On Wednesday 23rd November 2023 we held our first in person Conference for almost 3 years at the Stirling Court Hotel where we discussed relationships, friendships and connection. Almost 150 delegates and Staf team members came together to connect once again. The results were wonderful! 

The following is a short recap of the day, including links to key information and speaker presentations alongside the brilliant graphic recordings of each session by the talented Floating Designer 

Welcome - Jo Derrick, Staf CEO 

Staf CEO, Jo Derrick welcomed the delegates to the event and remarked on the joy and slight fear of being back together in person and how fitting it was that the theme of the Conference was all about connection.

Gillian Ruch - Professor of Social Work, East Sussex University
Who do you think you are? The power of recording practices in child care social work 


Gillian's presentation focused on the impact that traditional recording processes can have on care experienced people who access their records. She shared the research by the MIRRA project which looked at how care experienced people felt about their records and recommended a reconceptualising of how records should be taken, moving from fragmented, cold and redacted files which are written for the benefit of the organisation to a more person centred, needs based and kindness rooted recording. 

Gillian referenced Lemn Sissay's book, My Name is Why and the impact that accessing heavily redacted records had on him and his feeling of identity. 

She then went on to discuss the work of Me and My World, which reframed recording practices to look at in the context of relationships, writing in the first person, to someone rather than about them and the impact this had on the those accessing the information "You really know my life, you actually really listened" 

'And rather than a but' 
Gillian closed by asking us to re-word our own 'reports' for example moving from 'Staf has succeeded in Mordern Studies but it's a shame they are not as good at maths' to 'You have succeeded our expectations in Modern Studies and it would be good if you could put as much energy into Maths' a small but important change. 

Download Gillian's presentation

Dr Autumn Roesch-Marsh: Senior Lecturer Social Work, University of Edinburgh
Widening the frame of Relationship Based Practice: The importance of Friendship 


'Friends are an incredible resource, it's ok to draw on these people in your planning' 

Autumn's presentation looked at the importance of friendship within the context of Relationship Based Practice. She shone a light on the difficulties some care experienced children and young people can have making, and keeping friends and that for young people friendship is vital to a healthy and happy life. What makes a person happy? Having friends. Friendship is highlighted in The Promise 'Friendships with peers must be actively encouraged with support for and trust in the judgement of the main carer' and therefore is something all practitioners should be mindful of and take actions to support.

Autumn shared some feedback from care experienced young people on the importance of friendship 

As a teenager especially, they’re like one of your main supports, and to have your friends like always there, no matter where they are, especially for me, that’s just a big thing cos it’s good to, if there’s something wrong in the home, or you just need someone to talk to but you can’t, don’t feel like you can talk to a social worker or your carer or whatever, not parents, whatever, friends: they’re like always supportive, no matter what. (Alana (cited in Irvine, 2022)

Autumn highlighted that not all friends are equal and can be all things but that they should be reciprocal, quality and trusted and young people should be supported to identify those who are 'good friends' and be encouraged to maintain those relationships. 

The delegates to think about their own friendships, what the barriers are to making and keeping caring, reciprocal friendships, and what they will take forward in their practice.

'If you have a friend in your life it makes things much easier' 

Autumn and her colleague are looking into conducting further information on the importance of friendship. If you are interested in supporting them please email [email protected] 

Download Autumn's presentation 

Following a delicious lunch our delegates were encouraged to connect and discuss the themes of the morning. 

Michelle McClintock, Throughcare and Aftercare Senior Practitioner (Pathways Review) Aberdeenshire Council 
Relationships, Recording and Keeping the Promise 


'We need to spend less time behind a computer and more time supporting young people to build trusting relationships' 

Michelle introduced the work she and her colleagues have been carrying out in Aberdeenshire to take a more person centred approach to recording, similar to that of the the Me and My World practice described by Professor Gillian Ruch. She spoke about how the idea stemmed from their Time to Talk Forum about what the Promise meant to the practitioners in their areas and how they could improve their work and meet the objectives set out. They adapted their reporting to be 'strength based' and amended their reports to make them shorter, more accessible and in the first person with pathway reports being written as letters to the young person. She shared how important it was to build relationships with young people and how that by changing the way the pathway reports were written had a huge impact on the connection between the young person and their worker and allowing them to be fully included in telling their stories. She shared examples of reports and the feedback they have since received. Michelle spoke about how they have adapted the policies to be more flexible and person centred, quoting one case where a young person had repeatedly asked not to have a pathway review as she was very settled with her foster family. For the first time, this young person's wishes were listened to and she now only has a review if and when she or the family think it's necessary. 

She closed by saying "We need to stop hiding behind red tape and listen to our young people'

Download Michelle's presentation

Local House Project (Lee, Ryan and Dawn) & Youth Just Us (Kev, Bella & Ruth): Care Leaver Voice on the value of friendship 


Our final session of the day brought together care leavers and workers from the Local House Project in Fife and East Dunbartonshire and Youth Just Us, Staf's care and justice experienced steering group. Chaired by Jo Derrick, questions about friendship were asked to each of the groups in turn. 

What does friendship mean to you?

Bella - 'We're not just a group of young people, we're a group of friends' 

Lee - 'Trust is key, without it there is no friendship'

Ryan - 'Someone to have a laugh with, who has your back'

Kev - 'Takes you warts and all. Leaders who can lead you in the right direction' Someone who loves you unconditionally, who's always got your back'

What role has friendship played in the LHP/YJV?

Lee - 'The project wouldn't work without friendship'

Bella Care - experience is 'a label that can be left at the door'. We care about the same issues

What message do you have for our Conference delegates on how to ensure relationships and friendships are at the heart of any work they do?

Bella - 'Talk to us, not at us. Support our wins, when we're winning, your winning too'

Lee - 'Friendship should be a priority' 

Ryan - 'You need to create the conditions to allow friendships to grow' 

Dawna - 'We need to have more platforms like this for care leaver voices to be heard'

Thank you to everyone who joined us, our sponsor Link Living, our exhibitors and speakers and our delegates. If you have any queries about the Conference or how to book for future events please visit www.staf.scot/events or email [email protected]  

Here's a snapshot of the day