What would the world look like if young people in and leaving care had the relationships they require to thrive? That was the question I posed at our three Mapping Relationships workshops – in Aberdeen, Glasgow and online – which were buzzing with discussion and positive ideas for change.  

The workshops were an opportunity for care experienced people and practitioners to come together to expand on the themes of my five month consultation with over 20 organisations. In total 26 people attended, including five care-experienced young people, and a total of seven self-disclosing care-experienced people.

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It was invaluable to have people who are care experience sitting as the same table as people who work in the care environment as frontline staff or managers, coming together to imagine a world where good and stable relationships are the norm.

In this imagined Utopia anything that is necessary would exist. What were the defining characteristics of that world? How would relationships be privileged?

People consistently identified the fundamentals required as love, care and trust. There also seemed to be an appetite to “de-professionalise” relationships, to recognise that sometimes policies and procedure can get in the way of forming genuine bonds. Indeed, one young person said: “There should be less systemic barriers to relationships.”

In fact, the opposite should be the case: there should be an active effort to facilitate relationships. Many frontline staff said that one part of this would be to build better understanding between organisations for true joined up working.

There was the perception that across the sector there were differences in how guidance and legislation were interpreted, resulting in different standards for people in care and those leaving care.

Importantly, staff need to be enabled to build relationships by having robust support structures and consistent guidance on how to approach boundaries. Boundaries, it was felt, had to be agreed between the two people in the relationship. It was important to not make assumptions and to respect the other person.

“When in doubt, be led by the young person and communicate”, said one participant. Another told us that this Utopia would be “A world where young people are treated as equals.”

The insight given by the young people and practitioners will be invaluable in determining the direction of this project. Their views, alongside the outcomes of my visits and the survey, will directly inform the creation of a resource that can help our members achieve best practice in relationship building and throughcare and aftercare.

It’s not too late to get involved. If you want your view to be included, there is still time to answer the survey. And of course, you can always send me an email at [email protected].

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