multifarious phone calls, it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the children and young people in all this. Of really getting to grips with what it is that we work on that could work better for them. This is a great opportunity to work together to benefit Scotland’s most vulnerable children. Let’s make sure we seize this opportunity to do the things that really matter to children and young people today and for their futures.
After all, that’s all we can ask of any parent.