In October 2016, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon promised an independent root and branch review of the care system.

The second National Care Day is the perfect moment to reflect on that announcement and publish our first public response. 

Our first task is to congratulate Fiona Duncan, Chief Executive of the Lloyds TSB Foundation, on her appointment as chair of the Review, and CELCIS, who have been appointed to support the Review.

Staf agrees that it is time to re-evaluate the entire care and protection system, along with all its processes, services, settings, consequences and outcomes, and that the most important voices in the debate are those of young people themselves.

Looked-after children have the same rights to a secure childhood and bright prospects as any other children growing up in Scotland. In a care system fit for the future, all children and young people will be listened to, feel loved and know that their needs and choices always come first.

As a society, we recognise the importance of loving parents. Yet some care-experienced young people are actively prevented from maintaining contact with the loving and dedicated adults who brought them up. The break-off can be sudden and extremely painful, and happen at a time when most young people get extra family support, not less.

Staf believes all young people are entitled to a loving childhood, good educational and social opportunities, and ongoing support for as long as they need it.

As well as our role in throughcare and aftercare, we are leading the way in the new continuing care legislation. These will all be prominent issues and Staf is uniquely positioned to contribute to the discussion and help facilitate engagement with care-experienced people.

The core principle of Staying Put Scotland, which we contributed to, is that young people should be encouraged, enabled and empowered to remain in positive care settings and enjoy extended and graduated transitions out of care.

Even before the first stage begins, the review is having an impact all over Scotland. This radical reappraisal is likely to begin by defining the care system as it stands. What exactly is it and what do we expect it to do? Where does it begin and where does it end? These are surprisingly difficult questions to answer.

Our view is that Scotland has a collection of care systems that make up the whole. Children and young people experience these as strands woven into an individual journey. These strands - such as how families are supported before children become looked-after - need to be examined both separately and as a whole.

We already have powerful input from The Voices, but many more will want to be heard.  The wider care-experienced community extends from children and teenagers to elderly people who have lived with disadvantage and discrimination for half a century or more.

But it's equally important not to let painful experiences overshadow the discussion, or to overlook the many examples of good practice. Scotland already has a bold vision for the care system and has made great strides in putting relationship-based practice at its heart.

We need to find radical new ways of discussing individual lived experiences in a rounded way. We must include positive stories and hear from the professionals who manage systems, allocate resources, and deliver front-line services. They have a key role in helping to interpret personal testimonies in the context of practice, funding, culture and the law. Only then will we have a true picture of what has gone wrong - and what has gone right.

Genuine dialogue must also consider housing, health and education, and all the many organisations and agencies that can help re-balance the life chances of the care-experienced community.

Staf is optimistic that the review will meet the three priorities that are always central to our work:

  1. The voices of looked-after and care-experienced young people must be heard - loud enough to influence planning and practice.
  2. The workforce must be enabled and supported: practitioners, managers, corporate parents and carers need access to skills, knowledge and peer-based best practice.
  3. Relationship based practice is key: putting long term, positive and sustainable relationships at the heart of the care system.

As a community of professionals, Staf provides a channel for practitioners and managers to share best practice and influence policy. Everything we do is aimed at improving the lives of care-experienced young people, enabling them to be happy, safe and valued members of communities across Scotland and have successful lives on their own terms.

The review is likely to take some time, so credibly, leadership and persuasiveness are crucial. We need to educate the wider public and other professionals, and to keep the care system on the political agenda.

We look forward to hearing more about the review, including key appointments and the development of the terms of reference. In the meantime, we encourage you to explore our most relevant publications.

Who Are Staf?

Staf is a membership organisation which brings together managers, practitioners and corporate parents who work with young people leaving care. Staf holds a unique position in Scotland with all 32 local authorities and a further 40 corporate parent and third sector organisations being members.

Members and young people come together to share good practice, network, support and learn from each other.

As an organisation, we have always aimed to have young people's views at the heart of our work, ensuring that it has a strong influence on practice. Our young people's latest project, the Voices, launched a report and recommendations in September 2016. You can read more about it here.


Norma Corlette, CEO, Staf, [email protected]

Pamela Graham, Strategic Lead L&D, Staf, [email protected]

Phone: 0141 465 7511

Twitter: @StafScot