Care-experienced young people in East Ayrshire are benefiting from Staf’s first Connecting Voices project to share their experiences and influence support services in the area.

Supported by Big Lottery funding, and in partnership with East Ayrshire Intensive Support Service, the two-year project aims to help young people to stay in care longer and equip them with the tools and skills to make the transition to independent living. Empowered and enabled to share their experiences and stories in safe, creative ways, they are now playing a key role in shaping actions and attitudes in East Ayrshire.

The Connecting Voices team has led the way in showing how their experience and voices can play a key role in decisions around defining and implementing care services in the sector. This has been achieved through projects such as Kieran's '2 in a Million' comic book and engagement with the area's Corporate Parents.

2 in a million

“Relationships should be at the heart of the care system because that’s what every young person needs when in care.”
Kieran Cowan comic book author

Kieran Cowan comic book author

Connecting Voices enabled Kieran to tell his story of leaving care through a comic book created in collaboration with young artist and illustrator Tessa Mackenzie. In it, he takes us on his journey from feeling isolated and unsure of his place in the world to building a trusting relationship with two workers who made him feel loved.

These stories can be hard to tell, but Tessa’s compassionate ear, a safe space to tell his story and full editorial control over the comic enabled Kieran to bring to life the powerful and lasting effect a relationship can have for young people.

- Get inspired by Kieran’s 2 in a million comic book

Helping Corporate Parents help young people

The local Corporate Parent Strategy Group has already benefited from the views of the young people involved in the Connecting Voices project, who came together to share and discuss their views on what a Corporate Parent was, could be and should do. Getting their voices heard by decision makers was already a step forward, but also led to an opportunity to have a direct impact on policy: the young people are currently redesigning the East Ayrshire Corporate Parenting Promise.

The Connecting Voices group also identified that the description ‘Corporate Parents’ in itself made their support providers sound distant and ‘machine-like’. By creating a ‘corporate family tree’ together and inviting all 24 of their Corporate Parents to meet them for a meal, they were able to put names to faces, build stronger relationships and show how the human connection is at the heart of great care.

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Brothers and Sisters Separation and Contact

Between October 2017 and March 2018, Connecting Voices carried out six interviews with care-experienced young people, and their findings have been published in the report "Brother and Sister Separation and Contact".

Key findings from the report include:

  • Five out of six participants described feelings of guilt and shame associated with their experience of sibling separation.
  • Interviews were frequently punctuated with phrases such as "it's my fault" and "have I done something wrong?" illustrative of the heartbreak and raw feelings which continue to negatively impact the participants' adult lives.
  • 83% of participants reported that separation from their siblings has negatively impacted upon the relationships they now have with their brothers and sisters.
  • 50% of participants directly attributed the separation from their brothers and sisters to their spiralling and worsening behaviour or "acting up".
  • 50% of young people said that they had been the carers for their siblings in the family home before being separated and this made the separation particularly difficult.
  • 83% of participants believed that siblings should have daily contact and that where possible siblings should be kept together as a main priority.

"We used to need each other, then one day I wasn't there."

Read the report 'Brother and Sister Separation and Contact'