Cllr Alison Dickie: Like any parent, we want the best for children in our care
I’m a mature woman and the owner of a hoodie for the first time in my life! It’s black, sadly the biggest size, but with a logo, a brilliant one: “Edinburgh Champions’ Board”. Honestly, I look ridiculous, but I own this hoodie with pride, as an ambassador and a corporate parent.
It’s corporate parents I want to shout about here, the need for us all to step up to our parenthood.
What’s a corporate parent? That’s the issue, as many don’t know, some even thinking it’s a weird kind of banking or business post! In a nutshell, corporate parents are the public bodies with special responsibilities for taking on the role of a loving parent for care-experienced young people. Think the council, the NHS, the police and wider, and if you work for one of the organisations congratulations, the corporate parent is you! And I mean congratulations, because in the words of one young person: “These are some of the most resilient and wonderful people I know.”
Our Champions’ Board have talked much about training, to help corporate parents better understand their parenting role, and who better to lead that work than the young people themselves. Two minutes in their company and we look at life through their care-experienced eyes, and see more clearly the change required.
Only last week, I listened as they discussed the contents of new care packages to help with that first scary night in a new home – a teddy and pyjamas to feel welcomed and loved, a wee book of their rights and more. In other conversations, they’ve shared what it feels like to be in care, particularly the stigma and feeling institutionalised, when simple changes could be made, such as having a street address rather than the name of a care home.
As corporate parents, we need to ask ourselves if any loving parent would stand back if they knew low attainment, poor mental health, homelessness and vulnerability to crime were an increased risk in their child’s life? Of course not, and neither should we.
At last week’s Champions’ Board, we welcomed new Scottish Government commitments ahead of the Care Review report, including the removal of the age cap for care-experienced student bursaries.
In council, progress includes a school attendance trigger and related support, a growing focus on self-directed support, a better say in their own care plans, and a Champions’ Board that fuels our corporate parenting action plan.
Recently, someone queried why I wasn’t jumping up and down about an increase in positive destinations, now at 81 per cent. The answer is simply that it’s still not good enough. As a corporate parent, why should our child’s attainment and outcomes still be way below that of others, and are we certain those destinations reflect the full potential of every one of those wonderful, resilient and talented young people?
There is much to do then, and it takes us all. Corporate parenting needs to be better embedded across the city, one plan and one giant loving parent pushing for progress.
Cllr Alison Dickie is vice convener for education, children and families at Edinburgh City Council.