We need to ensure the Christie Commission vision becomes a reality
As an adoptive parent, I know a few children who started their lives in the care system. Most of them are lucky to now be in secure, loving homes, but my experience of the system that brought them there makes me sad more often than happy.
I know that premature babies can spend months in hospital with few visits and nobody to love them, except kind-hearted hospital staff. I know that very young brothers and sisters can be separated with no idea where the others are. I know that children can stay in foster care, where they don’t automatically get the additional support they need, for years longer than necessary because social work staff have gone off long-term sick.
I know the vision the Christie Commission outlined 10 years ago of a society that focuses on people, partnership, performance and prevention has not been achieved. Children who start their lives in care often experience the impact of early trauma for their entire lives, but adoptive, foster and kinship parents struggle to access the services they need every day in Scotland.
I don’t think any of this has to happen.
The Promise, the outcome of Scotland’s Independent Care Review, recognises that the children of people who have themselves been so badly let down they aren’t able to care for their babies (the most heart-breaking failure of our society) deserve more. It aims to ensure all children who spend time in the care system grow up loved, safe and connected to the people that matter most to them. It promises to enable them to reach their potential.
The Promise is a brilliant vision and its existence suggests we are still trying to bring about the kind of society the Christie report outlined. From my point of view though, it feels like a tall order.
Julian Corner, chief executive of Lankelly Chase, veered off on an apparent tangent about institutional racism when speaking at a recent Robertson Trust event on Christie. His point was that Black Lives Matter created a paradigm shift that allowed people to spot the intrinsic racism within their organisations, their communities, and their own minds. This is the kind of paradigm shift needed to fulfil the vision of Christie and The Promise. Social workers, teachers, health providers, local councillors, MSPs, civil servants, voluntary organisations, parents and children, everyone will have to think and act differently.
Paradigm shifts like Black Lives Matters can seem sudden but in reality they are the pinnacle of decades of campaigning from those bearing the brunt of injustice. There are breakthrough moments and decades when nothing seems to change at all. I’ve heard so many people say we need a system that flows from the individual and not the institution over the last decade, yet most of the commentators writing about Christie in last month’s TFN say little has changed.
Covid could be a breakthrough moment in public service reform. Community and voluntary sector services have been Never More Needed during this crisis because there are vital during any crisis, from a volunteer cuddler helping one tiny baby battling neonatal abstinence syndrome in hospital to a national emergency food distribution movement. Communities and institutions have had to do things differently this last year or so, and they will continue to have to through recovery from Covid.
So, how do we ensure in 10 more years we have fulfilled Christie’s vision? As part of Never More Needed and in partnership with the Robertson Trust, we’ll be running a series of opinion pieces exploring this over the summer. You can read them through TFN digital, and if you’re interested in contributing, get in touch.
Susan Smith is SCVO’s campaigns manager.
The Never More Needed campaign is working with the Robertson Trust to produce a series of #ChristiePlus10 blogs over the coming weeks. Visit https://scvo.scot/policy/campaigns/never-more-needed to find out how you can get involved in the Never More Needed campaign.