22 October 2015
To mark the start of National Care Leavers Week 2015, a major project to support young care leavers in Scotland has been announced today (Thursday 22 October). The Scottish Care Leavers Covenant asks corporate parents and others with a role to play in the lives of care leavers to take a bold step and sign up to improve the lives and opportunities of young people leaving care. Corporate parents are those public bodies who have new legal responsibilities to promote the rights and wellbeing of looked after children, and care leavers into adulthood.
The Covenant is in essence an ‘Agenda for Change’ which if implemented fully and consistently, will transform the way care leavers are supported as they transition into adult lives across Scotland.
The Covenant offers corporate parents a set of guiding principles and actions required to support the implementation of the Aftercare section of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014. The Covenant asks corporate parents to fully integrate its principles and actions into their Corporate Parenting Plans, through Champions Boards, Community Planning Partnerships and Health and Social Care Partnerships to ensure consistency of entitlement and support to care leavers.
By endorsing and signing up to the Scottish Care Leavers Covenant, corporate parents can demonstrate their commitment to excellence by transforming practice, culture and outcomes for all care leavers.
Created by a cross-sector ‘Alliance’ of stakeholders, including CELCIS, Barnardo’s Scotland, Who Cares? Scotland, Quarriers, Life Changes Trust, the Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice (CYCJ), Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services (IRISS), and the Scottish Throughcare and Aftercare Forum, the Covenant supports the 'aftercare' (advice, guidance and assistance) of care leavers transitioning into adulthood and offers clear guidance to corporate parents on how best to meet the needs of young people who are often further disadvantaged as a result of their care experiences.
Building on the principles of Getting It Right for Every Child (GIRFEC), the Covenant takes a holistic, person-centred approach by focusing on the long-term wellbeing needs of young people as they transition out of care. Aligning the Covenant with GIRFEC will make sure that the ‘one child – one plan – one care journey’ principle continues beyond the young person’s care setting. It outlines the high standards of co-operation, joint working and communication between agencies locally and across Scotland.
Speaking at the launch, care leaver Conner Chalmers said: 'Being in care sometimes means not getting to celebrate your achievements, not having someone to champion you or turn to when you’re struggling. For a long time, I felt like the expectations were just a little bit lower for me. I know that Scotland wants more for young people in care than the outcomes that we see.
'That’s why the launch of this Covenant is so important. It gives people delivering care the chance to think about what it means to be a parent. It gives other members of civic society the chance to take an interest in young people in care and to champion us. I’m calling on everyone to look at, understand and sign up to the Covenant. Life for care experienced people will only change when we come together.'
By endorsing the principles of the Covenant and putting the actions outlined in the agenda for change framework at the heart of Corporate Parenting Plans, corporate parents will be better able to fulfil their duties and realise their ambitions for care leavers.
Care leaver Simone Smith continued: 'I think every policy-maker should be aware of care leavers and how their policies affect them in good or bad ways. For me right now it would be policies about housing and accommodation as I have my own tenancy. I wasn’t entitled to housing benefits so I had to pay my own rent and I was freaking out as there was no way I could afford that along with my daughter’s childcare bills and basic living expenses. I almost dropped out of further education as I couldn’t afford it and felt the world was against me.
'I wish that the recommendation that alternative accommodation be put in place was there when I left care because I knew my accommodation wasn’t suitable for me and my daughter. When we lived in a homeless unit, for example, to go anywhere we had to go down really dark alleyways that had no lighting and the winter months were particularly bad; even delivery drivers wouldn’t walk down them.'
Jennifer Davidson, Director of the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland (CELCIS) said: 'The journey into adulthood can be a bumpy one for many young people. Care leavers in particular often find this journey to be an isolating and difficult struggle, often because of a serious lack of support and care in the process. The leap we ask care experienced young people to take from care to independence is just too sudden and too great. When we don’t adequately support these young people through this stage of life, they experience problems that can lead to an entrenched disadvantage compared to their peers. This is why this Covenant is needed - to change our collective thinking and practice to meet these young people’s unique needs and ensure their transitions are supported well.
'CELCIS was delighted to be part of the Alliance that worked closely together with a number of organisations and care leavers to produce this ground-breaking Covenant. The new Act sets out our responsibilities; and it’s time to make these real. Now we are asking people to act; to endorse and sign up to making real change happen across Scotland. It’s what our young people deserve.'