Among all the predictable posturing over Brexit, the SNP conference revealed a potential masterstroke for children in care. I stress the word ‘potential’ as it is up to all of us to make it happen.
I was initially sceptical, dismissing the proposed care review as conference window dressing. However, after realising my reaction was based largely on a bad bout of conference season lethargy, I got in touch with Who Cares? Scotland to find out more.
I learned that Who Cares?has spent a long time campaigning for the move. Further, if it’s done properly, it will save lives.
if this review is to live up to its true potential, it needs to be led by those with direct experience of care
This all sounds very promising, but I wondered – will the review be effective? What role will those with experience of the care system play?
First steps seem positive: the First Minister stated those who have directly experienced the care system have a vital role to play.
I think it can be taken for granted that testimonies will be taken, and this is all very well and good as will raise awareness of crucial issues and help to put a human face to the public understanding.
But if this review is to live up to its true potential, it needs to be led at every stage by those with direct experience of life in care.
They understand the system better than any professional or foster parent will ever do. Only then will we truly understand the structural barriers they face and develop life-changing solutions.
Nothing About Us, Without Us, Is For Us
I learned the true meaning of this phrase during my four years with the Poverty Truth Commission. The Commission believes those with direct experience of poverty need to lead the movement for change, just as successful campaigns for gender justice, racial equality and rights for disabled people have been led by those directly affected.
My experience at the Commission also taught me that meaningful involvement of ‘marginalised’ groups in society can mean different things to different people. It is up to us in the third sector, therefore, to make sure they remain at the helm.
We must continue to make the case for a comprehensive review, hold the government to account and break down the barriers to participation at every stage.
As Harry in his blog about life in care tells us, the fundamental hurdle faced by him and others was a lack of love. Who Cares? Well it’s up to us to show that we do.