6) Sharing Promising Practice to Overcome Challenges
The Commissioner for Children and Young People in Scotland established a Corporate Parenting Collaboration Group with an open, rotating membership to share learning, consider specific issues of importance and to take a more overarching approach to holding other corporate parents to account on promoting and safeguarding children's rights. Membership has included Creative Scotland, Police Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Mental Welfare Commission, Health Improvement Scotland, Scottish Children's Reporter Administration and Scottish Legal Aid Board.
This Section of the Report draws on feedback from all categories of Corporate Parent to set out as balanced a picture as possible of common challenges reported to date in implementing corporate parenting responsibilities and duties and examples of promising practice emerging all across Scotland to tackle these barriers.
By far the most challenging features identified by Corporate Parents, as impacting on their ability to better meet the responsibilities and duties, can be categorised as (i) difficulties in identifying and/or engaging with care experienced children and young people, (ii) inadequate IT/data collection, (iii) limitations of staff/resources and (iv) poor understanding of what corporate parenting means.
Where organisations deliver their corporate objectives in isolation, there is potential for ineffective communication, delayed decision making, poor assessment of an individual's needs and lack of person-centred support. This inevitably leads to inefficiencies and pressure on the system. These messages can be heard loud and clear from those care experienced children and young people who have experienced what they feel is impersonal support at times of crisis rather or unnecessary administrative barriers rather than a dedicated and transparent consideration of what can be done to support them in their specific circumstances.
Some further and higher education Corporate Parents have reported limited success in obtaining views from care experienced students who may not want to engage but, where students have offered feedback this suggests they feel well supported and appreciate having access to a variety of light touch and more intense support. For example, drop in sessions, known student mentors to contact remotely or in person.
"the support is helpful considering people's needs" "the support that has been provided to me has been outstanding and has helped me through the college year" "I think if I hadn't been at College I don't know what I would have done to keep myself busy and when I am finding it hard I always have someone to talk to" Dumfries and Galloway College students
"I've personally found the support from the university very helpful since coming to study here. Whenever I have a problem, it is easy to talk to someone. The university provided a tutor for me when I was struggling with my course and I feel this has helped a lot" University of St Andrews student
Personal views and testimonials from children and young people with experience of care commonly described where trusted adults have helped children and young people to overcome difficulties and make progress in different aspects of their lives. Looked after children and care leavers also celebrated achievements at school as well as opportunities to shape policy, develop new skills or remove barriers to accessing local amenities.
On the whole, updates for this Report demonstrate more success where there is good evidence of engaging with looked after children and care leavers, good partnership working, good senior level support, clear corporate parenting goals and appropriate staff training.
NHS Highland and Highland Council have adopted a lead-agency model where the council has overarching responsibility for looked after children in order to ensure closer working on priorities for looked after children.
"Evidence shows that integrated service models promote joint working between NHS, social care, education and health staff to provide wrap around care and opportunities to share best practice to provide joined up care."
Different organisations have taken a number of different tactics to raise awareness of corporate parenting and continue to learn from these approaches considering what works best and which partner organisations might offer opportunities to work together or share learning at all levels. The North East Scotland College provided staff with networking opportunities facilitated by the college, Who Cares? Scotland and CELCIS, which facilitated the development of the College's corporate parenting Plan. The College also worked in collaboration with other Corporate Parents from college development network, local authorities, schools and colleges.
Similarly, East Lothian Council Champions Board identified seven priorities for change for the council. Staff have received training to support better understanding of issues face by looked after children and care leavers. A Champion's Board film was also produced to educate, raise awareness and highlight the importance of relationships to successful corporate parenting. The use of film and other digital media has featured highly in a number of approached described by Corporate Parents.
Police Scotland supported and enabled staff to learn about corporate parenting responsibilities by delivering training, which raised awareness of care experienced children and young people. This was particularly poignant in the instance of officers responding to concerns about the number of care experienced children and young people who had been adversely affected by stop and search policies. Learning from this training will be taken forward as one strategy to highlight what is meaningful for the complex and diverse roles performed by officers and staff.
Where corporate parenting is embraced at a community or national level, it promotes more effective and transparent support for care experience children and young people.
South Ayrshire Council, South Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership established a Champions Board, which meets with local elected members, 6 Locality Planning Groups across South Ayrshires, Ayrshire College, University of West of Scotland, NHS Ayrshire and Arran Community Safety, Local authority education, community learning and development colleagues, Young Scot, local youth forum, VASA Third sector interface and voluntary sector organisations such as Children 1st and Aberlour Trust.
The extent to which each Corporate Parent has collaborated with others to develop and jointly deliver activities is set out in the majority of the corporate parenting Plans. Local collaboration has been used to good effect by most Corporate Parents responsible for front line delivery and by organisations who recognise that local partnership will most likely best improve the outcomes of their looked after children and care leavers.
Aberdeen City Council recognised the value of support from other Corporate Parents as well as strong support from local politicians and the third sector interface. Again, Champions Board members were acknowledged for their role in developing and delivering actions within the Plan.
The 2014 Act specifically requires Corporate Parents to collaborate for a number of reasons, which link directly to the 'Scottish Approach'. Firstly, to promote a better common understanding of the duties and responsibilities so Scotland's public-funded organisations or individuals can really relate to the day to day issues being faced by our looked after children and care leavers.
Secondly, to improve opportunities, services and support for our young people by considering the bigger picture, such as the positive influence each Corporate Parent can have at different moments in a child or young person's life. Because corporate parenting responsibilities should complement the remit of each organisation or individual's primary functions, collaborating with others proactively expands the reach and influence of Scotland's Corporate Parents. This has been taken on board and used to good effect by many organisations, some of which have been highlighted in this Report.
It is clear from corporate parenting Plans and updates that the perception of and approach to corporate parenting is just as diverse as the children and young people to whom it is directed. Different organisations and individuals understand corporate parenting in different ways depending on their statutory responsibilities and role, if any, in direct support of looked after children and care leavers. As a collective, we have definitely moved to a position where corporate parenting has far greater prominence across the public sector and awareness amongst looked after children and care leavers continues to increase. This is evidence of proactive approaches taken within organisations, good use of the excellent training and support offered by Who Cares? Scotland and CELCIS and effective communication to ensure we are aware of our role and responsibilities as a Corporate Parents.
Such a rich variety of organisational functions and the associated range of possible approaches encourages collaboration and necessitates creative corporate parenting to maximise possible impact on the lives of our looked after children and care leavers.
In many ways, this underpins the rudimentary principles of being a Corporate Parent, to uphold the rights and safeguard the wellbeing of a looked after child or care leaver. In meeting these responsibilities, every organisation and individual has their own corporate parenting journey to go on.