On Wednesday 1 December 2021 we held our National Conference online, hosted by the team at Conference Care. The conference focused on relationships, rights and keeping The Promise and our many speakers throughout the day shared their experience, thoughts and recommendations. 

Ruth Kerracher and members of Youth Justice Voices 

Ruth opened the conference by sharing her experiences as Project Lead for Youth Justice Voices, Staf and CYCJ's group for care and justice experienced young people. She informed the delegates of the journey so far and how relationship based practice and having a youth work approach was key to it's success.

"Justice-experienced young people continue to be one of the most seldom-heard groups. Their voices should be heard, acted on and influence policy and practice."

She then presented a video with three members of Youth Just Us, who each shared their views on the impact of taking part and the opportunities made available to them since joining the group. 

"Make sure and build the relationships first, don't rush it. Relationships take time."
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Saffron Rohan, Kirsty Doull and Lizzie Thomson, CELCIS 

Kirsty, Lizzie and Saffron shared their part in the recent guidance on Getting It Right for Sisters and Brothers. They discussed the changes to practice and the emphasis on listening to not only the child/young person involved, but also their brothers and sisters and the importance of working out what works best for the child, in a bespoke and flexible way. 

Saffron shared her experiences as a consultant and how using her lived experience has helped to make the guidance more robust and the value she, and other consultants added.

"We all do have the passion and ability to make a difference"  ...It's not acceptable that, through no choice  of our own, are we unable to keep and maintain those relationships which mean so incredibly much to us" 

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Claire O'Hara, Each and Every Child 

"How we talk about care experience matters. What we say and how we say it can change how people think."

Claire spoke passionately about the work of Each and Every Child and the importance of changing the narrative about care experienced young people. She introduced the idea about presenting a well framed narrative which if done well can influence public opinion and therefore make real change. In terms of care experience she wants there to be a shift from often stigmatising, fatalistic language without context and embrace a 'Yes we can' attitude. She wants people to embrace the idea of a 'scaffolding' of support for young people then that can help to sway public support and help to visualise the many important support systems. As one young person from her Voices of Experience group noted

"The key thing with scaffolding is you would never pull it away if you suspected the building wasn’t strong enough to stand alone." 

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Carole Patrick, Life Changes Trust 

We were delighted Carole could join us to inform the delegates of the brilliant work of Life Changes Trust and in particular the many projects aimed at creating transformational change for young people with care experience by having those with lived experience at the heart of everything.

She presented the Side By Side video, created members of their Advisory Group which emphasised the impact the importance of relationships has had on the young people involved.  

She spoke about the importance of treating people as people and not to be defined by their care experience/profession. 

Carole also announced that Staf will be hosting the trust's legacy work to ensure that all the learnings from the last 8 years. 

View full presentation 

Life Changes Trust - Side By Side video

Lorraine Simpson, The Lines Between

Lorraine joined us to share her evaluation of Life Changes Trust and in particular the project work they funded for Staf; Project Return and Youth Justice Voices and the role of relationship based practice. The findings revealed the importance of trust; taking time to listen and build understanding of their experiences which led to stronger relationships which then led to increased confidence and change. She also spoke about funders moving from a focus of outcomes to more about people and echoed Carole's call to encourage real coproduction. 

The research also revealed that having care experience was an asset. Their experience could help make improvements. 

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Plenary session: Harvey Gallagher NAFP, Kenny McGhee CELCIS,
Pamela Graham Staf and Katie Matthews East Renfrewshire Council 

In this session we discussed Continuing Care. We heard from Pamela and Harvey on the joint research carried out by Staf and NAFP where hey discovered inconsistencies of provision, information about why and when it works, the current challenges and they urged people to move away from chronological cliff edges and instead base support on what the young person needs. You can read the full report here.

Next, Kenny gave us an insight into his latest research into Continuing Care which will be released in January 2022.  He also found variations in delivery and interpretation of the legislation. He also urged anyone cares to 'claim' the young person, make them feel like they belong, part of the family so that when it comes to conversations about Continuing Care, the default is to stay and get the support they deserve. 

Finally we were joined by Katie Matthews a Continuing Care practitioner who shared her experience as a practitioner and the importance of building strong relationships. 

View Harvey's presentation
View Kenny's presentation

Nicola Hughes, Scottish Government

Our final presentation came from Nicola Hughes, Programme Lead: Embedding Children's Rights in Public Services athe Scottish Government.  Nicola updated us on the latest developments on UNCRC incorporation into Scottish law. Although currently delayed by a High Court ruling, we heard that the Government are committed to getting children's rights embedded as quickly as possible. She also discussed the Government's 3 year action plan detailing how they intend to further the rights of children and young people.

Nicola shared the work she and her colleagues have been doing to engage young people and ensure their voices are heard as part of She talked about the importance of Relationship Based Practice and ensuring there was a feedback loop. 

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Closing remarks, Jo Derrick, Staf 

Our CEO Jo, who had been hosting the Conference throughout the day thanked and summed up her reflections. She asked, what can we do today to create and improve relationship based practice with a rights based approach.

She acknowledged the need for investment, both financially and with our time and that if you can find the time to build trust and relationships, you can then get participation which can lead to young people becoming empowered and to take on leadership roles as we saw with our Youth Just Us members at the beginning of the conference. 

Thank you to everyone who joined us. You can sign up to more events at www.staf.scot/events 

We look forward to seeing you again soon!